That pesky LPO
Cal Ink (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)
As of today, most Berkeley households will have received two anti-Measure J hit pieces mailed on behalf of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce (a third is said to be on its way). In each one, the headline Another landmark? underscores an old structure photographed to look as ugly as possible.
Its no secret to anyone that the land under Celias Restaurant and Cal Ink represents opportunity sites for development, so the buildings have to be portrayed as objects of derision unworthy of preservation.
Whether the Irwin Paint Company building that now houses Celias was worthy of a Structure of Merit designation has no bearing on Measure J, since the City Council voted not to certify the designation. (See the LPCs Notice of Decision, the Planning Departments recommendation to the council, and the councils resolution.)
The Cal Ink industrial site has been a landmark since 1986. At the time of its designation, it was the oldest factory in Berkeley operating at its original location. Twenty years after the designation, Flint Ink is out of Berkeley, having left behind a neglected and toxic site. So whos responsible? Naturally not Flint, but the Landmarks Preservation Commission. At least thats what the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce would have you believe, with the mayors tacit approval.
Think of all the condos that could be built on the Cal Ink site! The only thing standing in the way is that pesky Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, an inconvenient law that only the little people in the neighborhoods want, and they dont count.
So how do we get rid of the LPO? Easy. Just pin all of Berkeleys ills on it. And if it doesnt sound entirely credible, lets throw in a handful of lies. Nobody will know the difference anyway.
Lets tell those saps that the existing LPO (and thus Measure J) violates state law. It sounds convincing, even if its a bare-faced lie.
Lets tell the fools that it will give total control over their properties to unelected officials. They won't know that not only is this patently false, but that the mayors proposed LPO is no different in this respect.
Lets plant in their feeble minds that Measure J allows designating anything built before 1966 as a landmark. They wont bother to investigate the truth and wont discover that Measure J includes fairly stringent criteria for designating historic resources.
Lets have them believe that only Measure J will reduce the number of signatures on a landmark petition to 25. Surely they wont check the mayors proposed LPO and wont find out that it stipulates exactly the same number, because the State Office of Historic Preservation recommended it.
While were at it, well also tell the innocent ninnies that Measure J removes the state historic standard of integrity from our landmarking process. Thats a particularly good one. Everybody will fall for it. So what if its a shameless fib? Whos to know that Measure J incorporates the state standard of integrity into the LPO?
And finally, lets hit them where it really countsin the pocketbook. Well tell them that Measure J will waste tax payers money and slow down their home upgrades. Yes, its only an urban legend, but you know how many people fall for those.
That should take care of it. Then well plant some of our own on the Landmarks Preservation Commissionpeople smart enough to appreciate an opportunity site when they see one.
In ten years, no one will remember what Berkeley used to look like.