30 November 2004

BAHA’s position on the Foothill bridge

Honorable Mayor and City Council:

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) strongly recommends that you vote against granting the University of California an Encroachment Permit for the Foothill pedestrian bridge over Hearst Avenue.

This bridge would cause a substantial detriment to the historic Northside neighborhood. The adverse impact of this major institutional encroachment upon the streetscape cannot be mitigated.

Residents of the area east of La Loma Avenue are complaining that the construction of the Foothill student housing complex in 1988–90 isolated their streets from the rest of the Northside neighborhood, leaving them only two narrow view corridors down Ridge Rd. and Hearst Ave. A bridge across Hearst Ave. would further isolate this area and eliminate one of the remaining view corridors.

Furthermore, the institutional look of the proposed bridge is an unfortunate misfit in a historic residential neighborhood. Daley’s Scenic Park was the first residential tract north of the campus and is home to many City of Berkeley Landmarks, as well as to several structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

At 2717 Hearst Ave., located directly behind the proposed Foothill bridge, is the Phi Delta Theta Chapter House (John Reid, Jr., 1914), #83001172 in the National Register of Historic Places (listed in 1983) and City of Berkeley Landmark #59 (designated in May 1982). This historic structure has been surrounded, trivialized, and overshadowed by the Foothill complex. A bridge will render it invisible from any point to the west.

The Highland Place and Ridge Rd. blocks facing the Foothill complex are where Bernard Maybeck built five of his early brown-shingle houses in the 1890s. All five structures survived the 1923 fire, but only two (the Charles Keeler House and Studio, both City of Berkeley Landmarks) managed to survive insensitive development. Let’s not compound the errors of the past with a fresh one.

While disabled access is very important, even U.C. planners concede that the Foothill bridge will not solve the mobility problems of the disabled, who would still face serious challenges crossing Gayley Road on their way to the campus and to city streets below.

As the Daily Californian pointed out in its editorial against the bridge, U.C. has sufficient handicapped-accessible units in existing dormitories on the Southside. Moreover, in the new Southside dormitories currently being completed, all the units are either handicapped-accessible or convertible within 24 hours. The twelve accessible units in the La Loma block of the Foothill complex can be easily made up for in other dormitories.

Both the Design Review Committee and the Landmarks Preservation Commission found the proposed bridge inappropriate and its design unacceptable. Their findings were summarized in the report of the Public Works Commission, which recommends that you vote against granting an Encroachment Permit for the Foothill bridge. Please take the time to read the Commission’s findings and vote accordingly.


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