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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Berkeley NIMBYs Sue to Halt Mitch Kapor's 10-Car-Garage Mansion

Posted By on Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 5:10 PM

click to enlarge Okay, that's not the Berkeley Hills; it's Versailles. But even at Versailles they don't have a 10-car garage.
  • Okay, that's not the Berkeley Hills; it's Versailles. But even at Versailles they don't have a 10-car garage.
Residents of of the Berkeley hills wouldn't seem to be the type that minds ostentatiousness. Typical dwellings, such as the one enjoyed by Tenderloin poverty Czar Randy Shaw, sport upwards of a half-dozen bedrooms, views of the city skyline, and price tags in the millions of dollars.

Evidently tolerance has its limits. Plans by really rich dude Mitch Kapor to build a 10-car-garage, 10,000-square-foot house to replace his current abode on a lot a couple blocks away from the Berkeley Rose Garden have spawned a new NIMBy group, which has filed suit demanding a new environmental impact review of the Lotus Development Corporation founder's plans.

A technological seer, Kapor should have seen this one coming. Berkeley's NIMBYs are some of the more voracious in all whinerdom. The city's newspaper, The Berkeley Daily Planet, is a veritable journal of NIMBYism, with much of the paper dedicated to expressing outrage at proposed construction.

Theirs isn't just idle whining: Thanks to the near-impossibility of building anything in Berkeley, the city tore down 800 more housing units than were built during the 1990s. During the last 30 years of the 20th century, Berkeley lost 5,182 people, so inhospitable are locals to providing more room for people to live.

Perhaps Kapor imagined his plans might have been treated gently given his role as an icon of the libertine ethos Berkeley is famous for. He is, after all, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the nonprofit dedicated to protecting free expression on the Internet.

Berkeley NIMBYs, wily creatures that they are, have actually attempted to turn his role as a civil liberties pioneer against him. The lawsuit noted a citizen's appeal against the proposed house that noted it would be used for -- gasp! -- gatherings by charitable organizations:

Among other things, the appeal noted that property owner Mitchell Kapor had publicly disclosed his intention to use "a substantial part" of the proposed new home for philanthropic fundraising activities, forecasting use beyond those at a typical residence.

Additionally, the lawsuit complained, Kapor's project application hadn't noted that the owner of the original house scheduled to be torn down was music professor Lucia Dunham, and that for the past 50 years its resident was Berkeley biophysicist Frank Lindgren.

In Berkeley, apparently, you're not supposed to replace houses professors have lived in.

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Matt Smith


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