News in Brief: Despite Neighbors' Worries, Judge Allows Construction

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After a contentious Dec. 2 hearing, Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch has ruled in favor of Mitch Kapor and the city of Berkeley regarding the software mogul's proposed 10,000 square-foot construction at 2707 Rose St. in North Berkeley.

The decision filed on Dec. 30 denies Berkeley Hillside Preservation's writ of mandate that would have Kapor submit his project to review under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Some residents have discussed the possibility of appealing the verdict.

"Even though he has decided against requiring a CEQA review of the project, he nonetheless notes ... that there are 'fair arguments' that the proposed structure is not consistent with Berkeley's general plan and zoning policies," Chuck Fadley, a resident of the Rose Street neighborhood, said in an e-mail. "It poses an environmental risk due to geotechnical factors related to the steeply sloping site."

The residents' claims that the construction would block the street and constitute "unusual circumstances" were dismissed by the judge, who ruled "there is nothing so out of the ordinary" about a large home built on a steep slope.

"I think there have been enormous engineering advances, and we have many homes not just in Berkeley but throughout California that follow very stringent guidelines," said Councilmember Susan Wengraf, whose district includes the site.

Roesch also denied the historical significance of the Dunham house, which the project would demolish, citing the expert opinion of historical architect Mark Hulbert in determining its "seriously dilapidated" condition.

"I'm a little frustrated with frivolous lawsuits and appeals that try to prevent people from doing what they are already allowed to do," Wengraf said.

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