Mini-dorm Extravaganza Threatens LeConte Neighborhood

On June 10, 2014, ZAB heard and denied the huge extensions to 2201-05 Blake St. and 2204 Dwight Way because they found that they would be detrimental. The developer appealed the denials to the City Council, who will meet to hear the matters at 7:00 pm on January 13 in Old City Hall, 2134 MLK Jr. Way. If the Council would read the materials that neighbors have submitted, they would be very unlikely to overturn the ZAB’s denials. But we hear that very few of them read their packets before Council meetings.

A coalition of neighbors from several neighborhoods worked for years to pass a Mini-dorm Ordinance, as a result of the recent trend in greed — maxing out old Berkeley houses with multiple new bedrooms rented to students at astronomical prices.

In 2013 the Ordinance was passed.  It mandates that adding additional bedrooms beyond six per parcel in certain districts requires a hearing before the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB). The ZAB is supposed to deny projects that create a detriment to the neighborhood.

Developer Nathan George had purchased the splendid Victorian Bartlett Houses at 2201-05 Blake in 2011. Shortly thereafter, he added bedrooms and began renting to students, at over $1,000 per bedroom.

In 2013, he bought 2204 Dwight, directly behind those houses, and proposed a wacky but profitable plan to add a huge duplex behind the Bartlett Houses with a six-car parking garage underneath it and another huge duplex, four floors in all, behind 2204 Dwight. There would be a 130-foot sloped driveway from Dwight to the garage. Major retaining walls and barriers would be needed to prevent soil and humans on neighboring property from falling into the subterranean driveway.

There are now about 22 bedrooms on the two lots. The project would increase that number to about 37. While Mr. George claims his management is impeccable, last summer he rented a unit on Blake to a sports team, who promptly held a raucous party until 2:00 am, resulting in shattered glass all over the neighbors’ property.

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