Berkeley Group Fights Giant Mansion

     OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – The Berkeley Hillside Preservation group wants to stop Lotus Development founder Mitch Kapor from building a 10,000-square-foot house with a 10-car garage in a “vintage neighborhood” in the Berkeley hills — even though Kapor says he plans to use “‘a substantial part’ of the new home for philanthropic fund-raising activities.”

     The Berkeley City Council approved construction of Kapor’s mansion on Rose Street despite opposition from neighbors, and without considering its environmental impact on the area, the Hillside Preservation group claims in Alameda County Court.
     “An exceptionally large home and 10-car garage, which would require the demolition of a 1917 Craftsman bungalow, is not the kind of typical low-impact single-family project that merits exemption” from environmental review, the lawsuit states.
     The city zoning board gave architect Donn Logan of Marcy Wong/Donn Logan Architects the go-ahead to demolish the bungalow, and to increase the average building height limit by 7 feet and reduce a front yard setback by 4 feet for the new home, according to the complaint.
     The city gave Logan, a co-defendant, permission to build the house Kapor and his wife. Kapor “publicly disclosed his intention to use ‘a substantial part’ of the new home for philanthropic fundraising activities,” according to the complaint.
     Susan Nunes Fadley, a founding member of the preservation society, and 33 others appealed the decision to the Berkeley City Council, which voted 6-2 to deny their objections.
     Fadley claims the City Council never allowed public comment and brushed aside evidence that the project would have “potentially significant impacts” on neighborhood aesthetics and traffic, and might cause “seismic lurching of hillside fills and landslides.”
     The new house would also displace mature trees and the 1,566 square-foot “Dunham House” designed by architect Abraham Appleton, the lawsuit states. The house slated for demolition is “likely historic,” as its first owner was opera singer Lucia Dunham, and its last occupant was biophysicist Frank Lindgren, “who discovered good and bad cholesterol,” according to the complaint.
     The preservation society want the construction approval voided or stayed until the plans comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. They also demand a halt to all construction, including demolition of the Dunham House.
     They are represented by Susan Brandt-Hawley of Glen Ellen, Calif.
     Kapor, 59, whose company produced Lotus 1-2-3, also co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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