The prefab modular grad student housing building at 2711 Shattuck Ave. (left) photographed on Aug. 1. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Imagine a four-story apartment building going up in four days, and from steel.

It happened in Berkeley, a city known for its glacial progress in building housing.

Check out 2711 Shattuck Ave. near downtown Berkeley. Four stories. Four days in July. Including beds, sinks, sofas, and stoves.

How?

This new 22-unit project from local developer Patrick Kennedy (Panoramic Interests) is the first in the nation to be constructed of prefabricated all-steel modular units made in China. Each module, which looks a little like sleekly designed shipping containers with picture windows on one end, is stacked on another like giant Legos.

The project, initially approved by the city in 2010 as a hotel, then re-approved in 2015 as studio apartments, will be leased to UC Berkeley for graduate student housing. Called Shattuck Studios, it’s slated to be open for move-in for the fall semester.

“This is the first steel modular project from China in America,” Kennedy said, adding that new tariffs on imported Chinese steel hadn’t affected this project.

The modules were shipped to Oakland then trucked to the site. Kennedy notes that the cost of trucking to Berkeley from the port of Oakland was more expensive than the cost of shipping from Hong Kong.

The modules are effectively ready-to-go 310-square-feet studio apartments with a bathroom, closets, a front entry area, and a main room with a kitchenette and sofa that converts to a queen-size bed. They come with flat-screen TVs and coffee makers.

“In order to be feasible, modular construction requires standardized unit sizes and design, and economies of scale,” Kennedy said.

The complex has no car parking, but 22 bicycle parking spots. It has no elevator, and no interior common rooms except hallways, but has a shared outdoor patio/BBQ area. ADA accessible units are on the ground floor.

Floors in each unit are bamboo and tile. The appliances are stainless steel. The bathroom has an over-sized shower. The entry room has a “gear wall” for hanging backpacks, skateboards, bike helmets. Colors are grays and beiges and light browns.

“Our units reflect the more austere, minimalist NorCal sensibility,” Kennedy said, during a recent tour of the complex. “Less but better.”

Interior view of 2711 Shattuck Ave, Rendering: Panoramic Interests

The modules were stacked on a conventional foundation. Electricity, plumbing, the roof, landscaping and other infrastructure were added.

Using prefab material is supposed to be less expensive than building from scratch, Kennedy said. He had anticipated significantly lower costs by going prefab for this project.

But the savings haven’t been as great as expected, he said. “Sixty-five to seventy-five-percent of the construction costs are still incurred on the site. In addition to the usual trades, we have crane operators, flagmen, truckers and special inspectors.”

He’s s still evaluating bottom-line costs.

“We are very happy with the quality of construction and the finished product — but we learned that smaller sites posed lots of difficulties — access, traffic management, proximity to neighbors,” said Kennedy who works with Pankow Builders of Oakland.  “We might have saved some money building this conventionally, but we view this more as a research & development project  — and in that capacity, it was very helpful and educating.”

Crane hoisting prefab modules for new UC Berkeley housing at 2711 Shattuck Ave. Photo: Panoramic Interests

Prefab construction probably makes more financial sense with larger projects (more units) on larger lots, Kennedy said. “If you don’t have space to work it gets very expensive very quickly.”

The goal — and hope — is that prefab will open the door to more affordable housing through lower construction costs. “We’re still trying to determine the optimal size. It’s a pretty new idea here in Northern California. We are learning as we go,” he said.

Kennedy said he knows of a few locations in the West Coast that sell similar modules, but they’re backlogged by years. So he went overseas. “The industry is evolving rapidly, and we are always looking to bring down costs. . . We would love to use local firms.” He built one previous prefab apartment project in San Francisco with a Sacramento manufacturer who is now out of business.

In lieu of providing affordable units on site, Kennedy will pay a fee to the city of Berkeley’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, as required under the city’s affordable housing laws. The amount is around $500,000, he said.

In a few weeks, roughly four months from the start of construction, nearly two dozen UC Berkeley graduate students should be moving into the complex.

The units will rent for $2,180 monthly for single-occupancy, said Kyle Gibson, director of communications for UC Berkeley Capital Strategies. One unit is reserved for a residential assistant (RA). UC has a three-year lease with Kennedy’s firm.

Panoramic Interests will do building maintenance and cleaning.

Gibson said the university wasn’t involved in the design or construction, and he had no comment on the prefab approach. The project is one of several new developments recently completed or in the pipeline to increase student housing, he said. Some are university-built and owned, others leased.

“The University welcomes any and all projects and developments that expand the availability of affordable, accessible student housing in close proximity to campus,” Gibson said.

“It’s been an incredibly valuable tutorial for us. We know prefab is going to be the future, we just don’t know how we’re going to be part of it,” Kennedy said. “I’m chastened by the complexity of doing something so seemingly simple as stacking boxes on top of each other.”

Editor’s note: The headline on this story was changed after publication to make it more precise.

Kate Darby Rauch

Catherine "Kate" Rauch has been contributing to Berkeleyside for several years, and also happens to live in Berkeley, near downtown. Her work as a journalist has encompassed everything from 10 years as...

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137 Comments

  1. Prefab … should be deleted from the title and replaced with Modular housing!!! Would love to see all the financials broken down.

  2. I’ve been saying something like that for many years now. The big-name companies that want the cache of a SF home address have been allowed to get away with causing immense damage to the natural as well as social environment of the immediate Bay Area. They should have been discouraged from setting up HQs in such a small area, and been encouraged to build campuses elsewhere that could have been a boon to building developers as well as the foundations for all kinds of small business opportunities. Too late!

  3. Thing with prefab is it’s been tried many times before, and hasn’t succeeded. Why? Most companies take traditional construction methods, and simply move them into a factory where there’s cheaper labor. But then the assembly process and on-site finish work is laborious and expensive (in this case, 70%+ of costs). For prefab to succeed, there needs to be a ground up redesign of the entire building process, from design and engineering to manufacturing and assembly, with software at the core to enable a system that’s scalable and allows for different designs across numerous projects, and with the actual building to be made of parts that truly click together like legos. Cover (buildcover.com) is doing this. Full disclosure, I’m a founder.

  4. Interesting question. I was wondering the same thing. But if these things are built to take the trucking and boat ride, I’m guessing they’re pretty strong and independent. They could be stronger.

  5. People only live where houses are ready to move in. Yes, it’s true that you can’t have a rising population without new construction. So saying “Look! Population didn’t increase! That’s why no one built houses!” is like going to the desert and saying “Look! there’s no water here so no one is thirsty!”

    The truth is, housing is a regional concern. Just because Berkeley’s population didn’t increase much in 50 years doesn’t mean it didn’t in the region as a whole:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b8af3d9a56dfab296655d04a2316d761f1ae60708d01e41e91ed9ddfa4b6cb98.jpg

    Jobs increased massively in that time, and have increased even more since 2010. More people had opportunities to live here. Children who lived here grew up and moved out of their parents’ house (or wanted to at least). More people would live in Berkeley if more housing was built.

  6. I think it’s marketed at normal grad students too, sadly. It’s pretty close to market rate which makes no sense, since this does seem like a worse deal than other student housing, especially when factoring in square footage.

    That said it’s not like dorms are a great deal either. :/ Even a shared double is about $1500/mo (considering 9 month terms, basically) but that does include a meal plan. University Village is around the same $1500, but no food and a bit of a commute — still, those are looking like much better deals lately.

    https://housing.berkeley.edu/rates
    https://housing.berkeley.edu/universityvillage

  7. These cheesy buildings make clear what mixed-use zoning ultimately leads to. Homeowners are the biggest losers when high-traffic commercial buildings combine with dense rental buildings to create a permanently noisy, congested hodge-podge of a neighborhood.I are that development in Berkeley is still proceeding somewhat slower than Oakland or SF, but South Berkeley is going to bear the brunt of the housing mania.

  8. Living in Spain, I did not find the interior courtyard to be noisy. In fact, neighbors were most bothered by my preschoolers who ran across the floor inside my apartment!

  9. By blaming “the market” perhaps you mean it’s inevitable. But cost of construction would come down significantly if city governments didn’t impede it. The City of Berkely blocked HALF of the proposed housing permits in recent years.

  10. You may think it’s ugly, but it’s a lot prettier than the parking lot that was there before.

  11. Mostly in Southern Europe, right? I’ve noticed that the degree of “living loud” changes as you go from country to country.

  12. Maybe more people would take a bus to the station if we had buses running more often, in some cases due to creating several much shorter routes.

  13. I’ve definitely noticed the difference 20K more people living in Berkeley has made in my time.

  14. I’m wondering what degree of shaking from an earthquake this construction, on a “conventional” foundation is designed to withstand. I thought the required standards were up to something like 8.1.

  15. If the alternative is living in their cars or on the streets, I’m sure most would choose the “little boxes”.

  16. His point is to counter the oft-repeated claim that Berkeley has not built housing over the past 4 decades to keep up with demand. If population was declining, that would seem to indicate that there wasn’t demand for more housing. Why would anyone build housing when there weren’t people to live in it? And is it Berkeley’s responsibility to build housing for workers who commute long distances to their jobs?

  17. You are correct. Our engineer of record did not want to be bothered with seeing bolts sitting in glue, and then seeing nuts on bolts, over two consecutive days. Given that there is zero actual testing of the bolts it seems like homeowner with small projects ought to be able to just submit pictures of the bolts to the city inspectors (or the city inspectors should make this part of their job on small projects). We want to encourage homeowners to do more earthquake retrofits. Adding at least $1,000 of extra costs to a retrofit project for a special inspection (on top of other permit fees) makes it too expensive for many Berkeley homeowners to protect their homes. Homeowners in Berkeley should get a break on the cost of earthquake retrofit project permit fees, just like homeowners in Oakland, where there is a $250 flat fee for retrofit permits.
    http://www2.oaklandnet.com/HomeRetrofit/OAK050882

  18. Or undergraduates.
    $60 was the average room rent in 1972, and houses rented for $300/month.
    Looks like housing inflation over 46 years is running between 1000% and 2000%-much higher than official US government statistics.

  19. You two are trading myths. The population in Berkeley actually declined between 1950 and 2010.

    Berkeley Population
    1950 – 113,805
    1960 – 111,268
    1970 – 116,716
    1980 – 103,328
    1990 – 102,724
    2000 – 102,743
    2010 – 112,580
    2018 – 122,324

    The gain in population between 2010 and 2018 aligns with the increase of 6,000 students at UC Berkeley.

  20. Not just their mental health, RD. The amount of chemical outgassing going on in those little spaces is certain to be mind boggling. Remember the FEMA trailors people were given to live in, post-Katrina? Like that, only more so.

  21. The national unemployment rate is 3.9%. Some industries, such as warehousing, oil, construction, and trucking, are seeing labor shortages. You should not assume all people who are unemployed want to work — many do not. If they really wanted a job, they would have one.

  22. I don’t know all the names, but it was the one that was built where the Red Cross building was on Allston, east of Shattuck.

  23. People’s expectations have never been lower. At least Pete Seeger was talking about places like Daly City, full of cheap row houses. Now people don’t even get that.
    All these tiny houses, tiny apartments, and now prefab boxes from China.
    Most everything going up these days around here fits the “little boxes” stereotype, and I am afraid living in them will have a deleterious effect on.the mental health of the coming generations.

  24. If I was on the bored I would have stipulated he buy American and preferably Californian.

    Other than that pretty cool! Criminally overpriced but that’s the markets fault.

  25. That’s helpful, thanks. Maybe I should say ignorance rather than confusion… the question comes up with all these University leases and we never know what the plan it.

  26. Yes.

    https://www.apartments.com/berkeley-ca/studios/

    Note: The only comparable studio (relatively new construction) on this initial list that’s about the same price is Patrick Kennedy’s “deco” Fine Arts building at 2461-71 Shattuck
    (Developed by Kennedy about 10 years ago when construcution costs were significantly cheaper and now owned by Equity Residential.)

  27. Yes, old-timer, times change!

    Unfortunately, for 4+ decades NIMBY-driven anti-housing regulations have not allowed the amount of housing to change all that much — in order to keep up with the changing times and increasing population.

    Berkeley has pretty much been ground zero in terms if NIMBY political hegemony and we have the housing crisis (i.e. a chronic housing shortage) with the inevitable skyrocketing costs to show for it.

    Well done, Baby Boomers! (Not!)

  28. No matter what the overall size of a unit, each dwelling must still have a bathroom (large and handicap accessible) and a kitchen (also required by law to be rather large for accessibility reasons) — and bathrooms and kitchens — since they have extensive electrical, plumbing and equipment needs and they also must conform to continually updated accessibility laws — are expensive to make.

  29. Newly built studios of about this same size are going for $3500 to $4000/mo. in SF.
    New construction is expensive and has housing costs rise, so do construction worker wages.
    It’s an upward escalating spiral.
    The only way to adequately address this is to accelerate the creation a lot more housing.
    Accordingly, we need to massively streamline the expensive/time-consuming regulatory process and innovate regarding more efficient and more cost-effective construction technology like modular, panelization, etc. in order to reduce skyrocketing labor costs.

  30. And not Patrick’s fault, the General Contractor was responsible for the faulty workmanship — which was ultimately rectified.

  31. Yeah, that was the first thing I thought about, too. Living in one of those boxes is going to be like living in a chemical petri dish, for some time to come. Hopefully, the young people who will, mostly, be living there, will have robust immune systems. We’ll see.

  32. So, framing portion of the construction period went from maybe 3 months to 4 days, and it created maybe no construction cost savings while also shipping a few jobs overseas. MEANWHILE THIS TOOK EIGHT YEARS TO PERMIT! Maybe we’re being distracted from real solutions by shiny toys?

  33. Have you ever been to Europe? There are lots of apartment buildings with interior courtyards.

  34. Yup. Just like “cozy” in developer/real estate parlance means that you can stretch out your arms and touch opposite walls. 😛

  35. Engineer of Record can also witness installation and stamp & sign a letter saying you installed bolts to his specifications, must be the same engineer that did the calculations, assuming there was a structural engineer involved in the project. If truly structural in nature, general contractor cannot sign for that, need outside agency or EoR

  36. Good luck ever falling asleep if your apartment faces that interior courtyard with all the nice tables and chairs for late night drinking, shouting, and music. There’s a reason why apartments for grown-ups usually aren’t built that way

  37. Don’t flagellate yourself too much. And, believe it or not, there are actually people who can’t get to BART any other way other by driving.

  38. That’s pretty much the market. Wealthy foreign students who don’t have the time, ambition, or need to look for a much better deal elsewhere.

  39. Right to live in a railroad box car stack , dressed up like a small condo building, and pay 2000 a month. Case closed!

  40. This seems crazy to me, having been a graduate student not that long ago. That’s more than most graduate students’ monthly stipend!

    This can only be marketed to international graduate students with a lot of family money because no local grad student with a modicum of knowledge about the housing market would fall for this (and hopefully the international ones who did wouldfigure out their mistake soon).

  41. Becuase its cheaper to buy it over seas where slave labor wages, builds the materials.

  42. Where does a student get 2000 a month to pay rent? or even 1000 for that matter. i dont get it.

  43. There is no confusion about it. They are exempt if the land owner files for it. The reference above is to a property before the master lease. The state board of equalization has direct answers to this question.

  44. I think that was in the Berkeleyan (another Kennedy building), not the Gaia Building.

  45. Gone are the days of graduate students living in sixty dollar a month rooming houses and eating at Robbie’s Cafeteria.

  46. Even though construction unions can’t find enough workers and are turning down some jobs and charging higher rates for others, they oppose and are politically fighting all efforts to install units made without union labor. That’s especially true if funding is coming from city government, even if it’s for housing the homeless.

  47. A junior one-bedroom is a marketing term for a studio with a nook for a bed. HUD defines a one-bedroom as a unit with a separate bedroom that has a door and a window.

  48. The project with a bunch of studios that the developer is calling “junior one-bedrooms”? LOL

  49. Given that there are rent-controlled one-bedroom apartments close to campus available for this price on Northside, and studios that are cheaper, I guess this unit is targeting clueless, wealthy graduate students. Sounds like a winner to me, just like the nearby vacancy-ridden Parker Apartments.

  50. On a factual basis whether or not these master leases are exempt from taxes is definitely a source of confusion.

  51. Is $2180 for a 310-sq ft one person studio more affordable than other studios on the market? This is described as accessible and affordable. Just wondering.

  52. Yes. I remember reading about the defective stucco that was so porous that rain leaked in, the windows that didn’t close all the way, the studio-sized heaters that were installed in ALL the larger units as well. Notorious is a good word but not in a positive way.

  53. Students’ don’t spent much time at home. They’re either in school, or out socializing. 320 sq ft. is decent crash space, and it’s close to campus, so they can walk (i.e. no car needed)

  54. It’s close to campus, and the students need it. If they can, they will pay. There needs to be more housing built!

  55. Then get prefab units from a local company. Except you can’t, because there’s a shortage of units, and a shortage of construction workers in general. Meanwhile there’s a homelessness and housing affordability crisis and we need to do more to solve both.

  56. The Bay Area is getting more ugly with all of these trashy looking homeless encampments. Things would look much better if the homeless were housed in similar prefab units. Which is exactly what Patrick Kennedy proposed a few years ago, with 160 sq ft units that would cost city governments less and house more people per lot.

  57. I agree it’s outrageous. As for the inspection though, did your contractor affirm and sign on paper the depth of the bolts and epoxy job was done correctly? If so, that’s considered enough. The contractor has put their butt on the line.

  58. There’s a shortage of construction workers. I can’t speak about hiring racism in that industry, but someone willing to work and learn should have little trouble getting a job. They will need a car for getting to job sites. Alternatively, in Vallejo a company called Factory OS just opened and is producing modular housing. The people making the units all have to be in the carpenters union. Vallejo is a less expensive site for a factory than Oakland, and any new factory in Oakland would also have union labor or face political backlash.

  59. My comment was regarding the ridiculousness of a large surface level parking lot, not parking in general, such as a multi story parking lot. Also, I think that there are many trips taken to the N. Berkeley lot in cars that would be avoided if there were fewer spaces, I’m certainly guilty of parking there at times because it’s convenient, but would walk/take the bus there if it were more difficult to park at.

  60. The contractor did not. I was told that the City of Berkeley required a special inspection by an independent third party licensed engineer. They all charge the same union required minimum $500 fee regardless of how many minutes it actually takes. The fees are not reduced for homeowners vs. giant commercial buildings.

  61. I seem to recall quite a bit of litigation over defects/drainage problems in the building after people had moved in and it rained. Anybody know how any of that turned out?

  62. All the more reason that the neighborhood shouldn’t have veto power over housing for other people.

    Honestly we could debate who will win the power struggle all day. I’m more interested in articulated what I think is just and right.

  63. Speak for yourself, I’m a resident of the N. Berkeley area and think it’s ridiculous to have such a large surface level parking lot in a desirable area, housing seems like a great idea.

  64. I was also at the meeting (and live in the neighborhood) and just because more loud mouths spoke in favor of housing at the BART station doesn’t mean the large majority of people who didn’t speak up are going to vote for it. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think there’s going to be major resistance to building there. Infact, there’s already an organized neighborhood group planning to fight it.

  65. Don’t you think you are being overly dramatic? Ugly, is what was there before, nothing. This part of town is way underdeveloped for various reasons. No one is quickly building massive monstrosities in Berkeley, haven’t you heard about the project next door that was recently rejected by the ZAB? There are homeless in this town and I’m referring to students. If they’re able, they will pay for these units.

  66. Ah yes…the Gaia Building. What seems like twice-yearly trash pickup and near daily emergency calls from both Berkeley PD and FD. Berkeley surely needs more of that.

  67. Yeah, in the crapastic buildings like The Parker that still can’t find takers for their overpriced units. Meanwhile there are one bedroom apartments listed for a similar price in rent-controlled buildings on Northside. Of course they don’t have roof decks, bike repair rooms, or exercise studios on the ground floor.

  68. What a wonderful deal — only $2180 for a studio. I guess you have to pay extra for all the chemicals that will outgas from the doubtlessly high quality made-in-China construction?

  69. Have you toured the site? I’m trying to figure out why you called Garden Village (aka the Habitrail) a “claustrophobic hellhole” as there are literally NO interior hallways. An advantage of the mini-tower design is there is more exterior surface area per unit for fenestration. Looks pretty interesting to me. YMMV…

    https://www.google.com/maps/uv?hl=en&pb=!1s0x80857c29d3b84673%3A0xcfef5714a2868c69!2m22!2m2!1i80!2i80!3m1!2i20!16m16!1b1!2m2!1m1!1e1!2m2!1m1!1e3!2m2!1m1!1e5!2m2!1m1!1e4!2m2!1m1!1e6!3m1!7e115!4shttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.discovergardenvillage.com%2Fstudent-apartments%2Fca%2Fberkeley%2Fgarden-village%2Fgallery!5sgarden%20village%20berkeley%20-%20Google%20Search&imagekey=!1e10!2sAF1QipMHAZWranZOZGyvjYHNx3oA4O4MuvZ0sWx2evrq&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiZgLCFks_cAhXB6J8KHSFjAwwQoiowFHoECAYQCQ

  70. that is pretty much the stadard rate for a studio in the Bay Area, not to mention that it’s new construction which gets a premium for not being old heaps of a building with bad fixtures, lead pipes and lead paint that you usually get.

  71. Just b/c there is an organized group doesn’t mean they are the majority either. Good luck arguing that we need a parking lot more than we need housing.

  72. It’ll be interesting to see how these units wear and if spare parts will continue to be available.

    And of course how it behaves in the next earthquake.

    It seems a little sad that this and 2701 weren’t combined into a single structure.

  73. Garden Village (which UC master leases) property owners paid almost half a million dollars in property taxes last year. Given the rental rates, I’m guessing that yes, the owners will be paying property taxes. YMMV.

  74. I was at the meeting. The great majority of speakers supported additional housing. A substantial fraction of those supported primarily affordable (ie, below market) housing.

  75. It’ll be interesting to see if costs continue to come down for this type of construction… as he notes it’s an R&D project, which usually wouldn’t have the lowest cost.

  76. It is not because of bureaucrats, who approved this project pretty quickly, that it took so long to get built. As the article reports, Kennedy had a long learning curve, doing this for the first time.The build permit was issued long ago.

  77. Yea RAD Urban doesn’t’ really do the “lego bricks stuck together” type of construction you think when you hear modular. On Telegraph and 48th in Oakland you can see a project going up, there’s a big steel I-Beam steel structure and the modules are just being set into place.

  78. …special inspectors….

    sometimes in Berkeley, we wait weeks for an inspection

    if we invested more in inspectors, it could speed up all the construction projects around town

    how could he possibly schedule all the required building inspections for a 4 day span?

  79. Congratulations Panoramic Interests on the project completion and congratulations Berkeleyside on some excellent business reporting! I’m in the hotel real estate business and I really appreciated the inclusion of the developer’s detailed comments on the issues presented by prefab construction on smaller sites. This construction type is an emerging trend in the hotel business, which usually has larger sites to work with. I am glad to learn about the developer’s experience with this method on a smaller site. Also, yay housing.

  80. The special inspections can be outrageously expensive. Regardless of how small the project they generally charge a minimum of $500 to show up and look at anything. The special inspection required for a small earthquake retrofit of four bolts for a ten foot wall at our house resulted in a bill from the special inspector of $1,000. He stepped into our home for about five minutes on two consecutive days. Once to look at (not touch) four bolts sitting in glue. Once to look at (not touch) nuts attached to the bolts.

  81. Another Patrick Kennedy experiment with very unclear long-term benefits. I would hate to pay over $7/square foot for a glorified shipping container stacked onto a lot. How long will this “building” last? I won’t even comment on the absence of parking.
    I expect we will soon see a massive 100+ unit pre-fab monstrosity like this built somewhere in Berkeley or Oakland.
    The Bay Area is getting pretty ugly with all of these trashy looking junk buildings going up.

  82. 4 days? quite misleading .. to say the least. I bet that the Downtown BART new plaza is finished before any grad student could live in those low quality structures.

  83. Patrick has long been an innovator — aggressive in ways that haven’t always been appreciated and then not remembered after his projects successfully complete. As perhaps the most notorious Berkeley example, his downtown Gaia Building, completed in 2001, was the first “high-rise” building to be built in Berkeley since the 1970s. Roundly attacked by our local NIMBYs as a towering monstrosity that would loom forever over our downtown, within months it had sunk so deeply into the urban wallpaper that we no longer think about it. If you don’t know its location now, that would prove the point. Successful innovation soon becomes routine.

    Kennedy’s remote-built project, able to be scaled up much faster than traditional custom-designed projects, is the only idea on the table that could quickly address the volume of housing we need to begin to address our affordability crisis. As one current comparison, BART’s “pre-proposal” to erect ONE medium-scale apartment building on its North Berkeley station property would yield something like 100 units or fewer in about (BART’s own estimate) 2027. And that modest idea has already been beswarmed by NIMBY neighbors who see it as basically yielding a towering monstrosity that they will have to actually look at.

    Let’s give this baby some room to grow.

  84. Dwight and Fulton? I was surprised at how slowly the construction went. It was a series of prefab towers that were erected quickly, but it seemed to take forever to join them into a single complex.

  85. I have walked past this site for a few years, seen a couple prefab units that were placed on view. When was the build permit authorized? I believe the build has been authorized by our bureaucrats for quite some time, believe it unfair to smark about bureaucrats when Kennedy got his build permit fairly quickly. I don’t think it just to try to blame bureaucrats for the long time delay from when the build permit issued and Kennedy worked out the kinks of importing his prefab units from China and figuring out how to build them. Once a build permit issued, I guess the time the developer needed more time than he had anticipated and that’s how it goes when doing something new. The building may have gone up quickly but shouldn’t the timeline include the manufacture of the units over in China, the shipping and fossil fuel polllution to ship homes to California and then the learning curve of Kennedy’s team

    Are the bside regular complainers okay with housing in Berkeley being manufactured in China? I wonder if Trump’s tariff tantrums will impact the prefab-from-China approach?

  86. I believe a more likely location is the far east bay. Stockton for example.

    The short answer is we could do it more locally, but our volume is still very low. These are rare projects in California.

    Chicken and egg problem.

  87. The shipping related pollution is probably less than normal projects.

    Normal projects require plenty of truck transportation. And probably a lot of rail too in the backend.

    Shipping by boat, even all the way from China, is very very efficient. Usually, carbon footprint is higher for cross-country overland, even by train.

    So, by boat and then just a short drive from the port. Could be very low footprint.

  88. sorry to hear that this type build may not be cheaper.
    but if it really is quicker…
    some humanitarian builder could startup mfg cubes in usa, take the nberk bart lot and build it out, get the unit rents down thru volume.
    keep building

  89. A prefab apartment building was erected on Shattuck in Oakland last year. It was the first of its kind in the area, coming before either of these Berkeley projects.

  90. That’s way below other local studio rents, which are as much as $4000 for 500 sq ft. Welcome to the housing crisis.

  91. I was curious why this building wasn’t mentioned in the article. Perhaps the careful phrasing of “the first prefab building *from china* to be constructed in Berkeley”.

  92. just to be clear, there are a few of us NB bart neighbors who really really really really want to see some housing on that blight of a parking lot. The extra foot traffic alone, not to mention the possibility of a few retail businesses (restaurants?) that would have the people around to stay open is super exciting separate from the civic responsibility we have to build more units in places that makes sense.

  93. “It happened in Berkeley, a city known for its glacial progress in building housing.”

    Berkeley, a city know for it’s glacial progress in APPROVING housing.

    Fixed.

  94. Why can’t these be built in Oakland where the unemployment rate and labor participation rate for African American men is high?

  95. Construction is one of the few (maybe only?) major industry where productivity has gone *down* over the years, so any effort to dramatically improve it should be greatly applauded. 4 days! Now imagine it didn’t take so many years just to get through the bureaucracy.

  96. More like built in 8 years, 99.9% of which was spent by gasbagging bureaucrats, and the remainder of which was spent in construction.

  97. The prefab box building on Dwight was built quickly too…and it has some architectural merit unlike a lot of the trash that ZAB let’s through