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OK for Table Tennis Club on San Pablo Avenue

A proposed ping pong club catering to students at a former Masonic lodge on San Pablo Avenue near Albany Bowl got a nod from the Albany Planning & Zoning Commission this week.

A former home of the Albany Masonic lodge San Pablo Avenue near the El Cerrito border could eventually host a youth-oriented table tennis club, if the business owner's plans move forward.

Albany's approved a parking exception Tuesday night, after city staff found sufficient parking nearby to justify the exception.

Based on the size of the building, the municipal code would have required 11 parking spaces. The address is 533 San Pablo Ave., just south of Brighton Avenue.

Applicant Benny Fong explained to the city that he wanted the site to be accessible to students walking from Albany Middle and High schools. He said he also expects parents will drop off their children, rather than park and stay for the duration of lessons.

The city conducted a parking study in March between 4 and 5 p.m., and found a 53-percent vacancy rate within a 500-foot radius of the site. 

The 3,500 square-foot single story building is vacant, but once was used as a dance rehearsal space for Albany High students, according to city staff. It also operated as a furniture upholstery business. 

According to the staff report prepared for Tuesday's Planning & Zoning meeting, the club will provide lessons and a place to practice table tennis. 

A property management firm told the city that the building is in escrow, to be purchased by Fong. The sale was contingent upon the city granting Fong a parking exception.

According to loopnet.com, the property was listed with a sale price of $525,000.

The site was touted as being close to El Cerrito Plaza with a large open room in back, a wide walkway from the front entrance to the back area, and an existing kitchen space. It has two bathrooms. The loopnet listing also notes that the entire building, which was a Masonic lodge, needs renovation.

Fong told the city, in his application for the parking exception, that the club would employ two people and have space for 10 students. 

He proposed operating hours of Monday through Friday, 3:30-10 p.m., and weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

One special condition of approval imposed by the city requires Fong to work with city staff to on the property.

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