Rose Street residents in north Berkeley will be interested to hear the outcome of a zoning hearing taking place on Thursday this week which will determine whether a home in their vicinity will get the OK to be demolished and replaced with a considerably larger one.

Lotus founder, philanthropist and angel investor Mitchell Kapor is behind the application which, if successful, would see a  modern, 6,478 sq ft home replace the existing 2-story 2,477 sq ft 1925 house at 2707 Rose Street. Public records show Kapor bought the property for $725,000 in August 2008.

The new home — the designs for which show a sleek, low-slung white box-like structure with lots of glass (above) — would be designed by Donn Logan at Berkeley based Marcy Wong/Donn Logan Architects, whose portfolio includes buildings at Berkeley High School.

Odds are that Rose Street neighbors will see the construction crews moving in soon, as planning staff is recommending the application be approved.

(Hat-tip: Daniella Thompson.]

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. Mr. Gripe:

    I’m was not actually “arguing that something should remain simply because it has been for a hundred years.” I was pointing out the magnitude of the change. Many people who buy homes in this neighborhood repair them, fix them up, even restore them to their original beauty. They don’t all just tear them down.

    As for whether it was compelling, at least the fact that the applicants lied about whether it was designed by a noted architect, and that the demolition was not disclosed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission seems worthy of note, and seemed to be of interest to at least two council members.

    I’m not even arguing that the house has “such important architectural and historic value,” but it sure did fit into the lot well, so well that hardly anyone noticed that it was there. It was a beautiful house in it’s day, it could be one again. You know, that used to be a time honored tenet of good architecture, that it fit well into its surroundings. By old fogies like Frank Lloyd Wright, Bernard Maybeck, Walter Ratcliffe, and other tired old architects.

    Speaking of allowing it to decline, the absentee owner who has let it decline for nearly the last two years, who has failed to clean out the deadwood, who did not secure it against squatters, who are at least in part responsible for the problems neighbors have complained about … were the Kapors.

    I’m not convinced that house will be built. I’m not convinced that the “immediate” neighbors will be as happy if it does get built, or even if they’ll wait around for that to happen. I do know that the neighbors of those neighbors are not as happy at the prospect.

    I have an analogy about the “immediate neighbors” of a project around *your* house which I’m not going to cut and paste here, but you can read it in the comments of the most recent posting in this drama here:

  2. Mr. Magnes (a.k.a. Mr. Gripe):

    The argument that something should remain simply because it has been for a hundred years was clearly viewed as an even less compelling one. If the original house held such important architectural and historic value, where were its champions as it sat in decline for years.

    It looks like there will be a new house in the neighborhood. And not sure if it was clear, but the immediate neighbors are happy.


  3. Mr. Grip,

    Many of us are still trying to come to terms with how detrimental this project will be, so it is difficult to see how many more people will benefit. Those benefits would inure in the same way to someone who wanted to restore, or even expand the existing house, so I don’t find your argument very compelling.

    No one is objecting to the Kapors living in the very lap of luxury, the controversy is over their specific plan to tear down the home that has been a part of the neighborhood for a hundred years, and building something that belongs in an office park, not on Rose Street.

  4. Opponents seriously need to get back to work and consider how this project would benefit more than the Kapors. Yes, it is undeniable that the Kapors will have the luxury of an expansive, new home, but the project will also employ numerous individuals: architects, landscape architects, and designers, contractors and subcontractors, vendors and manufacturers. And let’s not forget about the additional fiscal benefits to Berkeley and California.

    So get a grip and get back to work!

  5. New revealations and further discussion continues in the following forums:

    Another article/comment is by Gary Parsons on February 25th, 2010. Mr. Parsons is the chair of the City of Berkeley’s Landmark Preservation Comission. (BTW, this is the site and the article which first broke this story on January 25, 2010). “Comment: Why Berkeley must revisit its approval for new home construction on Rose Street”

    Another interesting article appeared In the Daily Californian, by Chris Carrassi on February 23, 2010, “City Approval of House Plans Incites Resident Opposition”

    The article in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 2nd probably got the most (public) comments. “Berkeley welcomes future neighbor Mitchell Kapor, in its own way” by Tracey Taylor.

  6. Or perhaps anyone should be able to build whatever they want wherever they choose, without regard to the concerns of other neighbors or the neighborhood. Do we really even need zoning regulations or building codes?

    Seriously, is this kind of polarizing hyperbole really constructive? Surely there is a reasonable compromise between these to extremes.

    The ordinances that attempt to balance the rights of the new owners to do as they please against the rights of their long time neighbors to protect their own investment have been developed over many years, years that allowed many hideous monstrosities to be built at the expense of both neighbors and communities. These ordinances determine what can and cannot be built and where, height limits, lot coverage limitations, setbacks, parking, and many other issues which may impact the community.

    In this case, the Kapors and their architects have chosen a design that does not conform to those ordinances, and they are asking for variances. Part of the variance process, as well as the process of tearing down an existing house and building a new one, requires informing the community of their plans and asking for comment, both positive and negative.

    The public feedback from the community is 10 to 1 against the plan, and a big part of my objection is the way the process is being gamed by the Kapors. Once they realized there was more opposition than they anticipated, they chose to try to ram it down the throat of the community, rather than offering to wait and address the concerns that have been raised. This seems like an arrogant strategy guaranteed to generate an appeal.

    Just my humble opinion.

  7. Perhaps the Kapors should leave a blank sheet with the neighborhood association and allow them to design their new home.

  8. It’s not 6,500 square feet, it’s 9,872 square feet! Even though the garage is attached, and an integral part of the building, the owners are presenting it as a 6,478 square foot house and a 3,394 square foot 10 car (attached) garage.

    The Zoning Adjustment Board about fell out of their chairs fawning over the Kapors and gushing over them after their all but unanimous decision (one abstention) last week to rubber stamp the new “K-Mart on Rose.”

    Four of the most immediate neighbors are very supportive of this project, but the ZAB got 34 letters from other households surrounding the house opposing this project, many who will be forced to view this monstrosity, but they did get 4 additional letters supporting it (2 from friends of the Kapors at Cal). Unfortunately, most of the letters came at the deadline to submit comments, after the plans had been posted inside a garage with a “No Trespassing” sign on it.

    The presentation to the ZAB focused on what wonderful people the Kapors were, with little information on the project itself. The model was not shown (even though it is pictured in the submission to the ZAB), a picture of the building site conveniently omitted the existing house, and the site plan was used only to demonstrate how many trees would be saved (for now), and how many will be planted (maybe). There were no elevations shown in their presentation, but they were very defensive about the fact that the elevations that were submitted showed trees obscuring the true first floor of this three story nightmare.

    Neighbors requested that story poles be erected to show the community what the visual impact will be, and requested that the neighborhood be given more time to understand the proposal, but the Kapors appear determined to ram this project through over the objections of the neighborhood, and they have done their homework. It doesn’t look the neighborhood has, but at least they have brought up enough issues to have a good basis for an appeal.

  9. Unfortunately, the ZAB staff report says it is and is recommending approval.

    In other words, demolishing of an existing 2,400 square foot home and replacing it with a 6,500 square foot home–for a single family–is now considered green. In Berkeley!