740 Heinz Avenue

The Copra Warehouse or
Garr Building

Results of Special Meeting of Zoning Adjustments Board and Landmark Preservation Commission Thursday 2 July 2009

The Zoning Adjustments Board voted 5 to 3 [with one member absent] to grant Wareham a variance to build to 75 feet in height and to grant them a use permit. The Landmarks Preservation Committee, however, voted 7 to 1 [also with one member absent] against approving a demolition permit for this City of Berkeley landmarked building.

Wareham is appealing the Landmarks Preservation Committee's decision and there will be a hearing at the City Council in a couple of weeks to override the LPC's decision. [I will post details as soon as I confirm them].

You can read more about the special joint meeting at this article at the Berkeley Daily Planet.

All of the documents regarding this application are available at the City's Planning and Development page.

Old announcements and links are listed below:

Special Meeting of Zoning Adjustments Board and Landmark Preservation Commission Thursday 2 July 2009 at 6PM at City Hall

City planning staff is recommending approval of a variance to build laboratories to 75 feet in height at the 740 Heinz address and also recommending that the Landmarks Preservation Commission approve a demolition permit for the existing building.

Official Announcement

Links to supporting documents at the City's Planning and Development page

Link to the text of Rick Auerbach's explanation of the proposal from 29 June 2009

Zoning Adjustments Board [ZAB] Meeting 7pm Thursday the 14th of May, 2009

Wareham Development has a proposal for new biotech labs in place of the warehouse at 740 Heinz. The ZAB is requesting public statements on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project at this meeting. The final deadline for written comments is the 8th of June.

There is a whole page of links to more information about the project at the City's Planning & Development page. You can see the whole meeting agenda for this Thursday's meeting here. You can get a copy of the Environmental Impact Report here [it's a big PDF that will take awhile to download - but it's interesting.]

The following letter from the owners of two properties adjacent to the project offers an excellent summary of problems with the proposal. Please read it and come speak at the meeting on Thursday and/or send a letter to the ZAB.

Written comments should be directed to the ZAB Secretary at: Land Use Planning Division (Attn: ZAB Secretary) 2120 Milvia Street, Berkeley, CA 94704 OR at [email protected].

RE: 740 Heinz Avenue- USE PERMIT# 05-10000017: Garr Building/Copra Warehouse

To the Members of the Zoning Adjustments Board:

This letter comes to you from both the owner of the Temescal Business Center (an 11 building project at 7th Street and Heinz Ave., with tenants including: Berkeley Mills, Powis Parker, US Healthworks, DSM-PTG, Xoma etc.) and the owner of Berkeley Industrial Artworks Complex on Heinz Ave. (with tenants including Artworks Foundry, Magic Gardens, etc.). Both of our respective developments sit directly across the street from 740 Heinz Ave. We are the land owners most impacted by this development proposal.

It is our request that you deny the use permits and variance being requested.

It is our opinion that there are other alternative adaptive reuse strategies available to the underlying owner, the Garr Land and Resource Management Company that is better than the one which has been proposed by Wareham Development. The Copra warehouse should be preserved for less intense uses which are permitted by the existing West Berkeley Plan.

We object to the proposal plan for the following reasons:

  1. Bad Development Concept. The plan you have in front of you is a bad design and the proposed architectural preservation of the Copra Warehouse is offensive. Retaining several of the facade walls in the proposal does not maintain the actual landmark itself. There will be no connection between the past structure and the future development. A decade from now no one except the developer will understand why some old walls were incorporated into a new building. We are trying to preserve an old warehouse structure of architectural and cultural merit that is part of ‘historical industrial Berkeley’ which includes the Durkee and Spice Box buildings. The landmark, in the current proposal, would no longer exist except for some old walls incorporated into a super-sized life science building. The landmark exists as a whole building, not in a context-less deconstruction into its constituent parts. The reuse design leaves future generations without a proverbial ‘clue’ when reflecting on the Copra building.

  1. Out of Scale. The scale of this proposed building is completely out of character with West Berkeley’s scale. Heinz Ave. is made up of one and two story buildings. Most of the Aquatic Park development consists of one and two story buildings. Three story buildings are the exception. To suggest a variance for four stories, with mechanical on the roof, on a footprint that fills the entire parcel, is unacceptable to us. It is not permitted by the code and is totally out of scale for the neighborhood. In all the documents prior to this EIR, the floor area ratio (FAR) for the proposed building was approximately “4” or double the permitted massing. The idea of merging the neighboring parcels through ‘association’ in order to lower the FAR is unacceptable and violates fair planning practice. In order to accomplish the overall reduction of FAR the parcel is ‘perceived’ to be greater in size through the associated ownership entities. The ZAB must at least require a lot line adjustment so that there is a real parcel on which this development sits upon which the legitimate FAR is calculated. Alternatively, a total merger of the Garr parcel (740 Heinz Ave.) into the Aquatic Park development is a possibility. The argument that an affiliation of ownership interests is sufficient to readjust the FAR is, in the context of all that has preceded this, a very bad planning strategy. The FAR must be based on the actual parcel size.

  1. Insufficient Parking. The concept that the building would be permitted not to park itself on its own parcel, but would rely on the neighboring parcels, is a developer’s slight of hand. At some time in the future, the Copra site will pass to another owner from Wareham Development’s associated entities. The parcel can be lost in foreclosure to the bank, or sold upon death, or transferred on a divorce, or sold to a third party as an investment. At that future time, the building will not be able to park itself. The parking of this proposed development relies on the use of another entities land which rests on separate parcels. The 42 parking spaces will be insufficient for the magnitude of this project unless the larger site (Aquatic Park) is merged under single ownership or a separate parcel is created of sufficient size to address both parking and FAR requirements. In the future the ownership of Aquatic Park and the Copra site with likely change hands and without a real association between the underlying parcel of the proposed building and the proposed parking, all the great things that have been promised will vanish. Let us simply state, for the sake of the future of this neighborhood, a development of this magnitude must park itself on its own legally recognizable parcel. Otherwise at least both an easement and a deed restriction are required on the associated parcels.

  1. Over burdens Neighborhood Traffic. The development of this proposed project will contribute too much traffic for the footprint that is being utilized. There is finite traffic capacity on this section of Heinz Avenue. This level of intensification on the Copra site would steal future traffic capacity that is needed for any expansion of other sites residing in the immediate neighborhood, i.e. those at the Temescal Business Center and at the Berkeley Industrial Artworks Center. By granting this extreme level of intensification on this site you are in fact taking away other landowner’s opportunity to expand their sites in conformance with the code. The traffic study does not address what happens when the other large neighborhood sites, mentioned above are also redeveloped more intensely per the West Berkeley Plan. This intensification of use will come in the future and is anticipated by all the other land owners. Adding 88,000 sq. ft. to 740 Heinz Ave. will severely limit local landowners’ future ability to intensify uses on their sites in accordance with the current zoning due to the over burdening the local traffic patterns. In addition, the current traffic issues in the neighborhood are as yet unresolved with the opening of the new Berkeley Bowl a block away.

  1. Excessive Height. We are absolutely opposed to increasing height over three stories to 74 feet. The new development in the neighborhood (including Wareham’s Aquatic Park) has been of one to three stories. We are seeking uniformity of scale. Most of the buildings that have been cited as precedents for a variance are old single story manufacturing buildings (for example: Weatherford BMW, and IronWorks on Potter Street). In the case of Bayer the height variance is manufacturing specific. In this case, the request for a height variance does not meet the requirements of the zoning ordinance. There are no “exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applying to the land, building or use referred to in the application” that would suggest a variance be granted.

  1. Bad Precedent. To offer this developer the opportunity to build to 74 feet without findings sets a terrible precedent for West Berkeley. It is essentially a rewriting of the zoning code which will insure that other developers will do the same. How would the ZAB be able to grant this variance to one developer and deny it to others? Wareham Development also owns several city blocks around the Fantasy Building where they plan more development. On the heels of this approval would necessarily come the request to build more to this scale.

  1. Alternative Uses Not Considered. This is not the only viable plan for the site. The site could be used for a single story biotech lab facility. It could supply much needed off street parking for the neighborhood in the existing parking lot. It could be used as a one story biotech manufacturing facility. It could be used as a warehouse to support the existing tenants in Aquatic Park. It could be converted into a two story office building. There are many other solutions for the adaptive reuse of the site which are not limited to an over reaching life sciences building of 88,000 sq. ft.

  1. A Super-sized Project Creates Extra-ordinary Unacceptable Significant Environmental Impacts. In addition to the destruction of the Copra warehouse, this proposed super-sized development will subject the tenants in both Temescal Business Center and Berkeley Industrial Artworks Complex to significant impacts that will come from creating an over-sized monolith directly across the street. The unacceptable impacts include: the noise and traffic chaos related to a super-sized construction project that has no staging area, as the proposed building totally fills the site. The increased parking impacts to the street in a neighborhood which is already over burdened by the lack of employee parking at the new Berkeley Bowl (less than a block away). The traffic impacts to the neighborhood (it is unreasonable to expect that the traffic will be directed to the south of the project and away from Heinz). The degradation of local air quality. The intensification of use, which increases by an order of magnitude with the super-sizing, will negatively affect this neighborhood by increasing the hazardous materials risks associated with the biotech businesses that would occupy the site. Finally, the over sized shade impact of the structure will block out all the morning sun needed by Magic Gardens to grow their plants for their business and would further block the morning light appreciated by those of us across the street. We want to point out that there are many significant additional environmental impacts that will arise from the super-sizing of this development that unnecessarily exceed those of an alternative development plan that stays within the currently allowed reuse restrictions.

In conclusion, the owners of the Temescal Business Center and the Berkeley Industrial Artworks Complex jointly request that the ZAB deny both the permits and variance requested by Wareham Development for the Copra site at 740 Heinz Ave. for all of the reasons we have cited above.

Potter Creek Neighborhood - Updated 12 Jul 2009 - David M Bowman