Notice anything different? A new image of the architects‘ model for Mitch Kapor’s proposed home at 2707 Rose Street has emerged. Seems as though someone has had a change of heart on the exterior hue of the home.

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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76 Comments

  1. Color me surprised.  I think the Court is wrong, but there you go.  As is typical with CEQA, the concerns that lead a court to require more in-depth environmental study have absolutely nothing to do with the real concerns of the neighbors.

  2. David,

    FOUND IT!

    Please forgive my use of capital letters, but I guess since the only disinterested third party that matters says that there was NEVER EVEN A QUESTION ABOUT WHETHER AN EIR WAS REQUIRED, I HAVE NO NEED TO APOLOGIZE FOR WASTING ANYONE’S TIME OR MONEY!!!

    I won’t ask you to apologize for being wrong, and for wasting my time, I enjoy honing these skills.  I won’t ask the Kapors to apologize for wasting everyone’s time and money and trying to run roughshod over everyone.  I won’t ask the ZAB, my city council member, or the City of Berkeley to apologize for wasting so much time and energy and money, and for allowing so much dissension and animosity to develop because they didn’t have enough sense to think for themselves instead of being taken in by the Kapors hook, line, and sinker. 

    (Who do you think did all the work for the approval?  Who do you think framed the issues for the ZAB and the City Council and the City of Berkeley to see the issues the way they did?  Or are you so ignorant that you believe the city actually sits down and writes all of this up themselves?)

    No I won’t ask for apologies, and I doubt the BHPG will either.  They seem like pretty nice, level headed people who just didn’t like being pushed around by someone who thought he had the right to kick people to the curb, and was used to getting his own way.  On everything.

    Even though it was a difficult battle, insuring that the process will be done correctly is a pretty good outcome.  That and the check from the Kapors for every penny the neighbors have put into fighting this.  Ka-ching!

    On the other hand, a few apologies by those who were so wrong for so long would at least demonstrate some level of integrity.

  3. David,

    Ah, I’m getting closer, I can feel it.  All aesthetic issues are irrelevant, yes?

    NO!

    “Effects on aesthetics, cultural resources, water supply, health and safety are among the effects that fall within the concept of “”unusual circumstances.”” (Communities for a Better Environment v. California Resources, 103 Cal.App.4th at p. 129).  Also Berkeley Hillside Preservation, et al., v. City of Berkeley et al.  Sorry I can’t give you the full citation, it was just published on Monday!

    What you don’t know about the law would fill all the law books you’ve never read and then some!

    They DO need to put up story poles, and they WILL!  The DO need to do an EIR and they WILL!

    I don’t mean to sound hostile, it’s just that your postings were some of the most well written and specious, they really were kind of crazymaking.  You really have an amazing ability to sound like you know what you’re talking about, even when you’re talking through your . . . hat. 

    You harped on your ignorant contentions and fatuous sophistry over and over and over again (a little like me, I’ll admit, but without the ignorant, fatuous or sophistic parts).  You completely missed the mark on how the process was being manipulated by the Kapors, and turned the whole argument upside down, trying to redefine the parties who were gaming the system as the victims of those who were being victimized by a group of “meddlesome busybodies.”

    We have serious concerns about the process and our environment, and your opinion really doesn’t matter as much as those who take those concerns seriously.  Like the disinterested third party that made the decision to order an EIR.

  4. On behalf of no one other than myself, and maybe with a thinner veneer of respect, I would like to strongly endorse critical thinking and an exchange of ideas.  It was “meddlesome busybodies” that saved the bay from being filled in, and some of them were my neighbors.  I, and perhaps Thomas, will use our time as we see fit.  Some of us will force the Kapors to do an EIR, kicking and screaming all the way.  Others of us will continue to discuss the issues.  One of us will go back through the record to see how the arguments stacked up back before we knew for sure how things would turn out.

  5. David,

    Broaden your view!  There are so many more issues than the two you listed.  CEQA serves a valid public purpose, as you are about to see.  I don’t think the appellate court would have ruled as it did unless there was a legitimate possibility of a significant environmental impact.

    On your first point, I think you may be right.  But you fail to anticipate the possibility that someone else will make that decision for him.  Not because someone on some blog somewhere (and in the comments section of an old posting, no less) says it is “dumb” or “ugly.”  That decision is no longer in the hands of the Kapors.

  6. David,

    Guess what . . . you’re still there.  Not that we know better than you do what YOU want, but that there is a possibility that what you want isn’t the best thing for everyone. 

  7. Meddlesome busybody?  You make it so tempting to start wearing these epithets as a badge of pride and honor, but calling people names doesn’t get us an EIR.  Or prevent it.

  8. David,

    I put my faith more in the courts than the building department.  Berkeley totally screwed this up.  For everyone.

  9. lifelongberkeleyan:

    Now that the court has ruled that and mooted all you raised, perhaps another case from Aesop would be apt:  The Tortoise and the Hare.

    The Kapors are the hares, so over-confident, so arrogant, so imperious that they bolt past the starting line so fast that the tortoise hardly has a chance to move before the hare is half way to the finish line.  But plodding neighbors are the tortoise, slowly building the case, filing the papers, building consensus. 

    I said before that I didn’t want to characterize this as winning and losing, but it’s hard to see the result here as anything less than a major victory for my neighborhood, the community, and the entire environment we call California.

  10. Well, you presumed wrong, David.  It’s not that expensive, but it is time consuming to do all the research necessary to find out what the environmental impact of this project would be.  Once you figure it out, you realize that this house can’t be built.  But what can be done when no one will listen to your environmental concerns? 

    That’s the expensive part.  Hiring an attorney to take the case all the way to appeal to insure that an EIR will be done to document that environmental impact.  Fortunately, the Kapors will be paying for former, and must decide if they want to continue with this folly if they want to pay the latter. 

    I think I have figured out enough of this to know that the EIR will document significant impacts to the environment..

  11. Diane,

    You may very well think that, but it is not true.  I never thought it was, but that is now the law of the land.

  12. . . . over and over and over, until they are heard until someone will listen.  I am not alone, I was not a party to the lawsuit or the appeal.  I guess all those imaginary opponents to this project made that happen.

  13. Um, yeah.  There are people that seriously expect the City to require an EIR for this project.  More importantly, there are people willing to spend thousands of dollars to take it to court, for that matter.  Without people with the courage of their convictions, we would be subject to all sorts of mischief.

    The BPHG did their homework, but I doubt whether they used my starting point.  I learn from them, not the other way around.

  14. Diane,

    Not a tunnel or a bridge or a condo complex, but unusual enough to not merit the exemption for the EIR.

    This time, and EIR was needed.

  15. David,

    Oddly enough, I actually had to respond to someone who invoked global warming in the context of dense urban planning as a rationale for supporting this project!  It takes all kinds . . .

    On your other point, no one was pretending that it was a personal taste issue, that was your straw man, and you eviscerated it again and again and again.  On the city deciding not go through the legally mandated process and do an EIR (which includes, wait for it, DESIGN REVIEW!) . .  . big mistake.

    The EIR and the design review will be done, and the only way to stop it is to not build the house.

  16. My spidey senses are tingling, a new article/update is on its way! More opportunities to make the same old arguments (no offense to the author of the articles, which are excellent, but the commentary, including my own, is getting old due to repetition). I’m not sure how much I’ll contribute this time around, now is the time for harmony of pen and sword. Feel free to quote me as saying “I would be very surprised if there was not a lawsuit.”

    I would double check that statement about “Kapor is now free to begin tearing down the property at 2707 Rose St., a 1920s home that has been abandoned for several years.” I see he has applied for the permit (the Monday after the council meeting, as a matter of fact) but not that it has been granted. (It looks like he forgot about the garages he wanted to tear down, too, and came back the next day to get them, but that could just be a processing issue.)
    http://map.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ppop/ (enter 2707 Rose).

    I think it would be the final proof of bad faith, however, by the city and by the Kapors, because if the EIR mandates changes that the Kapors don’t want to have to implement, it would forever foreclose the possibility of someone restoring that beautiful house. Also, because one of the issues that council members discussed was whether this came before the LPC properly. With the final plans not yet approved, and no proof that the building they are proposing to be build can be built on this lot, it is hard to believe the city would actually issue them a demolition permit.

    Also hard to believe it would be legal to issue that permit before the appeal period on the CEQA exemption had run its course, but as another commentator (elsewhere) opined, “I thought the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance barred that.” (I’m not sure it does, myself, but I agree with the last part of the comment:) “But this particular applicant may be more equal than others similarly situated.”
    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-05-07/full_text

  17. In passing, I’ll mention two other recent largish constructions in Berkeley. One was highlighted in the S.F. Chronicle real estate section this past weekend: a place in the hills that was substantially rebuilt and enlarged more or less beyond recognition.
    Here is the home at 1530 Grizzly Peak that Thomas was referring to…

  18. David,

    You two are just talking past one another. You keep asserting things like:

    “You’ve got some kind of bias against replacing buildings rather than remodeling them. But the one is not better than the other just because you like it more.”

    What we’ve actually legislated in these parts is a bias against construction that alters certain views, construction that is likely to change use, construction that poses new earthquake hazards, construction that poses new landslide hazards, razing that destroys historically significant structures, construction that significantly alters the “character” of an area characterized by historically significant structures, and so forth. The larger number of neighbors who received notice only two weeks before the hearing are (per legislation) supposed to be part of the process. They’re supposed to have the opportunity to contribute to the judgment calls (such as views, and historic significance). They’re supposed to have the opportunity to scrutinize and inform some of the more objective calls (e.g., landslide hazards, etc.).

    The complaints about this structure, broadly stated, include that (a) a defective notification process denied some the ability to properly scrutinize and contribute input to the ZAB findings; (b) the information considered by ZAB and later Council arguably contains serious defects such as would inform an erroneous decision; (c) ZAB and Council arguably incorrectly applied the legal standard for a two story house, leading to some exemptions under CEQA that may not be appropriate.

    Factors such as views, historic character, use, landslide and earthquake considerations, etc. are all CEQA issues. ZAB’s staff reports that drove the decision making arguably (pretty good arguments, too, if you ask me) contain defects which precisely coincide with supposed exemptions from an EIR.

    Behind all the rhetoric (from both sides) in these Berkeleyside discussions lies a pretty straightforward set of legal questions, driven by existing legislation. Vitriolic character assassination slung around by both sides doesn’t change that basic underlying issue.

    And remember, the original remedy sought by opponents at the ZAB hearing was nothing more than a 30-day continuation. If ZAB’s decision could stand scrutiny, and given that the notice process was arguably defective, that would hardly have been an unreasonable request. That is why my first observation in this case was that it would have been clever and wise of the Kapor’s to show up at that ZAB meeting, stand up, and say “Yes, please. That’s fine. 30 days.”

    The grand ideological debates you and some others are invoking just aren’t all that relevant here. There are a long list of factual questions that pertain to legislated process.

    You also write:

    “I’m skeptical there even will be a lawsuit. If there is, it will obviously go nowhere.”

    I share your skepticism that there will be a lawsuit but it is too early to tell. Council’s decision set a CEQA clock ticking – I believe the deadline is a strict 90 days from that for a CEQA-based suit (though I could be mistaken). A CEQA-based suit is not the only option.

    As for whether or not such a suit would go anywhere: neither of us really knows. It sure looks like the opponents could have a pretty strong case to me. The main question in my mind is what remedies look like. I would guess it most likely that a quite similar project would eventually win approval, but only after substantial modifications. I would guess that the second most likely outcome is that the landslide hazards imposed by the proposed excavation and the earthquake concerns relative to the size and location of the building are enough to kill off anything like the proposed structure. I suppose that in a worst case, defects in the process and perhaps historic significance could result in an order to restore (and perhaps expand) the existing structure (though I doubt that that’s likely).

    In passing, I’ll mention two other recent largish constructions in Berkeley. One was highlighted in the S.F. Chronicle real estate section this past weekend: a place in the hills that was substantially rebuilt and enlarged more or less beyond recognition. So far as I know, that process went through without much controversy at all. (From the pictures, it looks like they did a lovely job, too.)

    Another took place a few years back in which small structure was taken apart, raised two stories (yielding a three story structure) and — that one ran into some serious problems. That project won zoning approval based on misleading applications. It got building permits. Construction started. At a certain point people looked at it and said “Hey, that’s not what the applications described.” And, indeed, in that case stop work orders went out and very late court battles ensued. It took years to sort out. Eventually an “everybody loses” compromise was put in place but not before the owner spent a lot more and took a lot more time building than was planned for. That project is an example of why I say the Kapor’s would have been wiser to cooperate with the opposition as early in the process as possible – they risk going down one of those rat-holes.

  19. The real point is that most of the people who buy in this neighborhood are not “developers.” They are people who want to live in the home they bought. They might want to fix that home up or add on to it, but they are actually improving the existing housing stock, not tearing it down and starting over.

    This is all extraordinarily silly. Developers engage in the business of improving real estate. Whether they replace existing structures or remodel them is irrelevant. People who build houses for their own use are not developers, whether they build on vacant land or they remodel existing houses or they tear down and replace.

    You’ve got some kind of bias against replacing buildings rather than remodeling them. But the one is not better than the other just because you like it more. As I said before, if you don’t like the idea of replacing existing buildings (even when there’s nothing left of them and “remodeling” means stripping them down to the studs and removing everything that actually connects the building to the pats), all you need to do is get a majority of your fellow citizens to legislate against it. But to pretend it’s an environmental degredation because you prefer remodeling existing buildings is absurd.

    It’s not worth as much ink as it’s gotten. I’m skeptical there even will be a lawsuit. If there is, it will obviously go nowhere. It’s a waste of time and money, but worse is the way these kinds of frivolous lawsuits weaken support for what really is an important environmental law. But it is what it is. I can’t change it.

  20. CM

    You say “…I don’t want to get too far off point by arguing “democracy,” but I think your analogy is the one that is limping.”

    Thank you. ‘Limping’ implies the presence of two legs, that’s two more than your CEQA argument has. I see you’ve chosen my third option to “…keep flopping around like the Black Knight in Monty Pythons Grail movie. A dismembered argument shouting for ’satisfaction’. ”

    (For those unfamiliar with the reference see:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eMkth8FWno
    The relevant portion starts at 3:01)

    But that doesn’t mean it won’t make someone famous for it’s unintended consequences…

    The squabble on Rose St. uncovered lessons from previous local disasters and blessed Berkeley with the opportunity to deliver itself (in advance) from a most terribly divisive and unscrupulous scheme.

    I don’t just mean the hodgepodge build-outs that followed the 1991 firestorm. Far worse in terms of city wide accord was the deal cut giving the upper crust hill dwellers a pass on capital gains tax – at the direct expense of their poorer non-relations in the flatlands.

    If that’s of interest read on…

    The whole story is here:
    http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s6796.html
    The relevant portion reads:

    “…They organized self-help groups, about fifty in all, known as Phoenix neighborhood associations. These newly minted activists weren’t interested in reviving the barn-raising tradition of an earlier West, summoning the unscathed to pitch in and rebuild what their neighbors had lost. Instead, they conceived their mission as one of persuading state and federal politicians to amend the tax codes and so rescue the former residents from the calamity of having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in capital-gains taxes.

    When the refugees turned to local public agencies for emergency relief, they offered their suffering as proof of their worth and courage. They said, in effect, “We’ve been through hell. Now we deserve all the help you can give us.” But because California cities are routinely bankrupt, some of the demands could be accommodated only by subtracting services from the residents of the flatlands.

    In a city as racially segregated as Oakland, where the fire did its worst work, the fire survivors’ plaint reawakened long-abiding hostilities between the less-affluent majority who lived in the flats and those who lived in the hills. In a letter to the Oakland Tribune, flatlander Joyce Owens-Smith insisted that she wouldn’t pay “for people in the hills to have a clean, safe environment while I and the other poor, minority people live in squalor, abandoned by the same government and corporate entities making this audacious request.”

    Such thinking wasn’t well received at the higher elevations. “We’ve paid for their police protection and fire protection long enough,” the prevailing argument went. “Now it’s our turn.” A group of hillside residents proposed seceding from Oakland and founding a new city named Tuscany. Oakland, it was said, was famous only for “baseball scores and murder counts.”

    Flatlands residents recalled the scant attention paid by government officials to the people made homeless by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and they remembered bitterly that in 1978 the precincts in Oakland that voted for Proposition 13, the initiative forcing California’s cities to cut property taxes, were situated in the hills. Now these same landowners were appealing to the municipality they’d helped to bankrupt, asking and receiving help from a city with a reputation for shabby public services. The bitterness of the flatlanders was ignored. Retired Admiral Robert Toney, president of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, told the Montclarion, a local paper, that the refugees were “a very desirable part of the population,” leaving the flatlanders wondering just how the admiral regarded their presence.”
    _____________________

    The great legacy of this Chez Kapor debate could be our affirmation, as a city, of our moral strength and unity by passing legislation to prevent this double dealing from happening here. Email the city council to start proposals now.

  21. lifelongberkeleyan,

    Yes the statement “all men are created equal” is over simplistic and naïve. Are you sure you really want to use this statement as an example of how putatively over simplistic and naïve statements can still be valid?

    OK, it’s your nickel. Over simplistic: What about women? What kind of men? How much property do those men own? What race are those men? The devil is in the details, but maybe this can be resolved with a civil war and a few constitutional amendments. Naïve: Born equal doesn’t mean treated equally under the law. Do you think that is the case in our democracy? The basis of our democracy is genocide and slavery, it sez so right in the constitution, but that was written a decade after those heady truths became self evident, and it took another decade to get it ratified the states (too busy with slavery and genocide?) So, yeah, over simplistic and naïve may have some validity.

    I am interested in “people’s will, but even representitive democracy is more than “the will of the people.” That’s why there are checks and balances, like the other aspect of “democracy,” which is “a nation of laws.” Those laws are supposed to protect us from the tyranny of the majority and other abuses, and one of those laws just happens to be CEQA.

    I don’t want to get too far off point by arguing “democracy,” but I think your analogy is the one that is limping.

    As to your suggestion about “really mov(ing) this discussion …” I think I may just take you up on that. We’ll see.

    No, my property taxes are not less than $321, but I believe that the city is allowed to set a fee schedule that recoups the costs that they charge for Zoning and Development, and if it costs the taxpayers of Berkeley anything, let’s set that against all the money they saved by not checking the facts in their Staff Report and Findings.

    David:

    What do you know, your were right, I wasn’t agreeing with you, I was disagreeing with you. I apologize (what was I thinking?), but I stand by my statement. Let me restate my point in this new light of disagreement:

    I DISAGREE with you that “NOT everyone who buys real estate for construction is a ‘developer.’” If you buy real estate to tear down the existing house and build another house, you are a developer, developing your project.

    But here’s the point, and it is the same point I made when I made the mistake of thinking that I was agreeing with you, and it is still valid: Mitch Kapor IS a developer, and I guess I inferred you were from your previous statements that you have “bought property for the land value and not the house,” and that axe you had to grind with “meddlesome busybodies …[who] try to tell [you] they know better than [you] do what [you] want.”

    The real point is that most of the people who buy in this neighborhood are not “developers.” They are people who want to live in the home they bought. They might want to fix that home up or add on to it, but they are actually improving the existing housing stock, not tearing it down and starting over. The Kapors would have a better chance of being welcomed by everyone if they were proposing to rebuild the existing house, even raise it up a few feet (less than 6) to expand it and get a better view.

    I disagree with your premise that a lawsuit would be frivolous, since that is the only way to get a fair hearing by a disinterested third party. It might be costly to the Kapors, especially if they lose, but they made the decision to exclude the rest of their neighbors in the decision making process. What percentage of the entire cost of this development do you suppose might be involved in marshalling the evidence that there is no possibility of any environmental impact, that the Kapors haven’t already spent? As you rightly point out, that cost is negligible, but I will take issue with your statement that “it’s the delay that’s at issue.”

    What if there is no categorical exemption to an EIR, and it turns out that there is a significant environmental impact? Wouldn’t a delay to determine whether there is or isn’t a significant impact also be negligible? Wouldn’t it have been worthwhile to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA for the Deepwater Horizon platform now spilling somewhere between 200,000 and 1,000,000 gallons of oil a day into the gulf of Mexico? Don’t flame me for this analogy, the only point I am making is that both projects claimed and received categorical exemptions for environmental impact statements.

    Addressing your final specific concern that “anyone would consider filing a frivolous lawsuit just in order to punish the taxpayers of Berkeley by costing them money, and punish the Kapors by costing them time,” I wouldn’t worry about that. No one is going to do that for those reasons. I don’t think that CEQA will be weakened if it is applied to this development, but it could be the development will be strengthened. Besides, an EIR will not be required if CEQA does not apply to this project.

  22. I agree with you that “everyone who buys real estate for construction is a “developer,”

    Absurd. I said exactly the opposite, you aren’t agreeing with me. A (real estate) developer is someone who is engaged in the business of renovation or new construction. People who build private residences for their own use are not developers.

    There is an expense to those who want to put the decision before a disinterested third party, but that’s only an expense to the Kapors if they’re right.

    No, even frivolous lawsuits have a high cost. If an actual lawsuit is filed, it will cost the Kapors and the city of Berkeley a lot of money to deal with it. But the cost is still negligible to the Kapors, they care about the delay. The city is more affected by the cost.

    What bothers me the most is not the delay or the cost. I am obviously not impressed that anyone would consider filing a frivolous lawsuit just in order to punish the taxpayers of Berkeley by costing them money, and punish the Kapors by costing them time. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s small potatoes. What bothers me more is the abuse of important legislation like CEQA, which serves a valid purpose, and is needed to deal with real environmental harms. Every time such tools get used frivolously, they are weakened for when they are really needed.

  23. CM,

    Fifth generation owner? Felix and Michele’s $321.00 dinner check (featured elsewhere on Berkeleyside) is probably more than your annual property tax. Which might partially explain your enthusiastic demands for multiple iterations of an already complete publicly funded process.

    Characterizing this comment below from a previous poster:

    “…if enough of your fellow citizens share your view, then get them to vote to elect representatives who will ban teardowns. It’s a democracy.”

    As “oversimplistic and naive” sliced the legs off any credible argument you may have had. Let’s try “All men are created equal” isn’t that “oversimplistic and naive” What could be more “oversimplistic and naive”! Yet it’s the basis of our “oversimplistic and naive” democracy.

    You not interested in the “people’s will”. The people’s will has been expressed in the legal manner established by the people. It’s not open to change through innuendo, wishful thinking or bluff.

    You want to really move this discussion: Take some of the money that’s been lavished on you by Prop. 13 and hire an investigator to find the political influence you are so certain of. Or get a soils engineer to cite briefly the clear and present danger this project poses. Make your ancestors proud!

    Or keep flopping around like the Black Knight in Monty Pythons Grail movie. A dismembered argument shouting for ‘satisfaction’.

  24. David,

    You say you don’t understand my claim that “If you’re right, and there is no requirement for an EIR, there will be no EIR, no expenses incurred, and nothing to apologize for.” What I meant is that there will be no cost to the Kapors to do an EIR if there is no requirement to do one.

    There is an expense to those who want to put the decision before a disinterested third party, but that’s only an expense to the Kapors if they’re right. Do you have a problem with that? Aren’t you the one that claimed to know Mr. Kapor enough to be unable to “imagine he’s the kind of person who’s going to sue the city to get his house built?” You really think he would appeal that decision? I mean, it would be his right, but then he would be appealing the decision that the neighbors were right and an EIR was required, and he would be on the back foot as well.

    I agree with you that “everyone who buys real estate for construction is a “developer,” How you come up with the conclusion that “Mitch Kapor is not a developer [and you are] not a developer” (after claiming that you have purchased homes “simply for the land value beneath them”) is somewhat beyond me, but here’s the point: Mitch Kapor IS a developer, and I guess I inferred you were from the above quoted statement. And from your previous statements about having an axe to grind with “meddlesome busybodies …[who] try to tell [you] they know better than [you] do what [you] want.”

    The real point is that most of the people who buy in this neighborhood now are not “developers.” They are people who want to live in the home they bought. They might want to fix that home up or add on to it, but they are actually improving the existing housing stock, not tearing it down and starting over. The Kapors would be welcomed with open arms by everyone if he were proposing to rebuild the existing house, even raise it up a few feet (less than 6) to expand it and get a better view.

    I believe my elected representatives passed CEQA to address situations like this, where we disagree about the environmental impact. You dismiss the environmental concerns, but my neighbors and I have been active in environmental protection for decades. A foundation was even formed to buy up the two lots directly below 2707 Rose SPECIFICALLY to PREVENT development on those lots. There are huge, privately owned open spaces that are generously left open to the public to visit hidden waterfalls, redwood groves, entire urban forests.

    Like I said before, you simply do not understand this community, and what it is we are working so hard to protect. Your arguments remind me of the people and interests who proposed filling in the bay, who also had little sympathy for preservation, who felt that once you owned the land you could do anything you wanted with it. Yet a small group of people, including members of my family and my neighbors had a different idea about the Bay, one that has become widely accepted: We are all just stewards of the land we think we “own.”

    Now, part of the reason that this house is being proposed to be constructed the way it is, with massive earthworks to raise its height, is to have a view of that bay that was saved by their efforts. I find that passing ironic, but I accept it as the danger of unanticipated consequences, just as I want to get a good look at what the unanticipated consequences of building this structure will be.

  25. If you’re right, and there is no requirement for an EIR, there will be no EIR, no expenses incurred, and nothing to apologize for.

    I don’t understand your claim here. Lawsuits are expensive. Appeals are expensive. Delays are expensive. Certainly all of this obstructionism directed at the project incurs real and substantial costs. How could it not?

    Your statements and suppositions about me personally are also mostly wrong. I will just note one detail, not everyone who buys real estate for construction is a “developer”. Mitch Kapor is not a developer. I am not a developer.

    I think you have every right to dislike the house, and you have the right to argue to the city that they should block its construction because you think it “looks like a K-Mart”. But, unfortunately for you, your elected representatives don’t agree with you that they should reject people’s construction plans on those grounds. And when you then try to abuse environmental law to try to create obstructions, you weaken the important use of those laws for real environmental concerns.

  26. David,

    Let me reiterate: I guess I am more sympathetic to preservation of things that I think contribute to that specialness of place we enjoy. I do not think that “Chez Kapor” (the proposed “house”) will contribute to that specialness, it will detract from it. You disagree. Fine.

    You are not sympathetic to historic preservation, by your own admission. You haven’t seen the house. You don’t live in the neighborhood, you don’t even live in Berkeley. You don’t know the neighors (except for Mr. Kapor), you don’t know how this community developed over the last 100 years. You claim to be a developer who has purchased homes only to tear them down (I’m not sure I believe you, but I guess I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for the time being). I don’t expect you to understand my neighborhood, or my concerns. Not that you don’t have a right to post your opinions on Berkeleyside, fire away!

    You don’t understand CEQA, or the need for an EIR. I can’t explain it to you, I can’t show you what you refuse to see. Not all of my criticisms of this project fall under the purview of CEQA, some of them fall under zoning code, some under the building code, some have to do with the general plan. Some of it has to do with historic preservation, some of it has to do with the five generations of my family that have lived here, even through the fire of September 17, 1923. MY MISTAKE. At least you had to google it, I just had to look back in family album. Fixating on a typo also allowed you to skip over the fatuous statement you made that “we wouldn’t have the historic architecture that we have today if people had been prevented from replacing even older homes.” Even if they were destroyed by a mindless fire?

    The issues here are complex and nuanced in a way that maybe people like you and the Kapors either can’t understand, or don’t want to understand.

    At the risk of repeating myself, and being pilloried for that repetition, I really don’t see the problem here. If you’re right, and there is no requirement for an EIR, there will be no EIR, no expenses incurred, and nothing to apologize for. If you’re wrong, there will be an EIR, expenses will be incurred, but maybe, just maybe, the EIR will reveal more of the same misrepresentations that have already been uncovered. Maybe we can get the facts out on the table so that we’re not making decisions based on erroneous information.

    Then and only then can we talk about “apologies,” but I think will leave those decisions to those who feel they need to make them, not to those who demand them in advance and contingent upon some eventual outcome.

    If you, or (lifelongberkeleyan) feel you’re wasting your time here in our virtual Berkeley, there are plenty of other online games out there for you to play. Not that you’re not welcome to another turn at bat.

    I don’t want to get too far off point by spending time on your definitions of democracy (which I find oversimplistic and naive), but here in this virtual world, I would like to think that we live in a meritocracy of ideas. May the most compelling arguments prevail.

  27. You do know that a lot of that historic architecture, at least in this neighborhood, is a result of homes destroyed in the September 13th fire, right?

    No, I didn’t. Not sure what you are talking about. Could it be September 17, 1923?

  28. It’s a beautiful house, but it’s owned by someone who only bought it because of what was under it. Sound familiar?

    Yes, very familiar. In fact, I’ve bought property for the land value and not the house. If that’s what bugs you, then it’s certainly nothing to do with CEQA. It’s your personal aesthetic. If enough of your fellow citizens share your view, then get them to vote to elect representatives who will ban teardowns. It’s a democracy.

  29. One reason to do an EIR is to get the facts correct. Do you believe the Staff Report and Findings are factually correct? Another is give the community an opportunity to review the actual plans, to establish the final height and mass of the building, determine if the street will be abandoned by the city, determine whether there is a third floor or not, and clarify the final use. Another is to determine whether that building can be built on this lot safely!

    But none of these things have the slightest connection to CEQA or environmental impact. If the house can’t be built safely, that is a building code and engineering issue, not an environmental impact issue. If the height of the building exceeds city codes, or the resident wants to put a Target store in the building (still seems unlikely!), that is a zoning issue, not an environmental impact issue. There are processes for examing all of these things. They just have no connection to CEQA or the much-demanded EIR.

  30. I guess I am more sympathetic to preservation of things that I think contribute to that specialness of place we enjoy.

    Except for Chez Kapor, I guess. It all comes down to, you want to impose your taste on others. That’s easy enough to do, all you have to do is elect representatives who will impose a design review process and then have your elected representatives nominate commissioners who share your aesthetics. That’s the democratic way. But you prefer the undemocratic way.

    I still want to know, if your disinterested third party says there’s not the slightest reason for an EIR, will you come back and apologize?

  31. Cliff dwelling. Dwelling, dwelling, dwelling on an erroneous perception of the facts and the process.

    Thomas lording. Lording, lording lording over poor Berkeleyside.

    The price we pay for open access? Maybe, but it seems awfully expensive.

  32. That doghouse argument doesn’t even rise to the level of sophistry! What has happened to critical thinking?

    If I want to tear down an existing home, change the entire profile of a hillside that is in a slide zone, an earthquake fault zone, and a high fire danger zone, next to a city stream, and building a 10,000 square foot, three story building on top of massive new earthworks … and call it a doghouse, then yes, there MAY BE an environmental impact.

    Yes, I would need to do an EIR, even if I was calling it a dog house. Or a house. Or “historical architecture of the future.” A rose (by any other name) is a rose is a rose.

    One reason to do an EIR is to get the facts correct. Do you believe the Staff Report and Findings are factually correct? Another is give the community an opportunity to review the actual plans, to establish the final height and mass of the building, determine if the street will be abandoned by the city, determine whether there is a third floor or not, and clarify the final use. Another is to determine whether that building can be built on this lot safely!

    I doubt I will be able to come up with a reason that will satisfy you, but my point is, there either is or isn’t a requirement for an EIR, and that will be determined by a disinterested third party who doesn’t have a dog in this fight (or in that house).

    You know, CEQA falls into the category of something called public interest law. It either applies, or it doesn’t. You want to call it harassment, I want to call it responsible development and good social policy.

    I didn’t say “if there is no EIR, then [you are] right,” I said “If you’re right, then there will be no EIR.” Big difference between the two there is, young Jedi. There already isn’t an EIR, and I don’t think anyone would confuse what I am doing as apologizing, nor am I saying you are right. Quite the opposite.

    I am not afraid to admit I was wrong, and will do so when and if I am (as I have in the past). The proof, however, will only become clear when one of two things happens: Either there will be an EIR which helps the community to determine what the true facts of this proposed development are before it is built, which may change the final result, or the building is built on the shaky ground it currently sits on.

    I would like to err on the side of doing something before it’s too late. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Another cliché, but a wise idea.

  33. David,

    Really? Illogical to say “They didn’t put up story polls, so we need to spend two years doing an EIR.”

    Setting aside your oversimplification of Thomas Lord’s rather comprehensive point, let us examine this statement, by restating it in context: “They didn’t comply with the Zoning and Planning requirement to put up story poles in the H district, so we need to comply with CEQA now by doing an EIR.”

    While I disagree that these two issues aren’t connected (both are examples of trying to fast track this process by skipping requirements designed to resolve questions and problems before they become bigger problems), is it really so illogical to say that by violating the letter and spirit of one process you trigger another?

    From what you’ve read, you don’t think the council made its decision on the basis of fear of a lawsuit? Well, duh. They sded with the guy who can afford to pay for the lawsuit by indemnifying the city and fighting the EIR with his own abundance of resources.

    I don’t know Mitch Kapor nearly as well as you, but I am getting to know him. I can imagine that he’s the kind of person who would do whatever it took to do avoid as much scrutiny of this project as possible, because that’s what he’s done so far.

    If you’d gone to any of the numerous links I posted with information about this issue, you would have at least seen pictures of the original house, it’s still there. Owned by an absentee owner who benefits from its dilapidated condition. It’s a beautiful house, but it’s owned by someone who only bought it because of what was under it. Sound familiar?

    “We wouldn’t have the historic architecture that we have today if people had been prevented from replacing even older homes?” What sophistry! You do know that a lot of that historic architecture, at least in this neighborhood, is a result of homes destroyed in the September 13th fire, right? And 2707 Rose Street survived that fire?

    “What people like Mitch Kapor are building is the historic architecture of the future?” No, what people like Mitch Kapor are trying to build is a new paradigm for the Berkeley hills. If there’s anything historic about this, it is how it will change future development in what has been, until now, a pretty special place, worthy of preservation.

    I guess I am more sympathetic to preservation of things that I think contribute to that specialness of place we enjoy. We often don’t appreciate the things we take for granted until they’re gone. It’s a cliché, I know, but that’s how the eternal verities become clichés.

  34. szunderwood,

    Where you might have said “we the undersigned, respectfully disagree, understand your view but ask that you drop it” would have marked you and those you say you speak for as civil, you have instead substituted name-calling. You preface your comment with the prhase “with all due respect” but it rings hollow in light of what follows.

    You are describing blog comments as “meddlesome”. Think that through. There is a free speech safe harbor here. There is an open and ordinarily calm forum. I’ve calmly and patiently expressed a point of view from one perspective of a long term Berkeley resident. It’s a non-rival expressive space in that your comments get just as much display of mine. And, yet, I’m “meddlesome” in your view?

    In what, exactly, have I meddled? With what, precisely, have I interfered?

  35. If you want to build a doghouse in your backyard, there MAY BE an environmental impact. So should we require one of those “study thingys”, where you spend $100,000 and eighteen months, so we can get a report to find out? The idea is ridiculous. If you can’t give any sane argument for what this supposed environmental impact is, we don’t need years of study to find out there’s none.

    But I’m glad to hear you say that if there is no EIR, then I was right. It’s just a shame that we have to go through an expensive process of harassment to reach that obvious conclusion. When the disinterested third party says there’s no reason at all for an EIR, will you apologize for having wasted people’s time and money?

  36. David,

    My goodness, what a colloquy! Yes, I understand that you “do not understand how there can be any environmental impact.”
    But just like your straw man argument against what you perceive as the “true motivations” of those who oppose this project, we cannot let your lack of understanding be the standard by which we determine whether an EIR is required.

    I also want to point out that this is not the question before us. The question is whether you can assure us that there will be no environmental impact. Not that it would matter if you would give us that assurance, because the issue is whether there MAY BE a significant environmental impact to tearing down an existing home, changing the entire profile of a hillside that is in a slide zone, an earthquake fault zone, and a high fire danger zone, next to a city stream, and building a 10,000 square foot, three story building on top of massive new earthworks.

    You say no. Others say yes. If only we had a process for dealing with this conundrum. Some study that was required to look at all of the issues involved, and to present unbiased conclusions to the community in order to resolve the competing claims of the neighbors, the developers and the experts. Some kind of environmental impact … thingy. I don’t know, it could be helpful.

    I wanted to address your comment “but seriously, no one wants this kind of advice on their projects, or views it as ‘helpful.'”

    So true.

    That’s why the Kapors and their four new neighbors kept this project a tightly held secret until its release date, two weeks before it came before the ZAB. Their definition of the neighborhood is them and their neighbors, but not their neighbors’ neighbors. That’s another neighborhood. What an insular, and convenient, little world to live in.

    Yes, I see that from your perspective, there are only two issues, and how convenient it is that they are so easy to dismiss. In summary (correct me if I am unfairly paraphrasing), it is that the neighbors don’t like big and they don’t like ugly, but too bad. There is no design review in Berkeley (did you read any of the three general plan links I posted?), and it would be an abuse of CEQA to require an EIR.

    So what’s the problem? If you’re right, then there will be no EIR. If you’re wrong, there will be. See how easy that is? I won’t be making the decision, you won’t be making the decision, Zoning and Planning, the ZAB, and the City Council won’t make that decision, the Kapors, their architects, and their supporters won’t make that decision, and the larger community, neighbors, opponents and “meddlesome busybodies” won’t make that decision.

    The decision will be made by a disinterested third party who will apply the law.

  37. Yet pretty much all of the opposition has treated those aesthetic issues as side issues.

    All aesthetic issues are completely irrelevant, yes. The purpose of CEQA is not to prevent people from building homes you think are ugly. It’s a gross abuse of an important law that has a real purpose, and you trivialize it and undermine it when you suggest using it as a method of harassment of homes you don’t like. You should be able to see how illogical it is to argue, “They didn’t put up story polls, so we need to spend two years doing an EIR.” The one doesn’t have anything to do with the other.

    I am not “pro-side”. I think design review is generally a good idea, I live in a (different) community that has formal design review, although it can be frustrating for homeowners I think it is a fair and useful process that on the whole advances community interests. If there were a formal design review process in Berkeley charged with addressing the kind of aesthetic issues you have with the project, that would be better for you because it would give you a forum to express your concerns, and it would also be better for the Kapors because they would have a well-defined process with precedents and rules that they could understand and address. What we have instead is a group who are frustrated that Berkeley has not chosen to adopt design review and so who instead want to abuse environmental laws in order to harass the Kapors. I find that objectionable.

    From what I’ve read, I don’t think the council made its decision on the basis of fear of a lawsuit. I only know Mitch Kapor slightly, but I can’t imagine he’s the kind of person who’s going to sue the city to get his house built. Too hostile. I think the council approved it because they saw nothing wrong with it, as I do.

    I have not seen the original house. I will admit that I have, in general, little sympathy for residential preservationists. We wouldn’t have the historic architecture that we have today if people had been prevented from replacing even older homes. What people like Mitch Kapor are building is the historic architecture of the future.

  38. So, David, you boiled it down to two issue there – neither of which encompass or explain away the actual issues people are raising.

    At a meta-level, you aren’t alone there. More than one “pro-side” commenter here on Berkeleyside and in other coverage wants to boil it down like you have. Yet pretty much all of the opposition has treated those aesthetic issues as side issues.

    My (biased towards sympathy, sure) view of the opponents’ position considers such factors as a defective approval process that very well may have called this a two story structure, when it is really three; that did an incorrect assessment of the historical significance of razing the existing structure; that blew off the legislated story pole requirement; that incorrectly glossed over the landslide and earthquake issues that concern the property and the proposed excavation; that did not properly consider the (legislated!) level of view protection concerning the property; that did not properly considered the proposed use and, yes, form and function of the proposed structure, and on and on. Even if you think that each of those items are individually small, CEQA provides for situations when an accumulation of such small issues adds up to a big deal.

    Prior to Concil’s action the demands of the opponents with the clearest standing was to slow the heck down on a project approved after they got a whopping two weeks and arguably procedurally defective notice. That seems pretty reasonable, to me. Can’t, myself, see any good reason why the Kapors declined – but if the opponents don’t follow through now, then I’ll stand corrected.

    Post Council’s action the game is starker and simpler. Council essentially had a choice to say “Ok, we’ll risk the Kapor’s taking us to court” vs. “Ok, we’ll risk the opponents taking us to court.” They chose the latter and I can’t say that they made the wrong choice although I would have hoped the elected officials involved might have come to some more diplomatic arrangement with the help of the Kapors.

    So, we’ll see what those with clearest standing do next. The ball is in their court, so to speak.

    It’s still a dumb house for that location. By the way: have you ever seen the one that is to be razed in person? Legal issues aside – it’s a damned shame to lose that place. I gather it has become neglected and blighted under current ownership but, my goodness, it was such a gem not all that long ago.

  39. Thomas:

    With all due respect, on behalf of myself, lifelongberkeleyan, Josh, Neal, Diane, JNG, The Kapors, their immediate neighbors and doubtless many others in Berkeley weary of this overanalysis, I would like to strongly endorse David’s comments that on this thread you come across as a “meddlesome busybody” with a great deal of spare time on his hands…

  40. Well, as someone who’s experienced such things, I can confidently say that there’s no one, anywhere in the world, who is going to spend years of their life and hundreds of thousands of dollars planning a multi-million dollar project who is going to reverse course and decide, no, they don’t actually like the dream house they spent years planning because some poster they don’t know thinks it is “dumb” or “ugly”. There’s no way to view such remarks as a “positive nudge”. Maybe you are naive but sincere, but seriously, no one wants this kind of advice on their projects, or views it as “helpful”.

    From my perspective (totally removed from the project itself) there are only two issues. One is that some people don’t like the style of the house. The other is that some people don’t like big houses. I find it frustrating when people in either or both of those groups try to use important laws like CEQA that do serve a valid public purpose to obstruct and interfere with what other people want to do even though it doesn’t actually affect them.

  41. David:

    You wrote: “My impression was that you are part of a group that is protesting, threatening lawsuits, and generally trying to make life difficult for the Kapors.”

    Lordy, no. I have no (or at most very little) standing for that kind of action. I think lawsuits are threatened but by no means certain and by no means I can conceive of now involving me as a party. As a Berkeley resident (long term) I do have some interests in proper civic process and in views and environment and in development considerations generally – and on those I tend to side with the opponents at this juncture. There’s an awful lot of “not quite right” to this project and that adds up. For the Kapors, if you look back in the archives — my *intent* at least has always been a positively intended nudge towards them voluntarily slowing down the permit process and being a bit more flexible in their plans. I don’t they should and I think that it *might* turn out they can’t build the current plan (for lots of reasons, both per legislation and good sense) – so there’s one of my biases, I confess. I’m a bit alarmed at the approval process irregularities to date and that’s a much larger part of my concerns since I have a long-term investment in this City. And, like I say, my sense is that Mr. Kapor (at least but probably not exclusively) is not a jerk and if I can convey some helpful notions to him via a Berkeleyside channel, then swell. And if not, the worst I risk is people calling me names 🙂

    As for game theory: well, obviously there’s incomplete knowledge all around about the rules – so to speak. But Council’s endorsement of the ZAB approval seems (informally, not precisely) to cool the game a bit. So we all wait with bated breath to see if there will be any combination of a court challenge to Council and ZAB (other than EIR), or an actual EIR challenge, or a building permit challenge on other grounds, or just ex-post facto (of construction) challenges on damages. I don’t know what the Kapor’s expected but, so far, they ought not act too surprised at what they’re getting for good reason.

  42. Just to be clear, your view is that making a few blog comments comprises being a “meddlesome busybody”.

    My impression was that you are part of a group that is protesting, threatening lawsuits, and generally trying to make life difficult for the Kapors. If the entire extent of your involvement is posting that you think the project is “dumb” on this blog, but you aren’t out actively seeking to interfere with it, then I apologize for overgeneralizing.

    Berlekamp was my advisor, correct. Glad to hear we can share other interests, at least. Maybe that helps to take the edge off.

  43. Got it, David. Just to be clear, your view is that making a few blog comments comprises being a “meddlesome busybody”. UCB gave you a what now piece of parchment? Jeeze. Such times we live in.

    All that said, and in the name of peace and something interesting for a change — (per your link) Berlekamp was your advisory chair? I’m a kind of amateur fan of Conway’s. I wish I knew better how to express my “busybody” views on this Kapor matter to you as an interesting game theory problem. I bet you’re pretty interesting when you’re less wound up in strange ideological ways.

  44. Where are you in that spectrum (the “meddlesome busybody” one)?

    I’m in the group who have had meddlesome busybodies like you try to tell me they know better than I do what I want.

  45. David,

    Where are you in that spectrum (the “meddlesome busybody” one)? And, “impose”?!? Seriously? My goodness, I didn’t realize that Berkeleyside was quite so influential.

    Pish posh, man.

    I’ve lived in Berkeley off and on (e.g., with gaps) for roughly 20 years. My association with the place started a bit before that and, during the gaps, I wasn’t exactly ignoring the place. I’m distinctly *non*-romantic about the place – the magic wore off for me quite a long time ago. It’s a tiny city. It’s near some major ports. There is a concentration of wealth. There’s the University. There are a lot of geological features that strongly impinge on the quality of life here. There’s a bunch of interesting history and a bunch of historical baggage. I *try* to view the situation on the ground here from a very basic, practical perspective. I’ve sampled the salmon, so to speak, over those couple of decades – I’ve seen projects that work and projects that don’t. In my humble opinion, there are far better choices on the menu for the Kapors. I think it’s worth mentioning. You think I’m just painting myself badly in mentioning it – well, ok, that’s your deal. So be it. Do we need to argue and name-call? Or can you muster the courage to say “I disagree” rather than “you are a meddlesome busybody”? Weren’t you just recently decrying a deficit of civility and decorum on Berkeleyside and aren’t you now engaging in ad hominem?

    Yeah, I think the proposed design is dumb. Yeah, I think the approval process was extremely flawed and merits closer legal scrutiny. Yeah, I think things can all work out cheaply and efficiently but not the way the Kapors are approaching it. Yeah, I think I’ve seen enough around the way things go in these parts that my opinion in those matters is not simply hot air. You got a problem with that, fine. You take out your issues by calling me names – that’s all on you, man. It’s a freakin’ blog. These are comments.

    You might consider this, though opinions may vary was to which of us, or whether both or neither of us, it applies to:

    http://xkcd.com/386/

    Sheesh. I’m a meddlesome busybody etc.? Well, swell: that’s what your mom said. Catch my drift?

    -t

  46. Haven’t you ever been in a restaurant and had someone talk you out of ordering the salmon?

    No, not unless they knew something I didn’t. If they told me they had the salmon last week and it wasn’t so good, sure. But you don’t have anything to tell the Kapors that they don’t already know. So why on earth would they put your opinion of what they will like above their own?

    It just makes you look bad. Like you are a meddlesome busybody who is trying to impose his own preferences on other people. Maybe that’s not how you are in person, but it’s sure how you come across here.

  47. David,

    Right. Nobody cares if I like the house. Or any other particular third and distant party. My suggestion to the Kapors (re “dumb”) is merely that I think there is a decent chance that *they* will not like he house. Haven’t you ever been in a restaurant and had someone talk you out of ordering the salmon? It’s just a kibbitz (the “dumb project” part. It’s an “I think you’re going to be disappointed.” It’s an “If you want something really special, look elsewhere on the menu”.

    You’re really over-reaching and/or reading quite sloppily if you still think the “dumb” bit has anything to do with the legal situation.

    Now, go to the beach and build that hill. And think harder. That’s one place to start on the legal issues. The more subtle areas to start concern views and form as pertains to reasonably expected use. This thing is way more complicated than you seem to think it is.

  48. Thomas, the thing is, no one cares if you like the house. People who are building a house care if they will like the house. It’s not for you, it’s for them. So when you insert your opinions about the house into the thread it makes you seem petty, like you are seeking to abuse California law in order to pursue your own personal taste.

    I can understand that building on a hillside is complicated, that’s why we have building codes. California has good building codes and the Kapors will have a good engineer and there seems little doubt they will comply with those codes, as the building department will make them do.

  49. David,

    As to risk, do a thought experiment. Go to a beach and bring a rock, perhaps the size of a grapefruit. And bring some gravel. Bring some dirt. Bring a spray bottle. Bring some flimsy, flexible plastic that you can cut up to make various shapes. Plunk down the rock. Start building a hill. build up sand and gravel over the big rock. Pack it down real good and keep wetting it, building it up, with a finishing layer of mostly sand and dirt. It’s far from a perfect model but not too bad… get it so that it’s quasi stable. Spray it, let it dry. Repeat a bunch of times. If you did it all right, hopefully you have some creeks. Hopefully you’ll observe some more and some less stable parts. By alternating spraying it down and letting it dry a bit you can simulate the passing of seasons.

    Now, go scoop out the first 5mm or so in some tiny area and quickly line the edges with some of the plastic, and line a bunch of the floor with some plastic that funnels any water to just a few spots. You can go ahead push your plastic retaining walls real deep, at least if you’re honestly using pretty flimsy plastic here. Now water it and let it dry a few more “seasons”. What happens uphill where now the walls are the only thing preventing a slide? What happens downhill where now the water flows are concentrated and you’ve taken out an area where formerly water used to saturate? What happens next?

    And, actually, your use of flimsy plastic there for retaining walls and such is a bit unrealistic – you should really be using a material whose strength against sheering forces degrades significantly with a few seasons.

    Now, to be sure – my cousin engineering types in their respective fields think very hard about such issues and hold much wisdom – but the risk there is also quite high. So do we listen only to a few project advocates with economic interests in the project – plus a few bureaucrats following a procedures manual – or do we want closer scrutiny. Like an EIR? An honest engineer advocate of the project would, in my opinion, say: “I’m pretty damn sure this is going to work but I admit nobody knows for certain. Scrutiny? BRING IT ON! Good idea, frankly. By all means, please check my math, so to speak.”

    Also, my point in calling the project “dumb” was not to advance any new reasons to legally resist the project but rather to speak in a blunt but hopefully friendly way to the Kapors. I don’t claim that “dumbness of the project” is a CEQA trigger – I claim its a “Hey, friend – maybe you might rethink this thing before you get too entrenched” thing. Just a suggestion. What do I know of the Kapors? Well, nothing except what I know of Mister Kapor. What do I know of him? As I said, he seems like a swell guy. In one of his recent projects, a software thing, I think the technology he aimed at was not a good bet but I think his approach using free (as in “free speech” not as in “free beer”) software was amazingly cool and refreshing. And I totally believe, and not just because he’s interesting and famous and rich but also because I’ve seen evidence of him being such a good guy that, my gosh, Berkeley will be blessed to have a generally cool dood here doing his philanthropic goodness or, heck, even just hanging out and joining the local culture. It’s just that it’s a dumb proposed building. I can totally see that building on a very different set of hills. I just don’t think it fits *there*. I think its resale value is going to suck (not that I expect the Kapors to sell it in their lifetimes – only that that’s a clue). I think if they live around there for a few years they might themselves see why its such an odd bird thing to put up there. The project wants to be legacy structure and I don’t think it achieves that. It’s whack. There’s some scale that goes from mystery house to falling water to your favorite actual architectural gem and I think this beast is somewhere between mystery house and falling water.

  50. Thomas, thanks for your examples. I don’t think it is plausible that constructing his house is going to pose a risk to public safety that would interfere with emergency response, or that his house is going to damage his neighbors’ property (wouldn’t they be objecting if it did?). But at least you have given some examples of what you are looking for, and I appreciate that.

    I agree that the Kapors have shown the good judgment not to engage in a public debate with you on whether their house is “dumb”. They like it, which is why they are building it. They don’t care whether you think it’s dumb, nor should they. Certainly, the purpose of CEQA is not to help you impose your taste on others, or to prevent other people from doing things that you think are “dumb”, and when you admit your true motivations it makes anyone who might be reading this have much less sympathy for your efforts to throw unrelated roadblocks in the way.

  51. Cliff,

    You write:

    “If only we had an example of how to build a house on that lot that was really fit into the terrain … don’t bother, it’s here! Beautifully sited, built by a noted architect, and possibly the first built and last remaining example of his work, it is so harmonious with it’s surroundings that it is barely visible.”

    Well, there are some public views of it where it is laid bare. It’s beautiful. It’s such a light touch on the hillside and yet looks like it was once a quite comfortable place to live. One could even have doubled its size harmoniously with the original design and preserved the way that looked like something that just grew there spontaneously. It’ll be missed.

  52. David,

    You say that you do not understand how landslide and earthquake hazards constitute an environmental impact under CEQA. For example, you ask (I’ll paraphrase): What, you expect this project to cause an earthquake?

    No, CEQA doesn’t quite hold review requirements to that standard.

    Here are some relevant examples of “environmental impacts” as I understand CEQA to define them:

    1) Projects which present significantly new risks to public safety and imply significant new burdens on a jurisdiction’s ability to provide emergency response. Examples: a project which is reasonably expected to lead to frequent, novel, significantly high occupancy rates; or which presents significant new fire-fighting challenges.

    2) Projects which significantly alter the flow of water (such as rain run-off) in a landslide zone. The changing of the land contour in this landslide-zone project, along with the large structure, deserve extremely close scrutiny. No, I don’t happen to suppose that this project will cause an earthquake. Will it cause a landslide? That wouldn’t surprise me so much – I more or less expect it will.

    3) Projects which in the event of a significant landslide impose novel and significant risk to adjacent properties and the overall environment.

    Those are the kinds of things that in unusual urban infill projects, CEQA says need more scrutiny. A much longer list could be made, I’m sure. Cliff is well on his way, there.

    Even the aesthetic issues that you are anxious to push aside are recognized as legitimate by CEQA both because of the traditionally treasured views from, around, and to the hills and because of the historic significance of the surrounding area.

    “Environment” in the CEQA sense is not simply the “natural” environment and endangered tadpoles and such but is also the human and societal environment. CEQA contains many provisions aimed at preventing its abuse and *even so* it looks a lot like a court might very well agree that an EIR is required (at least to me). (I do disclaim that CEQA is a horridly complex piece of litigation that I don’t claim to fully understand.)

    You also make a big deal about discretion legislatively granted to ZAB and Council. Such discretion is tempered in the first place by the possibility of judicial review, and in the second place by CEQA’s imposed standards for fact finding. Whether the opposition to the project does or does not take it to court – it would be fully legitimate for them to test the ZAB/Council exercise of discretion before a judge.

    Bah. The main thing I’m saying, from my perspective, is that yes the approval process appears rushed and tainted by lots of errors; a project of this scale merits lots of scrutiny; successful projects of similar scale in the region have often received that additional scrutiny and often been modified under the light of that scrutiny; the Kapors should probably have invited, not shunned that scrutiny.

    Secondarily: I think it’s just a *dumb* project to build on that site. Putting aside the questions of rights and responsibilities – it’s just dumb. At best (from the proponents perspective) I think this thing is going to turn out to be a white elephant in a significantly but not universally resentful neighborhood. The proposed excavation alone is just a hot-house of liabilities and so far the best the proponents have offered is that, in their opinion, they’ve met the minimal technical standards required for zoning and would rather have that fight in the building permit process. Legally they may or may not be correct on that but in terms of the wisdom of the project, I think they’ve folded.

  53. I want an EIR so that we can all get the unbiased truth about what this project is, and what the environmental impact to my neighborhood will be.

    I do not understand how there can be any environmental impact. Please give one example of an environmental impact that could occur. “This is a big house,” is not an environmental impact, is it? Nor do you need an EIR to discover it.

    The only reasons you have given for opposing the project are matters of taste. You think it’s ugly. (I don’t.) You think a different house would fit into the terrain better. You are entitled to your opinion. But “doesn’t fit into the terrain” is not an environmental impact and an EIR is completely irrelevant to that question.

  54. David,

    Presumably, you’re mistaken. I want an EIR so that we can all get the unbiased truth about what this project is, and what the environmental impact to my neighborhood will be.

    Exactly where would I get “the information directly?” From the staff report? The findings? Both are full of errors, some of which have been acknowledged by Zoning and Development, some have not. From the Developers? They’re the ones who supplied that information that was not questioned by staff and rubber stamped by the ZAB and council. From the Kapors? They’re being rather quiet, ever since Mr. Kapor’s slip of the lip. From the approved plans? The deadline for demanding the EIR will be past by then.

    I don’t believe it is “just a house,” I believe it will have a huge environmental impact, and if I’m wrong, the EIR will prove it. Then when Berkeleyside publishes another article under the headline “Neighbors Proven Wrong, Environmental Impact Not Required” I’ll publicly admit I was wrong. Until then, fuggedaboutit.

    I’m “not interested in saying what the environmental impact will be?” Did you read my reply to you at 7:08 last night? Did you read ANY of that material? Do you really need Cliff’s Notes because it’s too hard to get through on your own? Do your homework, please.

    Thomas Lord has covered one of the environmental impacts, here is how I see it: One of the environmental impacts comes from reshaping that entire hillside to accommodate this house. The amount of soil which has to be removed, relocated on the site, and retained behind retaining walls is in dispute. “Grade” has to be raised by AT LEAST twenty feet to build that “house”, and even then you need an additional story (there goes your categorical exemption to an EIR) in order to get the views that they are going to so much trouble to get. This is a MASSIVE project in an already developed community, and the EIR isn’t just justified, it’s REQUIRED.

    The scale of the project is only necessary so that the developers can get their money’s worth out of this development by getting it high enough in the air to get that million dollar, three bridge view. If only we had an example of how to build a house on that lot that was really fit into the terrain … don’t bother, it’s here! Beautifully sited, built by a noted architect, and possibly the first built and last remaining example of his work, it is so harmonious with it’s surroundings that it is barely visible. I’m not sure I’m ready to jump on the landmarking bandwagon, but I’ve seen houses with less merit in this neighborhood lovingly restored over the last few decades.

    “A backdoor attempt at creating design review in a community that has decided not to have such?” If you want back door, try planning this for a year with a cadre of 4 neighbors and letting the rest of the neighborhood know 2 weeks before the ZAB hearing. That’s back door, back handed, and back stabbing. If you want to say that the only issues people are raising are design issues, then perhaps you are among those who only see what they want to see.

    I’m going to stop pointing out how ugly it is, because the only legitimate point (again, in MY opinion) that you have raised is that IF this is solely a home, there is no requirement for design review. I am not yet willing to concede that this is ONLY a home, I think the use is still in question, and an EIR will resolve that. If more than 400 square feet of that “home” is used for commercial purposes (as Mr. Kapor was quoted as stating it would be), then there goes that EIR exemption, as well as the exemption for design review, too.

    To say that there is absolutely no design review is in itself a misrepresentation of the facts. As Thomas Lord puts it “design considerations are a fair game factor,” but here is where you can check that out for yourself. There are elements of design review in the Berkeley General Plan, as you can see by checking out the Housing Element http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/contentdisplay.aspx?id=484
    or the Urban Design and Preservation Element http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/contentdisplay.aspx?id=500
    For good measure, take a look at the Citizen Participation Element as well
    http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/contentdisplay.aspx?id=474

    I think the opening of that element is germane to this discussion, so I am quoting the introduction in full:

    “For effective citizen participation to flourish, excellent notification procedures are essential. Citizens cannot participate if they are not informed that something is going to happen. Mere notification, however, is insufficient. Citizens also require appropriate information and adequate time to respond. Further, without an effectively structured forum for presenting citizen input, even notification and information fall short of what a well-governed city must provide. The policies in this Element on notification thus deal with the methods for insuring that notification is as thorough as a well-administered city can provide, and also that after notification there is information and time available to insure effective citizen participation in receptive and responsive settings.”

    Sure sounds good on paper, but more honor’d in the breach than the observance.

  55. From A Reply to the Architects of 2707 Rose Street
    The finished floor above the underfloor space (called a “level” by staff) that exists under the two finished living floors is consistently 9 feet above the FINISHED grade, and in places as much as 18 feet or more from EXISTING grade.
    On this thread Cliff said: I see the third (lowest) floor has been well disguised, with a new wall and lots and lots of vegetation.
    This one has been bugging me for a while so I took a look at the plans and models again. There are no new walls that I can see (but feel free to educate me). In fact, the retaining wall has always been there, and there is a sloped grade beneath much of the house that follows the contour of the hill. Where is this ‘third story’? As far as I can tell, the (grassy?) plinth can only be reached by an exterior stairway; there are no stairs beneath the house to an alleged third floor. I’m no fan of the plinth, but I think detractors will have a hard time convincing anyone that the open airspace (no complete walls on any side) below the tip of the L is a basement. Like I said, I’m teachable, but please point me to source documents (the plans, elevations, or model) to show me the error of my ways.

  56. building such a large structure, requiring so much regrading, in a mudslide and earthquake zone

    I simply don’t get it. How does this make an environmental impact? You’re afraid that during the regrading he’s going to set off an earthquake? How does the fact that he needs to do regrading to build his house affect you, or anyone else in the community, at all?

    building a structure of remarkable proportions and with a form factor that cries out for non-residential use

    I don’t get this either. You think he’s going to secretly put a Target store in there? Zoning would prevent him from converting the structure to commercial use, anyway. There is nothing about the “form factor” that makes this different from any other large house. It’s not even large for houses in the bay area (people routinely build houses in Hillsborough with twice the living space).

    I can understand the idea of a city having restrictions on large houses. In Palo Alto, for example, this house probably couldn’t be built. But in a community where it’s within the zoning and planning rules, to start making spurious objections about “environmental impact” just seems silly, when you can’t name any actual environmental impact.

  57. Our city employes, at significant cost, degreed professionals with multiple careers worth of direct technical experience in safeguarding us from geotechnical, hydrologic and other hazards arising out of new construction.

    This staff has exercised it’s legal authority to approve this project. The ZAB and city council concurred.

    On these threads opposition challenges this twice affirmed determination as the product of political influence. I’ve yet to read any evidence to support these allegations.

    As others have noted, the opposition also challenges the project on a host of issues which do not require review under our existing planning code.

    How then can CEQA be used to call for an EIR to correct the staff’s (and ZAB’s and the city council’s) determination(s) without clearly identifying the planning department’s grievous errors and omissions. If those grievous errors and omissions are really no more than a list of the legally mandated judgements by the department staff, then the opposition’s real objection is to the public policy mandating the use of professional judgement.

    Unless there is evidence yet to appear of corruption, the whole exercise has been a case of sour grapes with an infusion of heady profile for the named participants.

  58. Cliff,
    Be civil. I am just a neighbor and a person.

    I made a comment about my understanding of the CEQA law, because I thought it might be helpful. I may be wrong or I may be right about the law, but you don’t need to curse at me.

    On a broader note, not at anyone in particular.
    I am very sad how hard it is to have civil dialogue in Berkeley. People boo and interrupt at public meetings, and it is just not appropriate. I would not take my teenage sister to a meeting in Berkeley because I don’t want her to think that that type of behavior is appropriate. (She has enough of an attitude already.)

    Disagree, yes! Participate passionately, absolutely. Fight for what you believe in, always. But respectfully. Civilly.
    Josh

  59. Dianne,

    I don’t think it’s paranoia so much as it is a sense that this project has been handled poorly. The staff report contained a number of errors that this process has ferreted out. The developers got egg on their face for mis-representing the facts to staff, so maybe it IS being looked at more carefully now.

    I don’t think I can be convinced that the ZAB approval was anything but a perfunctory rubber stamp. What was it that Council Member Olds’ (now Wengraf’s) appointee to the board, Richard Allen said? “I don’t feel that we’re going to learn anything more, other than objections, by continuing this.” Had Mr. Allen not been so gushing about the project and the Kapors, he might have been more critical in his examination of the application, and might have considered the reasonable request for an extension of time to get the facts right. On the other hand, maybe he still hasn’t learned anything. If you’re not looking for something, you won’t find it.

    Several council members brought up how the overwhelming vote of the ZAB influenced their own decision to support this project, so I see this as another approval based on inertia (and good lobbying). At least two council members saw the ramifications of the decision made that night. The truth of the matter is that this project is not what has been represented to be, and an EIR is the only way to separate fact from fiction.

    Also, I’m not talking about doing an EIR for all houses, I can’t think of another project in this neighborhood since CEQA was adopted where an EIR would have been appropriate. It’s this project that needs an EIR because of the massive scope and scale.

    I honestly don’t feel it would be a waste of time or money to do it, and the proof will be in the EIR, either way.

  60. David,

    Environmental impact comes from (as has been discussed here, and among other things) building such a large structure, requiring so much regrading, in a mudslide and earthquake zone; and building a structure of remarkable proportions and with a form factor that cries out for non-residential use.

    It’s also only kinda-sorta true that design review isn’t a consideration here. It is true that design review is mandatory only for commercial structures (which this allegedly is not). It’s true that air, light, and privacy are the main show-stoppers closest to design in most cases. Where I think you have to agree that things get fuzzier are as regards historic neighborhoods and views to, from, and across the hills. It’s still true in those cases that you don’t have to get a design committee to sign off and submit that with your applications — but design considerations are a fair game factor.

  61. Presumably, the reason Cliff wants an EIR is because it is very expensive and time-consuming and he’s hoping to make the process so painful for the Kapors they give up. If you actually wanted any information, as opposed to just making the process painful, you could just get the information directly. I don’t really see what information people think they need, as the project is straightforward—it’s just a house. It doesn’t have an environmental impact, this really seems obvious. I invited Cliff to explain what environmental impact he has in mind and he seems not interested in saying. I think the legalistic argument that, well, who knows if there’s an impact until we do a big expensive study, whatever its legal merits, certainly isn’t going to persuade people it’s morally correct.

    The whole thing seems to me a backdoor attempt at creating design review in a community that has decided not to have such. The issues that have actually been raised are all design issues. In communities that do have stringent design review, they would be very suitable for discussion in that process (although I would find it appalling if design review would actually stop such a project—the role would be to address questions like color that seem to be important to some). But why doesn’t Berkeley have design review? It’s because the community, through its elected officials, has decided that they precisely don’t want to get involved in the kinds of questions that people have raised about the Kapor house.

  62. I guess, having been on the side of someone who has presented things to building and zoning departments all over the country for over two decades, I don’t have the degree of paranoia about it that you do. Things get looked at – generally very carefully – by them, and at a level that is quite detailed. It’s not a rubber stamp by any means most places I have presented.

    An EIR is simply not done for single family homes. It’s unnecessary, outside the bounds of requirements, and exceedingly expensive both everyone involved. It’s done for large developments, public works projects, power plants and the like. Expecting it to be done for houses – even very large ones – is way off the charts a waste of everyone’s time and far outside of reasonable expectations.

  63. David,

    Well, you got me on my last posting, I did say the same thing twice. It may appear that it’s just me, but have you read how much has been written and said on this since it first become public in January? Do you have more than just a passing interest in this issue? I try to give some thoughtful and reasoned replies to the ongoing discussion, even to citizens who may be concerned about the connection between this house and melting polar ice caps, or the earth becoming a giant black hole.

    If you search just Berkeleyside (which broke this story just before the ZAB meeting in January), you will find a great deal of information about this development in the 9 articles that have appeared, and each article has many comments on both sides. You can also read about it in the Berkeley Voice, the Daily Cal, The Chronicle, even the New York Times.

    The Daily Planet has a particularly good recent editorial at http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-04-30/article/35187?headline=What-s-the-News-Today-i-Or-i-Skipping-EIR-on-2707-Rose-Might-Cause-Berkeley-Council-Future-Problems

    The opponents have laid out their case in their appeal, which can be found at http://www.2707rose.org, and a quick google search reveals 1250 hits on “2707 Rose.”

    Think of me as someone who is willing to address the specific concerns of people who post their comments and concerns to UPDATES in this debate, or to help clarify the debate for those who are new to it. I am not saying that I represent all my neighbors, clearly I don’t. But it is equally clear that there are a lot more of my neighbors who are concerned about this than just me. I believe that was made clear at the April 27th council meeting, where it looked like supporters and opponents were about equal in the audience.

  64. what I, and a lot of other neighbors are saying

    It sure seems like it’s just you, posting the same things over and over.

  65. Dianne: “You don’t really do EIR’s on single-family houses. It’s not a tunnel or a bridge or a condo complex.” So these are the only things that trigger an EIR? How about a “house” the size of a condo complex? Welcome to the *new* Berkeley hills.

    I do understand the idea behind a model, but I am comparing the model to the drawings that were supplied to the neighbors, the community, the ZAB and the council, and trying to reconcile them to each other. There are … a number of inconsistencies. I also think it is interesting to watch the model … evolve.

    I think that what I, and a lot of other neighbors are saying is that we don’t trust the “building and zoning departments” to insure that it meets CEQA guidelines. Zoning has already made their determination that it is exempt from an EIR, ZAB rubber stamped that decision after neighbors had two weeks to get up to speed, and the council added their rubber stamp; it is not being required. As a technical matter, I suppose Planning and Development could require it after reviewing the construction drawings, but, oh dear, that deadline may have already passed by then.

    Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on any opinions (including my own) there is a simple test to determine whether this project is exempt from CEQA requirements: Ask for the opinion of a disinterested third party designated to make that decision.

    Josh: Bullsh*t! Infill development is NOT categorically exempt from CEQA. It is categorically exempt from CEQA SUBJECT TO EXCEPTIONS.

    This is a pretty big infill project. How many condos could you put into a 10,000 square foot structure. Have you seen 800 square foot condos? Would that make a dozen? Not that you would, but you could, using your examples.

    I don’t mean to jump down your throat, but it is the exceptions from the exemption that are at the heart of this. This project is bad, the process is bad, the way the applicants approached it is bad, and since only some of us are lawyers, why don’t we just, well, put it before a disinterested third party to make that decision.

  66. Are there people that seriously expect the City (or a court, for that matter) to require an EIR for this project? That’s just an insane amount of overkill.

    If you “do your homework” using Cliff’s starting point, you will see that single family homes (or projects including up to three homes in an urbanized area) are exempt from CEQA, and there’s nothing about the project that would make one of the exceptions apply (see §§15303 and 15300.2 at http://ceres.ca.gov/ceqa/guidelines/15300-15333_web.pdf). There’s a separate exemption for infill projects (§15332), but that’s a closer case, in part because this exemption only applies to projects that are consistent with “all applicable general plan policies as well as with applicable zoning designation and regulations.”

  67. Infill development is categorically exempt from CEQA. Larger infill projects do trigger CEQA, but we are usually talking dozens or hundreds of units. There are exceptions to the exemption, but, good or bad, this project does not likely fall under any of those. But, I am not a lawyer, so what do I know.

  68. You don’t really do EIR’s on single-family houses. It’s not a tunnel or a bridge or a condo complex.

    And, as an architect, I can tell you that a model is only that. A model – a shot in time, not excessively realistic and a working tool. Not a document to build from. The building and zoning departments will be looking at actual drawings and will review to ensure it meets code, CEQA, T24 and all the rest. If in looking at codes, the building department then decides they need an EIR to review, they can require it – but if the CD’s address all issues adequately, then it isn;t required. And as someone who has built many many things over 20 years, I can tell you that there is plenty building and zoning departments can require as submittals without asking for an EIR. It’s simply not needed.

  69. David,

    No, we need an EIR to determine whether the house has complied with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It’s as simple as that.

    There are others who don’t believe it is as simple as that, but before you post, do your homework. Start here: http://ceres.ca.gov/ceqa/

    The color of the house was part of the presentation by the developers, to the neighbors, to the ZAB, and to the City Council. That’s the context it’s being discussed in.

  70. Environmental Impact? On what? Do we need an EIR to determine whether this house is going to melt the polar ice caps? Or turn the Earth into a giant black hole?

    If you want to judge the design of other people’s houses, you should get the city council to institute design review. It’s not a novel idea, plenty of other communities have design review. There are good things and bad things about it. But you can’t pretend that your taste is an environmental impact, just because the city has decided not to have design review.

  71. The first model is just made of the plain white material that architects use for models. It’s not intended to depict the color of the house, just its form and dimensions. Since Berkeley has no design review, the color of the house was irrelevant to the approval.

  72. JNG:

    And I want to be one of the first to try to entertain you, though I’m not calling this a conspiracy. More like a well chosen strategy for setting a new standard and new precedents for the H district, and maybe all of Berkeley.

    Submitted for your approval and approbation; a recapitulation of my comments about the new model from the last article on Berkeleyside:

    A picture really is worth a thousand words. The picture was captioned “Above photo shows model of the proposed 6,400 square foot home,” in the Berkeley Voice, an editorial decision perhaps unconnected with the developers, but does that mean that the 3,394 square foot ten car garage is not shown?

    Look at all those trees! Of course, this is the view of the house that the proponents have said you would have to be floating 60 feet above Shasta to even see (or have a view from another house close by), but my oh my, that IS an improvement. I thought it was mossy green until I saw the better pictures on Berkeleyside, now I see it is sort of gray? Is that really an earth tone? Shades of gray are certainly a big part of this project, so this seems appropriate for the model at this stage of the roll out.

    I see the third (lowest) floor has been well disguised, with a new wall and lots and lots of vegetation. Who would ever close that area off, with it’s 9 to 10 foot ceilings and use it for offices? Why the very idea is absurd! Unfortunately, if that were true, then the city will reject any plans that show more than 6 feet on that level. We’ll see if that shows up on the plans or not, then we’ll know whether this is a Trojan House or not.

    It’s really hard to tell what’s going on at the right west side (right hand of the picture), is that a glass enclosure causing the line of the first floor to refract, or is that a reflection? There’s something wrong with this picture, and I mean that as broadly as you might imagine.

    The new pictures of the new model don’t show the LaLoma roadway as well because it has been shot from a different angle (and the whole property is not included down to Shasta). The trees have been generously “age enhanced” to show what the canopies might look like in 20 or 30 years, after the hillside gets denuded by construction. The model doesn’t match the landscaping plan presented at the ZAB on 1/28/10 (links below), but, they certainly have a right to change the landscaping plan. That chain saw cuts both ways, you know.

    With my disclaimer about how hard it is to really compare the models due to the change in angle and the fecundity of whatever medium those trees were planted in to make them into mature trees, it looks like the Kapor project has now expanded to incorporate more of the street. Will that street be abandoned and subsumed into the Kapor project as shown in the new model? Or will it be a public park, like the pocket parks required in other large developments in recent years? A place where we can all take our picnic baskets and enjoy the gorgeous views, unobstructed by the house (as we can now, if we so choose).

    Don Logan did reference doing some landscaping “with city permission,” but if they are proposing to incorporate public property, I would think that is one more argument for an EIR. http://berkeley.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?publish_id=629 time reference 1:51.

    Also, it is difficult to tell with the perspective of the two dimensional picture, but isn’t the building taller than both the roadway AND the handrail on LaLoma? Didn’t the applicants specifically say it wouldn’t be? And that it wouldn’t be visible from the road above? Not visible because of the new trees being proposed, or not visible because of the angle of view from the roadway? Either way, I can barely see the roadway the handrail, but it is easy to see that the roof is higher than the handrail, even in this low resolution picture of the new model.

    Don Logan said the roof line would be “three to eight fee below” either the road above or the handrail height (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this and say he’s referring to the handrail height), which would make it 1′ above or 4′ below the Laloma roadway, but I’m not seeing it in the picture. (Same link as above, time reference 1:53.)

    I’m also getting tired of seeing the same old view of this thing as it mutates. This is a three dimensional model, and Don Logan himself said that this was “an artificial view … you would have to be hanging 60 feet above Shasta to see this view” (time reference 1:53).

    So let’s see some realistic pictures of what it will look like from the front, from the back and both sides. It’s a 3D model! Just rotate it and show some realistic views. Why are they always showing the artificial views, and dismissing the critics who will have real views?

    What’s with all the confetti on the roof? Are those supposed to be leaves in the fall? Trees in the spring of 2030 with leaves from the fall of 2029? I’m not sure whether to read something into the fact that the new model does not show the entire property all the way down to Shasta, as the old one did, so I will reserve judgment on that until I see the model.

    As I said before, I think this is where neighborhood input can be constructive. If the Kapors had followed the guidelines from Zoning and Planning and met with as many affected neighbors as possible, maybe there wouldn’t be such a brouhaha over this now.

    The model is being tweaked to address the concerns that have been raised, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this model can’t be built with the approvals that the Kapors have in hand. EB Guy may be right that this is not a whole new model, just an update of the old one shot in such a way as to conceal the massive earthworks necessary to raise it up high enough to get those wonderful views.

    We can disagree until the proverbial cows come home, but there is only one way to resolve all the controversy: an Environmental Impact Statement. By all means, post your opinion, but until I see an EIR, I’m not giving this project the benefit of the doubt. It was rushed through the public process in just two weeks, and approved using faulty mis-representations that were acknowledged by the city council. It needs an EIR.

    I am trying to respect everyone’s opinion (to the degree those opinions are worth of merit–I don’t respect the lack of logic or reason in some postings and I have said so, but I will respectfully disagree with opinions that are well reasoned).

    I will publicly retract and repudiate any errors I have made, but only once I have seen either the EIR, or the house itself. If there is an EIR, all questions will be resolved before construction. If there is not an EIR, then this structure, the impact to the immediate neighborhood, and to all of Berkeley will speak for itself as a monument to folly.

  73. I want to be the first to invite the conspiracy theorists to entertain the rest of us today on this blog. The other thread is running out of new material.