By Meghan Hall
Historically the Bay Area’s cities have not built enough housing to keep pace with population growth, and now officials and developers are scrambling to keep up amidst challenges such as rising construction costs and community pressure to keep developments small. The City of Berkeley is known for fighting large-scale development, making the approval of an 18-story, 274-unit residential development proposed by Dallas- based Mill Creek Residential at 2190 Shattuck an important step forward in increasing housing stock in the area.
“It’s a big deal, of course, because Berkeley is often known for fighting against new development — and the opposition to this project has been very vocal,” said Jason Overman, a partner at Lighthouse Public Affairs who represents Mill Creek Residential. “Berkeley has rejected much smaller proposals than this one, so this is a significant moment. We need the housing very, very badly.”
Called the Shattuck Terrace Green Apartments, the project is one of just three 180-foot-tall buildings part of Berkeley’s voter-approved Downtown Area Plan. The plan also allows for four 120-foot tall buildings, two of which must be reserved for University of California, Berkeley.
Plans for 2190 Shattuck also include 10,000 feet of ground floor retail space and 103 parking spaces in a two-level subterranean garage accessed from Allston Way. When complete, the building will total 244,000 square feet. The project team plans to further activate Allston Way by providing an art walk and Entry Plaza, which connects to a community art space. A green roof designed to filter stormwater and balconies are also planned for the building.
The building, which is pursuing LEED Gold Certification, is designed by San Francisco-based WRNS Studio and features multi-colored tile at the building’s base, darker window mullions and brick. Glass topped-canopies above the entrances are to function as rain protection. WRNS separated the building into three distinct tiers in an effort to break down the massing and make the development appear smaller.
“They were able to expertly design a 180-foot-tall building that feels much smaller and more graceful than one would expect from a building of this height,” said Overman. “They did a stellar job with the three-tiered massing to make a tall building feel elegant, and they were even able to clip the corners of the building — after getting feedback from the City — to make it even smaller.”
Despite these measures, many community members still believed that the structure was too tall for Berkeley and would subsequently obstruct views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Berkeley’s Campanile monument.
Overman admits that overcoming the challenges the building’s height posed was difficult.
“The biggest challenge has probably been the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s [LPC] decision to ostensibly “landmark airspace” in the downtown to protect one specific view of the San Francisco Bay from the UC Berkeley campus,” explained Overman.
In September 2018, the Berkeley City Council reversed a decision by the LPC in April to make Campanile Way, and the airspace above the walkway, a city landmark. It was the second time since 2015 that efforts to landmark the pathway — and the view from it — failed. According to public documents, the City Council found that the LPC’s decision is not permitted by municipal code and its efforts to prescribe a height limits to protect the space was beyond the purview of the LPC.
The development joins numerous others in the Bay Area popping up around transportation hubs. 2901 Shattuck is located just steps from the Downtown Berkeley BART Station, 24 Hour Fitness and numerous other shops and restaurants. The UC Berkeley campus is about a fifteen minute walk away.
“Housing experts talk a lot about transit-oriented development,” said Overman. “247 units with ground-floor retail right on top of Downtown Berkeley BART — that is the epitome of [a] transit-oriented development.”
According to Overman, the project will cost roughly $200 million. Once the project breaks ground, the project team expects construction to take three years.