Sunday, November 7, 2010

Trader Joe's

 The New Californian, viewed from the southeast.

A comment below mentions the building at the southeast corner of MLK and University known informally as Trader Joe's*. Looking for a photo, I found a critique by Christopher Adams, who I believe used to be a planner with the University of California (if it's the same Chris Adams). He calls the building "a hippopotamus in a tutu," but I think it's much worse than that. (The photos in Adams' article don't fully capture the horror.) During the summer, I drove past it every morning on my way from the clinic. Perhaps it was the radiation, but the color of the building is especially off-putting. The juxtaposition of the monster at the corner and a sort of fake Swiss pseudo-addition to its north, apparently meant to reduce the gargantuan scale along MLK, counts as a true oddity. (This knock-off Swiss thing is also visible - even more risible - at the northeast corner of University and Sacramento. Is there a Swiss connection in Berkeley that I somehow missed?) The real crime of Trader Joe's is its bulk. I imagine it was justified as "urban," bringing it out the sidewalk. True enough - in 20 years, this will provide a modicum of grit: deteriorating plastic, as we used to call the sprayed-stucco wonders south of campus. Isn't this a city with design review? 

* Formally known as the New Californian, designed by Kirk Peterson, who's done better. (So far, this is his worst.)

The New Californian's "Swiss" mock-addition

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Measure R

I was opposed to Measure R, given the political nature of redevelopment in downtown Berkeley and along the University Avenue corridor. Right now, there's little likelihood of anything happening - both the city and the developers are strapped. That picture will change in time, and Measure R sets up a density that may surprise those who voted for it. Moreover, the city has a history of going beyond what zoning permits - the Gaia Building is a prime example. Downtown Berkeley is a logical place for higher density. Better there, for example, than at the Ashby and North Berkeley stations - and, for that matter, along the Shattuck corridor north of University Avenue. Downtown is also a good location for joint development with the University, something that's already happening. While it's getting all the attention, Telegraph Avenue between Bancroft and Dwight Way is a disaster, neglected equally by the city and the University. What's the plan for that?