Berkeley development projects underway, offering affordable units

When seven floors burned down in the middle of construction, the project plans, funds and visions for a future apartment complex in downtown Berkeley also came to an end.

Two years later, in 2022, the same apartment at 2067 University Ave. is being rebuilt, along with the development of four housing proposals in Berkeley.

A total of 500 apartments have been proposed to meet Berkeley’s development requirements.

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation Plan, or RHNA, assesses regional housing needs and income levels to formulate building requirements for cities in California.

Under the RHNA plan, Berkeley must build 8,934 apartments, including several affordable ones, between 2023 and 2031, according to spokesman Stefan Elgstrand.

Berkeley Design Advocates predicts 30% population growth in the Bay Area by 2040. The organization encourages housing development in Berkeley to support population growth as well as economic and racial diversity.

“Our failure to provide new homes for those with more money displaces those with less,” Anthony Bruzzone, president of Berkeley Design Advocates, said in a statement. “As a result, our prized mixed-income neighborhoods are increasingly affluent enclaves with less ethnic diversity and less economic diversity.”

Elgstrand noted that the City of Berkeley is currently revising its Housing Element, or planned eight-year housing plan, to reflect the affordable building requirements set by the RHNA in its new developments.

NX Ventures is spearheading two apartment complex proposals located at 1598 University Ave. and at 2601 San Pablo Ave., which will result in a set of 404 units.

NX Ventures co-founder Nathan George plans 210 units and a 42-space parking structure at the University Avenue location, the largest proposal under consideration. The construction would demolish the old buildings of North Beach Pizza and Hanwen Chinese School. Additionally, 42 of the units would be affordable.

The seven-story San Pablo Avenue property would reserve 20 of its 194 units for ultra-low-income residents to qualify for California’s density bonus law and exceed height restrictions by nearly 30 feet.

Additionally, the property would include a garage capable of storing 118 bicycles, a trend among new Berkeley developments in lieu of residential parking minimums.

Elgstrand also noted environmental factors when reviewing Berkeley’s housing element.

“Increasing the number of units on key transit corridors, such as Shattuck, University and San Pablo, is an important part of meeting our housing needs while reducing our carbon footprint,” Elgstrand said in an email.

1752 Shattuck Ave., developed by Panoramic Interests owner Patrick Kennedy, will feature 68 units in the seven-story apartment, including at least seven affordable units.

The latest property at 2440 Shattuck Ave. will be called “The Lair” and will focus on student housing, according to Austin Group President Bill Schrader. The Lair will be an eight-story, 40-unit apartment complex similar to the nearby venture’s existing property, The Den. With only three affordable units, Schrader expects a $1 million fee to be paid into the affordable housing fund.

Lily Button is a crime and legal reporter. Contact her at [email protected]and follow her on Twitter at @lilybouton27.

Sara H. Byrd