City Council Votes to Allow New Housing Project

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The Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a major Northside housing project last night that will add 65 new apartments to the housing-starved city.

Located on the 1700 block of Shattuck Avenue, the project will include retail space and parking.

It will also include 16 "affordable housing" apartments-units set aside at below-market rents for people with low income.

The approval of the project overcame some initial skepticism on the part of council members Dona Spring and Linda Maio.

"I would have much preferred to hold this over (to a later date), but I guess the council does not want to do that," Spring said. "So I will reluctantly support this because I support housing."

The new project falls in Spring's council district. Spring said the building's location on a former gas station worried her and other District 4 residents..

"Residents that live around the site do have concerns about being exposed to toxins (during construction)," she said.

The city's Zoning Adjustments Board already approved the project, but it reached the council because neighbors appealed the decision, citing concerns about toxins.

Major housing projects are often appealed to the City Council, which has the final say in such matters.

City staff will carefully monitor the construction project for any release of toxins, said City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque.

Councilmember Polly Armstrong spoke out strongly in favor of the project.

"Every week we talk about housing," she said. "Everybody on this council and in their campaign literature talks about housing-at some point you just have to step up to the plate."

The project is headed by prominent Berkeley developer Avi Nevo.

"I'm very excited about going ahead with the project," Nevo said. "I think it's going to be very beneficial to the community."

The project had several things going for it in the eyes of the council, including meeting the guidelines set out by Berkeley's general plan.

Berkeley's general plan calls for more housing construction on three major avenues accessible to mass transit-San Pablo, University and Shattuck avenues.

"It's exactly what we always want for housing," said Councilmember Betty Olds.

Mayor Shirley Dean praised the building's design.

"It looks like it will be a very beautiful building, and we should get moving on it," Dean said.


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