Saturday, February 26, 2011

Is South Berkeley the New Temescal?

Historic Lorin District
 Many of you may remember a day when Temescal was not the bustling, lively, regional destination that it has become. There was a time when Temescal was populated with fast food restaurants, liquor stores, mini-marts, check cashing outlets, pawn shops, seedy bars, vacant store fronts and even a porn theater. Street crime and hustling was commonplace. Back then the common wisdom in real estate circles was that you did not buy below 51st Street.

All of that changed during the boom. And it changed dramatically. Those priced out of the hot San Francisco market decided to head East to Temescal. Here, they found a relatively under priced neighborhood at the foot of Rockridge and Piedmont Avenue with a BART station and easy accessibility to the City.  With charming turn of the century craftsman bungalows and colonial revivals, and location, one wonders what took Temescal so long to explode.
Sweet Adeline Bakery

With the infusion of young and hip residents came a significant change to the commercial district along Telegraph Avenue. One of the first to recognize the attendant opportunities along Telegraph was Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky who opened Dona Tomas. They were truly urban pioneers. Setting up where others only saw neglect and disrepair, they became the first in a plethora of trendy restaurants to settle in and create a truly dynamic and energetic commercial district. Now Temescal is a regional food destination with Dona Tomas, Pizzaiola, Bake Sale Betty, Burma Superstar, Barlata, the Mixing Bowl, Aunt Mary's Cafe, Marc 49, LaneSplitter, SR 24, Genova Delicatessen, and Scream Sorbet among others.
So, it is not surprising that Tom Schnetz of Dona Tomas has opened up Addies Pizza in South Berkeley with Jennifer Miller of Sweet Adeline. For south Berkeley, Sweet Adeline was the true urban pioneer and Jennifer Miller has long recognized the importance of neighborhood serving businesses that act as gathering places for the community. Sweet Adeline has indeed softened the hard edge of the the Historic Lorin District. Most weekends you can see young parents with kids in tow and urban hipsters noshing on the delectable sweets Jennifer and her crew dishes out.

As we have previously reported, the 94608/94609/94703 zip codes are hot and there have been significant socio-economic changes in the North Oakland and South Berkeley neighborhoods surrounding the South Berkeley commercial strip, known as the Historic Lorin District. Like Temescal in the early 2000s, young, hip residents, with income are finding relative bargains in this centrally located and transit rich area. With an infusion of new residents, the Historic Lorin District is now seeing new commercial ventures. The opening of Addies Pizza is highly symbolic of that change given Tom Schnetz' prescient role in revitalizing Temescal.

With wide sidewalks, historic storefronts, and plenty of driveby traffic, the Historic Lorin District is ripe with opportunity. Like Temescal it has seen its share of a troubled past, with crime, drug dealing, liquor stores, and fast food outlets. However, it is now surrounded by a rapidly changing area in high demand by young, hip consumers and families demanding craftsman bungalows and colonial revivals with high walkability scores. At the cross-roads of Adeline/Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Alcatraz, the Historic Lorin District has the Ashby BART station, AC Transit and major connections to Highways 24 and 80. Unlike Temescal, South Berkeley has an abundance of parking. All roads lead to the Historic Lorin District.

In addition to Sweet Adeline and Addies Pizza, the Other Change of Hobbit Bookstore has just relocated to South Berkeley, a new record store, Ear Peace, is in the process of improving its space, and the Golden Gate School of Feng Shui has set recently set up shop on Adeline Street. The larger South Berkeley area has the Ashby Arts District with the Shotgun Player's Ashby Stage, La Pena, the Starry Plough and the Black Repertory Theater, as well as Emilias Pizzeria, Flacos Tacos, Casa Vino, and numerous antique stores. While the neighborhood defining Nomad Cafe has changed ownership, it still provides an important neighborhood gathering place for the East Lorin Neighborhood. Nick's Lounge is currently for sale and would be a great opportunity to refashion as a hipster lounge. You can see the change. Existing businesses are taking the initiative to improve their facades, BART has created a new kiss and ride drop off zone along Adeline, and the Ed Roberts Campus has just opened.

Neighborhood and community groups are strong and organized as evidenced by the East Lorin Neighborhood Association and the Shattuck Crime Prevention Council's recent efforts to prevent more liquor stores. The Lorin Neighborhood Association has rallied to keep south Berkeley clean and free of litter, graffiti and blight and brightening it up with new landscaping. And the Halcyon Neighborhood Association has long been active in South Berkeley. The City of Berkeley also recently installed crosswalk signals to make the Lorin District more pedestrian friendly.

South Berkeley's time has indeed come.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget Malcolm X Elementary - its a great school with a big draw, and because
its still Berkeley down here, residents value and invest in the schools.

Kathy said...

A very heartening article!

Brad Daniels said...

Thank you for this very informative post. I rent in SF right now but want to buy soon before the market picks back up. I had been considering the east bay in a general way but could not bring myself to abandon my beloved City. Seeing things like this pique my interest and make me think that I really could have the best of all worlds if I found a place near to this Lorin area - a BART station for easy access to the City, a house and yard for my dog, better weather, good eats and shopping nearby. It's Sunday, guess I should hit the open home circuit. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Brad,
What you've described is why we purchased in this neighborhood. It has not disappointed and in fact is much better than I'd ever anticipated. It has much more a 'community' vibe than SF ever will, as we don't have the tenant turnover SF suffers from... We're far enough away from UCB, to escape the noise, crime, and slumlords. We're close to 13/24/80/580/880, giving multiple options in the event of traffic jams and Ashby and Rockridge are within walking distance for most.

IMHO this N.Oakland/S.Berkeley/E. Emeryville area will show great appreciation in property values in the next 10 years. As those who wished to live in Rockridge or Piedmont, can now no longer afford it, they are looking at areas, like "the donut", offering many of the same amenities at a lower cost.

There are, however, a couple of "hot spots". I would suggest you attend a few NCPC meetings with a map in hand. They'll point you in the right direction, so you can avoid the trouble spots Realtors ignore.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget another great South Berkeley Institution--Wat Mongkolratanaram, the Thai Buddhist Temple dishes up a great brunch on Sunday.

Human Rights Accompaniment In Haiti said...


It's now going on 6 years that I decided to throw our (my wife and me) lot in with my son and daughter-in-law and invest in a South Berkeley property. I see many homes with great front and back yards. Many well-kept triplex homes.

I'm glad about this. I'm quite happy and feel quite safe as I walk/bike ride around "Lorin". I just came back from a ride up to the 94703 PO and over to the old Berkeley Bowl.

Let's not forget about the Ed Roberts Campus and all that this entails for us academically and socially. And the neat stores along this section by the BART.
I still walk my grandkids to the many small and big parks in our area. My granddaughter loves to hit 63rd St kids park on the way to and from Sweet Adeline's (thanks to Jennifer!). I can second the motion about the MalcolmX school being a rich resource.

There are so many actively involved church and civic groups. I feel good and welcome when I go to our several neighborhood stores whether on Alcatraz, Sacramento, or Adeline.

I feel good about the many affordable housing units in our 'hood including the one that is just being redone on Sacramento next to the great Over 60 Health Clinic and elderly housing unit.
I make a point of greeting everyone, strangers especially and young folk, as we pass one another and this creates good vibes. Let's keep it up!

I'm still hoping for the emergence of a steady, involved area neighborhood group alliance, not just a crisis-centered group. The group I relate to is still hanging out at the other Lorin Yahoo group. list serve.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to our life here including the folks at WeFightBlight!

Tom Luce 1515 Fairview St.

Fight Blight said...

We inadvertantly missed a great craft studio in the Historic Lorin District. Knit One One is 3 doors away from Sweet Adeline. They are a craft studio offering all kinds of great classes bringing lots of people to the neighborhood. They have craft sales once a month that attract many of the neighbors as well as people from the greater Bay Area

Knit One One was behind the Here/There sign knitting project which generated a lot of press both locally and nationally--NPR, the Chronicle, etc.

Knit One One shares the space with Mosswood Engineering, which is reported to be a truly awesome engineering company. Mosswood and Knit One One have been at their location for the past four years and are a welcome presence to the Historic Lorin District.

Anonymous said...