29 December 2005

Comments on the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects Initial Study

December 14, 2005

Jennifer Lawrence, Principal Planner
PEP/Capital Projects
Architects & Engineers Building, Room 1
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720-1380

Re: Southeast Campus Integrated Projects — Initial Study Questions and Comments

Dear Jennifer Lawrence:

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA), a non-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving “those structures, sites, and areas which have special architectural, historic, or aesthetic value contributing to the enrichment of the Berkeley environment,” has reviewed the Initial Study of the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP). BAHA is of the opinion that the sheer physical magnitude of the SCIP, alone, would cause further damage and harm to one of California’s most notable historic settings. BAHA appreciates the opportunity to participate in the public scoping process for the SCIP, but BAHA is concerned that the SCIP has not been fully disclosed or understood, and, thus, this stage of the public process would seem to be premature and flawed, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

BAHA first questions the premise of the Notice of Preparation (NOP) asserting that the SCIP will have a focused Environmental Impact Report (EIR), tiered off of the 2020 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) EIR, with supplemental environmental analyses. The 2020 LRDP EIR itself neglected to offer enough specific description of the project developments to prepare the public for a subsequent discussion of the SCIP in all its aspects, including its consequential changes to the environment. The seven projects listed in the NOP are not characterized or comprehensively delineated in the 2020 LRDP EIR. Nor is there any accompanying fundamental analysis of their incorporation into the geographically sensitive location.

In closing, BAHA wants to register its deep concern that the University may be planning the SCIP with environmental blinders on. Yet, within the Berkeley community there is always the eternal hope that this historic college town may retain its special sense of place and its notable setting, and that the University, with one of the brightest law schools and one of the brightest business schools, will, in fact, find solutions to “preserve and enhance the image of the UC Berkeley campus and its historic legacy of landscape and architecture” for the benefit of a shared community. Toward this end, BAHA will participate vigorously in the CEQA review process.


Wendy Markel, President

23 December 2005

Berkeley Buildings and Landmarks returns

For Berkeley architecture and history buffs, one of the most useful pages on the U.C. Berkeley website has long been Berkeley Buildings and Landmarks, part of the The Centennial Record of the University of California, 1868–1968 (1967).

Some time in the past year, The Centennial Record was redesigned, and the Berkeley Buildings and Landmarks page disappeared from sight. The information is still available, but not in a stand-alone page—now you have to hunt for it within an unwieldy frames format, and Web search engines no longer find it.

Since the information provided in Berkeley Buildings and Landmarks is of the kind that should be easily available at the click of a mouse, we have reproduced the page on the BAHA website.

30 November 2005

Berkeley mayor proposes solution
to ‘Landmark’ debate

Martin Snapp
Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed, Nov. 30, 2005

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates unveiled a compromise proposal on Tuesday to resolve the ongoing impasse between two city commissions over Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.

The Planning Commission and the Landmarks Preservation Commission had been at loggerheads over the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s use of the “structure of merit” designation for buildings that fail to rise to the level of landmarks. Bates said the “structure of merit” designation had become “virtually indistinguishable” from landmark status.

As a result, non-landmark structures have been afforded protections that were not intended when the ordinance was originally drafted, including an environmental review and public hearing before any changes could be made to the building.

Under the mayor’s plan, future “structure of merit” designations will be limited to those historic districts where the need to protect structures that contribute to the overall historic character of the area has been clearly established. Buildings that have already been designated structures of merit will be allowed to keep the designation.

A lesser designation called “points of interests” will be created for lesser buildings that still have some historic or cultural importance. This designation will be strictly honorary.

The mayor also proposed a systematic historic survey of the city, starting with downtown, followed by West Berkeley, the oldest part of town.

Then will come the major commercial corridors, including University, San Pablo, Shattuck, Adeline, Telegraph, Solano and the Elmwood.

In addition, he proposed hiring a historic preservation officer to serve as staff for the LPC and liaison with the Planning Commission.

Finally, the mayor’s proposal sets up a timeline for the appeals process, which has dragged on in the past. From now on, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will have two weeks to make an up-or-down decision about a structure’s “landmark” or “structure of merit” status. If it fails to make a designation in that period, it will be barred from changing its mind for two years.

The proposal will now go to a City Council workshop to hash out the details, followed by a public hearing and a formal vote in January.

Bowles Hall another victim of U.C. corporatization?

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

Today’s Contra Costa Times carries an article by Matt Krupnick under the headline Haas program eyes oldest UC dorm.

Reports Krupnick:
University planners are considering moving the Haas business school’s profitable executive-education programs into Bowles Hall, a 77-year-old Gothic mansion known for its wacky traditions. If selected for the Haas program, the building would house up to 150 corporate leaders while they attended business seminars.

Campus officials say Bowles is one of several sites being considered, but the proposal has already offended alumni who have battled with the university over sometimes rowdy Bowles traditions. School officials this year instituted a freshmen-only policy in the all-male dorm, partly to cut down on drinking and parties among the 200 residents.

“It’s not supposed to be a Holiday Inn for executives and seminars,” said San Jose resident Jim Arbuckle, a 1957 UC Berkeley graduate who lived at Bowles for four years and later received a Haas graduate degree. “Leave it for the younger students.”

Haas leaders say they understand the strong feelings that have led Bowles alumni to return year after year to meet new residents of the castle-like dormitory, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Officials say they plan to speak to alumni before finalizing which site will be used. The decision is expected by May, planners said.

“We want to have discussions with all the parties, because we certainly understand the sensitivity of the issues,” said Larry Lollar, the business school’s assistant dean for development and alumni relations.

"It’s purely speculative at this point, and we didn’t want to freak anybody out unnecessarily" by discussing Bowles publicly any sooner, he said.

Other possible sites include a historic complex south of campus and two parking lots. An anonymous $25 million donation will help the business school afford a building project, which would include renovations to the historic sites or a new building at the parking lot site.

A multimillion-dollar face lift could increase alumni pride by restoring Bowles to a “premium site,” Lollar said.

Yet even the gung-ho U.C. administration realizes the site is less than ideal. Although Bowles is just across Gayley Road from the Haas Business School, its location atop the Hayward fault leaves something to be desired.

This is yet another instance where lucrative corporate alliances take precedence over undergraduate education at U.C. Berkeley. The Center for Executive Development, currently housed at Haas, provides non-degree courses to more than 2,500 senior corporate executives from around the world every year. Demand keeps growing, and Haas is hard put to provide housing for these well-paying students. What is more natural than to kick out the undergrads?

22 November 2005

Earthquake Exodus, 1906

Berkeley historian and BAHA member Richard Schwartz, who is best known for the book Berkeley 1900: Daily Life in the Turn of the Century, has just released his latest opus, Earthquake Exodus, 1906: Berkeley Responds to the San Francisco Refugees. The book is the story of the ten-week Berkeley relief effort that rescued 15,000 San Francisco refugees from the earthquake and fire.

As Gray Brechin explains in the Foreword:
On April 17, 1906, the university town had twenty-six thousand residents. A year later, it had grown by half again to thirty-eight thousand, largely due to the influx of homeless refugees fleeing the afflicted city. Schwartz explains how Berkeleyans generously responded by setting up temporary camps, dispensing food, listing jobs, and even taking in the homeless. He details the measures taken to ensure public order and health as city and university officials struggled to deal with thousands of disoriented, impoverished, and sometimes dangerous strangers, many separated from their loved ones—everyday details long forgotten but worth study by those who wish to better prepare for the next great shake.

San Francisco’s misfortune was a godsend for East Bay real estate agents and developers, for ex-urban refugees quickly discovered they could buy suburban lots far cheaper and with more benign weather than those of the fog-shrouded city by the Golden Gate. The recent advent of electricity and telephones, as well as excellent train service provided by the Key Route and Southern Pacific systems, increased the value of properties throughout the region and encouraged subdivision of the last farms in Berkeley. In the Mason McDuffie Company, Berkeley fortunately had one of the most enlightened developers in the country. That the quake happened at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement—and that UC Berkeley had just established the West’s first College of Architecture—produced a bumper crop of fascinating houses, churches, and clubhouses that literally distinguish the town to this day. Schwartz reminds us that today’s Berkeley, as much as San Francisco, is largely the result of that shaking a century ago.

The book contains over 200 photos, many of which have never been published and many others that have not been seen in a hundred years.

The author will talk about Earthquake Exodus, 1906 at Black Oak Books on Sunday, 11 December, at 7:30 pm.

The book is available for sale at all independent bookstores and the BAHA office, where BAHA members receive a discount. Call (510) 841-2242 for details.

04 November 2005

Centennial birthday party for John White’s “Rose ’n Arch”

“Rose ’n Arch” (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

Bernard Maybeck’s brother-in-law John White is best known for having designed the Le Conte Memorial Lodge (1904), a National Historic Landmark in Yosemite Valley, and for the Hillside Club (1924), replacing the Maybeck original that burned in the Berkeley Fire. 

In 1905, White designed the large, rustic Wallace house on the corner of Rose and Arch Streets. This house would eventualy be owned by the famed geographer Carl O. Sauer.

Join us in celebrating the 100th Birthday of the Wallace-Sauer House, aka “Rose ’n Arch.”

Sunday, 13 November 2005
1340 Arch Street at Rose Street
2:00 to 4:00 pm
$20 per person

Howard Mel, Professor Emeritus: Memories of the Neighborhood
Richard Schwartz, Berkeley Historian: Berkeley in 1905
Horst Bansner, Homeowner: John White, Architect

Reminiscences by family members of early owners of the house

Reception following
Birthday cake by Masse’s Pastries
Coffee by Peet’s Coffee & Teas

Seats are limited; please reserve early. Reservations will be held at the door.

To reserve, please send a check made out to BAHA to:
P.O. Box 1137
Berkeley, CA 94701

You may also order online via Paypal:

03 November 2005

Panoramic Hill now in the National Register

View from the Torrey House (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

The State Office of Historic Preservation announced that on 21 October 2005, the Panoramic Hill Historic District of Alameda County was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Panoramic Hill was the focus of BAHA’s Spring House Tour this year. You can see photos of the event in our gallery.

19 October 2005

Outings on Fridays

Mills College Campanil (Julia Morgan, 1903–04)

The full schedule of our popular Outings on Fridays tour series is now available in the Events Calendar.

Destinations include Preservation Park in Oakland; Edwards Stadium & the Athletic Precinct on the U.C. Berkeley campus; historic Delaware Street and modern Fourth Street in Berkeley; and the Mills College campus in Oakland, featuring buildings by Julia Morgan and Walter Ratcliff.

Tickets are $15 per tour or $50 for all four. To order, use the ticket order form or order tickets online via PayPal.

15 October 2005

Stadium effects & neighborhood blight

The historic Olney House (Julia Morgan, 1911) at 2434 Warring Street is now a fraternity presenting to the world a “front garden” strewn with trash. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

Of all the many preservation issues looming over Berkeley, the proposed seismic retrofit of Memorial Stadium is predictably the most monumental. Reports are that the Stadium will be rebuilt and expanded, including a massive excavation under the eastern side of the Stadium to create new office space and facilities. This project is part of a larger southeast campus expansion project which also includes a colossal new Academic Commons building between Boalt Law School and the Haas Business School adjacent to the Stadium. Yet, to date, the full scope, size, footprint, and design of the stadium project is still unrevealed to the public.

The current situation is precarious for the cultural and historic resources around the stadium. It has become ordinary to experience bumper-to-bumper traffic (even in Strawberry Canyon), to be assaulted by exploding student density, to view the ever-creeping blight of forgotten trash and litter, to sight SUVs parked on lawns, to see front gardens paved-over for parking, or to view architecturally significant buildings virtually demolished by neglect. Such blight is not limited only to the scheduled seven Game Days per year. It is experienced every day and into most evenings.

In our Preservation Discourse section, we are reproducing several articles from the most recent issue of The Baha Newsletter. They focus on the implications of Memorial Stadium, its siting, and future development. look under the heading Whither Cal Memorial Stadium?

09 October 2005

Impotent rage

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005

Smilodon californicus, commonly known as the sabretoothed cat or sabretoothed tiger, is the official California State Fossil. The smilodon statue in the photo above was created by Victor Bergeron, founder of Trader Vic’s, and can be found in the plaza south of McCone Hall on the U.C. campus, where it has been pouncing on passers-by for many years.

These days, the big cat’s pounce is blocked by an even larger trailer that takes up most of the plaza. The trailer serves the construction project across the way, where the C.V. Starr East Asian Library will be built on the recently despoiled and graded Observatory Hill.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005

Do you remember how Observatory Hill looked before the bulldozers decimated it? It was one of the loveliest spots on campus, with many species of native plants and shrubs. In February 2004, we documented it in the photo tour Observatory Hill at risk.

Here’s how it looks now.

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005

Below you can see what will replace it. A shoebox with metallic grilles. The design rationale behind those grilles might be their incorporation of elements from Chinese or Japanese script, but the actual result comes closer to schlocky 1950s commercial architecture that is deservedly vanishing from most urban streetscapes. Note that John Galen Howard’s Haviland Hall is completely hidden by the shoebox.

Earlier this year, the City of Berkeley sued the university over its 2020 LRDP, which included an EIR for this construction project. The lawsuit sought to stop the project. Since the city settled with U.C. behind closed doors, nothing stands in the way of this or further construction, which is sure to follow. As soon as U.C. finds the money, phase two of the Tien Center will go up next to Haviland Hall and obliterate what’s left of Observatory Hill.

05 October 2005

The fabulous Spring Mansion

Spring Mansion (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

Modeled after Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s Achillion Palace in Corfu, the terraced John Hopkins Spring Estate occupies 3.25 acres crowned by a two-story mansion designed by John Hudson Thomas. The exterior is primarily Beaux Arts–influenced, while the interiors display the architect’s eclectic influences, including Vienna Secessionist, Arts & Crafts, and Egyptian motifs.

Built in 1912 and completed in 1914, the estate was owned by the Spring family for just a few years. In 1918, it was sold to the Cora L. Williams Institute (later Williams College), a tony school that occupied the premises for five decades. Since 1975, the mansion has been a private residence again, and few people had the opportunity to see it. The property recently sold, and we went in to snap a few pictures. You can see them in an article about the estate on the Berkeley Landmarks website.

29 September 2005

Lecture at South Berkeley Community Church

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

The beautiful Mission-style South Berkeley Community Church, originally Park Congregational Church, was designed by Hugo W. Storch in 1912 and is City of Berkeley Landmark No. 13. The church is in need of restoration, and BAHA will kick off the capital restoration campaign with a lecture on Wednesday, 19 October at 7:30 pm, to be held at the church, 1802 Fairview Street at Ellis.


Historic South Berkeley
Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny, architectural historian and author

Berkeley’s first interracial church, 1943 to the present
Members of the congregation, including charter member the honorable Maudelle Shirek

Hugo Storch: Arts and Crafts transforms the Mission style
Bradley Wiedmaier, architectural historian

A reception will follow, courtesy of Emerald Catering.

This event is sponsored by BAHA’s John Beach Memorial Lecture Fund.
Suggested donation to benefit the South Berkeley Community Church capital restoration campaign: $15 at the door.

Please make out your contribution check to:
SBCC Capital Restoration Fund

If you can’t attend the lecture, you can send a check to the church at 1802 Fairview St., Berkeley, CA 94703.

13 September 2005

Outings on Fridays in Berkeley & Oakland

Cohen-Bray House

The popular series of guided tours returns. The tours take place on the first Friday of each month at 11:00 am (we meet at the tour location at 10:45 am). Additional tours will be announced as planning is finalized. Tickets are $15.00 per tour. You may buy them online (see our Events Calendar).

7 October  sold out
Cohen-Bray House (1882–83)
1440 29th Avenue
Oakland, CA 94601

4 November
Preservation Park
1233 Preservation Park Way
Oakland, CA 94612

06 September 2005

Letter to John Gordon re: Weisbrod Building

Weisbrod Bldg. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

Dear Mr. Gordon,

It has been brought to my attention that you represent the owner of the Weisbrod Building at the Southeast corner of the University and San Pablo intersection.

Over the past year, this vacant building has deteriorated shamefully. Right now, it is covered with graffiti to such an extent that the windows are significantly blocked with spray paint. This graffiti is gang-related.

Perhaps the owner, who I understand is not a Berkeley resident, is unaware of the fact that this intersection is one of the busiest in Berkeley. University Avenue serves as a gateway into the city for tens of thousands of people daily. Because of this prominent location, the miserable condition of this building is a blight on our entire city.

In addition to its significant location, the Weisbrod Building, designed by Spivek and Spivek in 1930, recieved official designation as a Structure of Merit in 1985. This building is an important part of our City's architectural fabric and our past, and it deserves to be restored to usable condition.

Lastly, I live just a couple blocks from this building. I find it personally offensive that, as I walk through the neighborhood to patronize vibrant local-serving businesses like Lanesplitter Pizza, Mi Tierra Foods, Country Cheese, Longs Drugs, Pet Food Express, Wells Fargo Bank, and Everett & Jones Barbeque, I see this building: a gang signpost, promoting crime and degrading the neighborhood and the surrounding businesses.

I request that you contact the owner of the Weisbrod Building and ask that take immediate action be taken to remove the graffiti. I encourage the owner to find an appropriate tenant that will contribute to our thriving local business area.

I have copied City Council, Berkeley Police, and BAHA members on this message in hopes that they might reply about legal specifics of graffiti abatement requirements for property owners in Berkeley.

Thank you,
Rachel Boyce
neighbor and member of Poets Corner Neighbors

26 August 2005

Benefit performance of Our Town
at the Berkeley Rep

The Berkeley Historical Society and BAHA are offering their members an opportunity to see the Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s production of Our Town at the special rate of $30 on all seats.

Written by Thornton Wilder, Berkeley High, ’15
Directed by Jonathan Moscone
The Roda Theatre
Tuesday, 18 October at 8:00 pm

Ten dollars of your ticket price will go to benefit BHS and BAHA.
Champagne reception & talk by Barbara Oliver after the show.

To reserve your ticket, call the box office at (510) 647-2949 or e-mail the Berkeley Rep at groups@berkeleyrep.org and provide the production code #100.

21 August 2005

Almost there

Captain Boudrow’s House (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

Many Northside residents have been watching with fascination as renovation work progressed behind shrouds on Captain Boudrow’s House at 1536 Oxford Street. Designed by Julius Krafft in 1889, this large turreted Queen Anne was designated City of Berkeley Landmark No. 15 in June 1976.

The shrouds finally came off to reveal a marvelous new color scheme. Alas, the work isn’t finished, as the owners and their painting contractor have parted ways.

19 August 2005


Landon House, 2743 Woolsey Street (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

The new owners of the Howard P. Landon House (1909), an Elmwood Brown Shingle located at 2743 Woolsey Street, received a permit for a total remodel of the house, designed by David Trachtenberg. The original façade has been completely removed since the photo above was taken.

Campbell House, 2848 Derby Street (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

The Campbell House (1889) at 2848 Derby Street was designed by the renowned Alameda architect Alfred William Pattiani, several of whose Berkeley Victorians, including the Whitham House (1889) at 2198 Blake Street, were featured in BAHA’s 2004 Spring House Tour. When the house changed hands earlier this year, we eagerly anticipated its restoration. One of only a handful of 19th-Century structures remaining in the Claremont district, its gingerbread had been hidden under a coating of stucco since the 1920s, but its interior was intact. The Whitham House is a mirror-image twin and could have been used as the model for reconstructing missing elements. BAHA staff suggested this to the new owners’ architect, who visited the BAHA office, and explained the building’s significance and its listing on the State Historic Resources Inventory. What a shock to discover that nothing remains but a shell and the framing. The opportunity to restore this special house is gone.

03 August 2005

ADAF Hearst Castle tour

Gothic Study, Hearst Castle (courtesy of hearstcastle.com)

Including a visit to scenic Asilomar and historic Monterey
Friday to Sunday, 9–11 September 2005

The American Decorative Arts Forum of Northern California invites all members and guests to join the ADAF for a special weekend with tours of historic Monterey, Asilomar, and a private tour of Hearst Castle with Victoria Kastner.

Friday, 9 am Our itinerary begins Friday morning with a lovely drive down to Monterey by private tour bus and includes a tour of the historic Monterey area. That night we stay at Asilomar, an architectural showcase for the works of two of America’s most prestigious architects: Julia Morgan, California’s first licensed woman architect who also designed Hearst Castle, and John Carl Warnecke, internationally known designer of such structures as the grave site memorial of President John F. Kennedy.

Saturday After a hearty breakfast and a tour of the Asilomar grounds, we will drive down the coast to San Simeon. Enjoy a walk on the beach, shopping and antiquing in nearby Cambria. Accomodations pending.

Sunday am Our private tour of William Randolph Hearst’s Castle, designed by Julia Morgan, will be given by Victoria Kastner and Dan Eller. For those who were fortunate enough to hear Victoria’s recent lecture in May 2004, this special walk-through will focus on the decorative art of the collection, as well as the rich architectural history. Even if you have been to Hearst Castle before, this exclusive tour will teach you even more about this important California landmark.

Sunday, Late Afternoon Return to San Francisco

The price of the trip is approximately $450 per person and includes a private tour bus, lodging, and all tour fees. Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast are included with our stay at Asilomar.

Deposit is $200 per person to confirm your reservation. Single reservations for rooms will be slightly more than doubles.

Send in your checks as soon as possible, as space is limited. No refunds for cancelations.

For more information, call Doug Baxter at (415) 377-0444.
Please send checks payable to ADAF by 15 Aug 2005.
C/O Douglas Baxter 2370 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

Include this form with your check.

Hearst Castle and Asilomar Monterey Trip, 9, 10 & 11 Sept. 2005

Please reserve  ___ places @ $200 deposit each.
*Note: Single room rates will be higher than the double rates.


The Forum disclaims any responsibilities for damage or injury to person or property. Your reservation indicates acceptance of these conditions.


30 July 2005

Preservation workshops in
Mountain View

The John Woolley house, 1876 (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

The California Preservation Foundation and the State Office of Historic Preservation will be holding two August workshops in Mountain View City Hall.

Tune Up Your Historic Preservation Program
Wednesday, 24 August
10:30 am – 4:30 pm

A workshop for historic preservation commissioners, Staff, and the interested community. Topics covered:

Surveys and Local Government: A Context for Best Practice
How to develop surveys and survey strategies that are most useful for local governments.

The Public, CEQA & Historical Resources, or, What to do Before the Wrecking Ball Arrives
CEQA basics and the public role in the CEQA process.

Tune Up Your Preservation Ordinance
Basic elements of an ordinance and how to prepare an ordinance that fits your community.

Preservation Basics
Thursday, 25 August
10:30 am – 5:30 pm

This specially designed workshop will separate fact from fiction, offer best practices, and educate local advocates, government officials, commissioners, and property owners on the benefits of historic preservation. An expert panel will use case studies and examples of successful preservation programs, incentives, and ordinances. You will learn how you can use these availabe tools and develop effective programs in your community.

Workshop location:
Mountain View City Hall
Council Chambers

500 Castro Street
Mountain View, CA 94041

Additional information and registration details are available on the CPF website.

29 July 2005

Another opportunity to see
the Harris House

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004

If you missed BAHA’s open house at the fabulous Joseph W. “Call Me Joe” Harris residence last year, you have a second chance. The Art Deco Society of California is offering a private tour on Sunday, 7 August from 2 pm to 6 pm.

The Harris House is located at 2300 Le Conte Ave., Northside, Berkeley (the U.C. Campus is just across Hearst Ave.; see map). Admission (pay at the door): $20 ADS members; $25 general.

Light refreshments will be served. Vintage attire will be admired but not required. Street parking is limited; hourly parking is available at the university’s Lower Hearst Garage. As an alternative, please take BART to the Downtown Berkeley station.

Further details are available on the Art Deco Society’s calendar.

15 July 2005

Bus tour of New Deal structures
in San Francisco

Beach Chalet mural (courtesy of Beach Chalet)

LaborFest 2005 offers a tour of New Deal structures in San Francisco. Tour goers will learn about the major contributions made by construction workers during the depression-era New Deal program in the building of the city.

Sunday, 31 July at 10:00 am
Leaders: Harvey Smith & Gray Brechin
Cost: $15.00


  Assemble at Aquatic Park (bottom corner, at Hyde & Jefferson Streets).


  Depart for Rincon Annex; view lobby and murals; view Treasure Island (across the bay).


  Depart for Sunshine School (Bryant & 25th St.) via the old Federal Building; view interior of Sunshine School.


  Depart for the former S.F. State Normal School/U.C. Extension Campus.


  Depart for Beach Chalet; view mural, mosaics, and wood carvings; have a beer or soda.


  Return to Aquatic Park.

Reservation required: call (415) 642-8066. Make reservation and send a check to LaborFest, P.O. Box 40983, San Francisco, CA 94140.

Times are approximate, depending on traffic. Sandwiches and drinks will be available on the bus.

08 July 2005

Letter to the City Council re: proposed revisions to the LPO

Friday, 8 July 2005
To: Mayor and City Council
From: Daniella Thompson
Subject: Proposed revisions to the LPO

Honorable Mayor and City Council:

On 12 July I will be away from Berkeley and won’t be able to attend your public hearing on revisions to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO).

Let me state at the outset that I’m a modern-architecture enthusiast. I have been a big city dweller all my life (Berkeley is the smallest city in which I’ve lived) and find nothing objectionable about tall buildings and a mix of modern and traditional architecture in the downtown area. Both San Francisco’s and Oakland’s downtowns benefit from variations in height and style.

What I do find objectionable are repeated attempts in connection with many construction projects to subvert the letter and the spirit of the City’s stated policies, the General Plan, the Downtown Plan, and the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance. Too many of these attempts have been successful, resulting in inappropriate structures with questionable lasting value and little esthetic contribution to Berkeley’s built environment. Perhaps that is the reason why Berkeley’s downtown and major arteries look so shoddy.

Shoddy buildings and shoddy streets drive away paying customers. Why spend time and money in a tacky environment when one has the option of shopping or living in pleasant surroundings? Time and again it has been proven that preserving a city’s built heritage pays off. Our own Fourth Street and the adjacent Ocean View Historic District serve as ample proof.

Ocean View
Ocean View Historic District (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

At times, it appears that our Landmarks Preservation Ordinance is the final bulwark standing in the way of wholesale bulldozing of the city’s past. It is no wonder that residents who are affected by inappropriate development sometimes seize on the LPO as their last resort. Had our planning mechanisms worked as they should, there would be no need for this kind of desperate action. But Berkeley’s planning mechanisms don’t work as they should.

Clearly, designating this or that building a Landmark is not an effective way to protect historic neighborhoods. What Berkeley’s neighborhoods require are Neighborhood Conservation District zoning overlays that add a level of protection to selected neighborhoods. Many American cities have adopted Neighborhood Conservation District ordinances or similar zoning tools that help protect the historic fabric without the need to initiate individual structures within the selected neighborhoods.

Our LPO is not broken, and the Planning Commission’s proposed revisions will not improve it. These revisions will certainly not solve the problems outlined above but only exacerbate them. Requests for Determination will generate an unsustainable workload for the LPC and Planning staff, who would be required to devote a great deal of time to vetting them instead of doing what they’re there to do. Furthermore, the proposed RFD will curtail public participation in a process that is required by law to be open and inclusive.

Reducing protections for Structures of Merit is a negative way to deal with the problem of neighbors vs. developers. As the creator of the Berkeley Landmarks website, I have made it my business to know every Structure of Merit in town. Since the inception of the LPO, only 36 buildings have been designated Structures of Merit. Of these, three were later redesignated as Landmarks and four were demolished, leaving us with 29 standing Structures of Merit. You can see them all here and judge for yourselves how they contribute to the built environment.

I always cite the Structure of Merit across the street from my house. It is Weltevreden, now known as Tellefsen Hall—the Cal Band’s house. Once the most celebrated residence in Berkeley, it is cited in many architectural history books. Heavily altered in the 1950s, Weltevreden nevertheless remains a significant structure that deserves full CEQA protection. See it here.

Some pro-development advocates want to see the Structures of Merit category go away, so that neighbors would not “abuse” it. If Berkeley had Neighborhood Conservation Districts, no one would look upon Structures of Merit as the last resort, and we’d be able to protect our heritage without controversy.

We all want a healthy, beautiful, and vibrant city. A strong Landmarks Preservation Ordinance is an important tool that needs to be properly understood and shouldn’t be hastily revised, especially when the revisions signify major reductions in historic and environmental protections.

The Landmarks Preservation Commissioners appointed by you voted unanimously to recommend that a third-party expert be retained to examine the LPO. This is a prudent way to proceed. Would that you’ll see the wisdom in it and act accordingly.

Daniella Thompson
Berkeley, CA

05 July 2005

Susan Cerny on the LPO revisions

July 5, 2005

To: Mayor and City Council

From: Susan Cerny

Former Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, author of Berkeley Landmarks, contributing author Picturing Berkeley, A Postcard History; author of over 200 articles on the history of Berkeley for the Berkeley Gazette, Berkeley Voice, and Berkeley Daily Planet. Currently project manager and editor of The Architecture of the San Francisco Bay Area (Gibbs Smith, Publisher).

Re: Landmark Preservation Ordinance Revisions

Until the present building boom, historic preservation in Berkeley was widely accepted as being beneficial to the city and tolerated by the few developers inconvenienced by its requirements.

During the past decade, as the economy has changed and development increased, developers impatient to cash in on a strong economy are no longer patient or tolerant of anything that stands in their path.

While the goals of the original July 2000 directive to the Landmarks Preservation Commission were simple: “to revise the ordinance in conformance with the Permit Streamlining Act and California Environmental Quality Act,” the resulting proposals go far beyond that simple directive.

There are two points that are particularly disturbing:

  1. Placing CEQA review of designated historic buildings in the Zoning Adjustments Board.

    Under CEQA, in a jurisdiction where there is an official State Certified Landmarks Preservation Commission, the final body responsible for determining any level of detriment or adverse impact to a designated historic structure must be the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Under these particular circumstances, it is quite possible that decisions made by the ZAB in determining impacts on historic structures under CEQA may not even be legal.

  2. The elimination of the category Sructure of Merit

    This category is misunderstood: Structure of Merit allows the recognition of structures that retain much integrity—such as location, structure profile, or association—but are not in pristine condition (e.g., stucco over original wood siding or additions).

    Berkeley citizens like to believe that it happens “only in Berkeley,” but Berkeley’s preservation ordinance is based on the National Preservation Act of 1966. Preservation ordinances are found throughout the country—Berkeley is not unique in this regard.

    The LPO and LPC provide a formal public forum for discussion and decision making. This is their most important function. The built environment is precious to every citizen and should not, must not, be taken lightly. Pressure from developers to change our city’s environment should be critically evaluated; there is simply nothing wrong with that, and actually developers expect the discussion even if they complain. Respect for the average citizen’s right to this public forum is crucial to the health, safety, and welfare of the city.


Susan Cerny

History of Preservation

The history of legislation protecting the natural environment dates back to the creation of Yellowstone Park in 1872 and the National Park Service in 1916; by the 1930s, the Park Service also had responsibility for historic sites and structures, initiating the Historic American Building Survey in 1933 and receiving a wider preservation charge under the Historic Sites Act of 1935. In 1949, the National Trust was created by Congress as a private nonprofit to receive and administer historic sites and otherwise promote preservation.

The Historic Preservation Act of 1966 established the National Register and state surveys, and created the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which reviews federally funded projects for adverse effects on cultural resources.

In 1992, the State of California Governor’s Executive Order W-26-92 brought the Federal Preservation Act to the state level and declared, “all state agencies shall recognize and preserve and maintain the
significant heritage resources of the State.”

The State Historic Resources Inventory, which the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, in partnership with the City of Berkeley, prepared for the State Office of Historic Preservation in 1977–1979, was part of a federal program mandated by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a means of implementing the 1966 Preservation Act. It is a project of national preservation law which requires localities to identify resources eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Berkeley’s was one of the first state inventories in California and is highly regarded by the State Office.

28 June 2005

LPC rethinks LPO revisions

In its special meeting on Monday, 27 June, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to reject both its own and the Planning Commission’s revisions to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. Both versions go before the City Council on 12 July.

Adopting LPC chair Jill Korte’s motion, the commission recommended “that the City proceed with caution, comply with CEQA, and engage in a public EIR process that moves in a deliberate fashion towards a strong and clearly implementable ordinance.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission cannot recommend the June 2004 LPC proposed revisions to the Landmarks Preservation and Zoning Ordinances for the following specific reasons:

  • The Precompletion Review Process presents a significant increase in workload for city staff and LPC alike and needs some reconsideration (the question of workload was not adequately researched during the drafting of the LPC proposal).

  • The implementing procedures for the Precompletion Review Process have not been fully explored and developed and it is unclear if the process is workable.

  • The Precompletion Review process limits public participation in the initiation and designation for landmarks from what currently exists.

  • The proposed revisions, as prepared by staff, give to ZAB the authority for determining the level of environmental review under CEQA, even though LPC unanimously requested that LPC be provided that authority because its members are more qualified to assess the impacts of development projects on historic resources (the revisions are purported to reflect the LPC opinion, but in this case actually reflect staff opinion).

The Landmarks Preservation Commission cannot recommend the June 2005 Planning Commission proposed revisions to the Landmarks Preservation and Zoning Ordinances for the following specific reasons:

  • Authority for determining the level of CEQA review for historic resources is given to ZAB when that authority is more appropriate for the LPC, as its members have more expertise to assess potential impacts of development projects on historic resources.

  • The proposed Planning Commission revisions provide for three separate processes for initiation and designation of a property where only one exists today. The City is setting its staff and citizens up for additional confusion.

  • The Request for Review within the context of a development project limits public participation in the initiation and designation process for landmarks from what currently exists.

  • The Request for Determination outside the context of a development project is particularly egregious since without a project, there is no force, no momentum to gather the latent public interest, and no pathway for public notice and public participation is provided in these revisions, even if public concern was otherwise piqued. The implementing procedures outlined are complex, no forms have been prepared or tested, and its practicality is questionable. The proposed process is also unusual in that historic preservation ordinances are typically predicated upon defining, not eliminating resources. The best goal is for the Landmarks Commission to work within its currently established practices and procedures for initiation and designation of historic resources. No additional process outside the context of a development project is necessary or acceptable.

  • The proposed changes to the Structure of Merit designation and the lessening of its associated protections are unacceptable. Structures of Merit are particularly important in providing context for landmarked structures and for their part in conveying the history of streetfronts, blocks, and neighborhoods. The designation remains an essential tool for illustrating important patterns of development and important eras of historical, social, and cultural development where no other tool exists. In a city such as Berkeley that has been slow to formally survey its loosely identified historic districts (e.g., Lorin District, signed as such but not designated) and to develop tools (e.g., historic preservation overlay zones) to protect distinct and historically important districts, the Structure of Merit designation plays an important tool in relaying history and protecting the diversity that history displays. The proposed changes would eliminate protection for Structures of Merit under CEQA, eliminate Commission review of alteration permit applications and place decisions on alteration permits squarely in the closet of the Zoning Officer without benefit of the expertise of the Commission, without public input, and without a process of appeal.

The LPC concluded by recommending that an independent third-party expert be retained to analyze the existing LPO and the two proposed revisions and make recommendations. The commission expressed the belief that revisions required to comply with the Permit Streamlining Act can be relatively simple and straightforward.

Download the complete motion (MS Word, 44 K).

Read CEQA attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley’s letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

06 June 2005

Sixteen summer walking tours in Oakland

Courtesy of Oakland Heritage Alliance

Every Saturday and Sunday from 9 July to 28 August, the Oakland Heritage Alliance will be leading walking tours of Oakland neighborhoods.

BAHA members enjoy the discounted $5 price offered to OHA members. Non-members pay $10.

No reservations are needed except for the 28 August tour (see below).
For complete tour details, visit Oakland Heritage Alliance or download the tour brochure (pdf, 536 K).
9 July
Oakland Airport/North Field
10 July
Mountain View Cemetery
16 July
Francis Marion “Borax” Smith Estate
17 July
Montclair Village
23 July
Produce Market and the Waterfront Warehouse district
24 July
Oakland’s First Suburb and Preservation Park
30 July
Kaiser Center Roof Garden and Oakland Museum of California Garden
31 July
6 August
Uptown Art Deco
6 August
Sheffield Village
7 August
14 August
Pill Hill
20 August
Oakland Point
21 August
Crocker Highlands
27 August
Twenties Time Warp: Picardy Drive and Mills Gardens
28 August
Around the Claremont Hotel. Tour limited to 30 people. $20 OHA & BAHA members, $25 non-members. Includes reception and lecture at an elegant home designed by architect Albert Farr.

30 May 2005

A strong sense of time and place

Hillside School (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

At BAHA’s annual membership meeting, State Historic Preservation Officer Milford Wayne Donaldson addressed a capacity audience on the subject of historic districts. Quoting Aristotle, he reminded us that “men come together in cities; they remain together in order to live the good life.”

Donaldson traced the beginnings of the preservation movement to the 19th century, citing the 1853 preservation of Mount Vernon by Ann Pamela Cunningham and a group of dedicated women as the first step that launched the movement. He told us that from an initial focus on period rooms and single house museums, the preservation movement has grown to encompass complexes of buildings, ranging from the outdoor museums of Colonial Williamsburg to historic districts in cities and towns across the land.

The concept of preservation was broadened to encompass neighborhoods in 1931, when the city council of Charleston, SC, zoned a neighborhood known as the Battery as an “old and historic district,” said the SHPO. This action changed the path of historic preservation, taking it into the realm of professional planning, while considering buildings of less than national significance as worthy of attention.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 included the word “district” among the types of resources the Secretary of the Interior was to list in the National Register of Historic Places. So from the beginning, districts have been an integral part of the National Register program.

A district is defined by the National Register as possessing a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development. A district is a visually cohesive and contiguous grouping of resources that have a common architectural identity and a shared history. Collectively, the grouping conveys a strong sense of past time and place.

“It is the sense of time and place that Berkeley needs to recognize. You are not Orange County,” said Donaldson, drawing applause.

He added that California, like most of the western states, tends to have problems with the creation of historic districts. Quoting James Marston Fitch’s statement “In historic districts [...] the stylistic parameters are visually evident for all to see. Thus, conformity is easier to judge and enforce,” Donaldson noted: “Not so in Berkeley. In the case of our architecturally eclectic streetscapes, judgements as to what is ‘beautiful’ or ‘appropriate’ are subjective opinions.”

Since Berkeley is a Certified Local Government with its Landmarks Preservation Commission and an advocacy group such as BAHA, controversy as to the appropriate design and preservation of the visual integrity becomes heightened. It is easier when dealing with Charleston, New Orleans, or Society Hill in Philadelphia, where the design is more or less in the same idiom, and architectural style is evident.

But the fact seems to be that historic designation review and, more importantly, embracing the local advocacy group, has worked well. In city after city—in Boston’s Quincy Market area; New York’s SOHO; San Francisco’s Waterfront; San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter; San Antonio’s River Walk district—designation works. If anything, these places may suffer from too much success from a Berkeley perspective, since cultural tourism can overwhelm the neighborhoods.

In the last analysis, the major benefits of design control in a historic district are urbanistic rather than architectural. As long as the City of Berkeley views such controls through the special perspective of architect or developer, as with most redevelopment projects, historic district designation and design review may appear to impose onerous restrictions on their freedom of action. But if the city looks at the issue from the broader point of view of the citizens of Berkeley, who may live and work in these newly designated districts, the whole matter takes on another light. In fact, the high rents, minuscule vacancy ratios, and soaring property values to be found in these controlled areas suggest that historic districs preserve the quality of life and a sense of place. It is not so much a question of preferring “Georgian” at Annapolis, Creole at New Orleans, Spanish Colonial at Monterey; it is rather the sense of blessed relief that such controlled environments give the citizen a chance to be uniquely identified and escape from the visual and sonic chaos of the typical, uncontrolled American streetscape. You throw in the social drama of Berkeley, and you have a very special place.

Surprisingly, there has been very little district nomination activity in Berkeley. The Berkeley Civic Center was listed in the National Register in 1998. Panoramic Hill was approved by the State Historic Resources Commission in February and is currently being reviewed by the National Park Service. The historic core of the University of California’s Berkeley campus is listed as California Landmark No. 946. But there must be many neighborhoods in Berkeley that would qualify for the listing. The Greenwood Common area is an excellent example of mid-20th century modernism and would certainly qualify in the area of architecture, as would any of the neighborhoods with good concentrations of Arts & Crafts and Period Revival. Districts would not necessarily need to have been designed by signature architects, nor would they need to represent one style of architecture. Collections of older commercial buildings might qualify in the area of commercial development.

Another trend is toward the creation of Neighborhood Conservation Districts. These offer community-based solutions aimed at protecting an area’s distinctive character and may receive funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Critical Issues Fund. Although these neighborhoods may not merit designation as a historic district, they warrant special land-use attention owing to their distinctive character and importance as viable contributing areas to the community at large. Thirty U.S. cities have Neighborhood Conservation Districts.

The California Main Street program relies on the creation of historic districts as partners to help solve the inner-city problems of crime, drug sales, prostitution, poverty, physical deterioration, property abandonment, and demolition. Phase development and implementation of neighborhood development, affordable housing, and the creation of historic districts and preservation programs are the key to revitalization. It is absolutely pramount that the planning process include not only the traditional partners but the interest, generosity, and flexibility of a local group like BAHA.

Another trend toward the creation of historic districts to prevent loss of place is well illustrated by Pasadena and the construction of the Long Beach Freeway. Since 1973 and the planning of this right-of-way, five historic districts with 1,500 homes and 7,000 mature trees have been created. The Low Build alternative with intercity street corridors is now under way.

Berkeley is one of a few communities that promote the positive need for variety in urban life. It was perhaps the understanding of this vitalizing challenge that caused interurban residents in the 1960s to be more interested in the renewal of Berkeley than in the fresh building of modern garden communities.

Like other similar communities, Berkeley faces two principal challenges in the future: increasing population size and the attendant increase in land values. There is an optimum numerical size beyond which each further increment of inhabitants creates difficulties out of all proportion to the benefits. The creation of historic districts can help direct planning efforts and control growth to a certain degree. Past incremental growth areas are good candidates for districts: the block-by-block development, the shopping neighborhood, or the corridor avenue of the past created regions of congestion. Enter the earlier trolleys, Ashby Station, BART. As we look back, these areas now look small, pastoral, and ripe for historic districts, frozen in a time that none of us can really remember.

Limitations in size, density, and expansion area are absolutely necessary to effective social intercourse. They are therefore the most important instruments of rational economic and civil planning. The unwillingness to establish such limits in Berkeley has been due mainly to two facts. The first was the assumption that all upward changes in magnitude are signs of progress and automatically “good for business.” The second was the belief that such limitations are essentially arbitrary, reduce the opportunity to profit from congestion, and halt the inevitable course of change. In Berkeley, where there is a public demand for maintaining quality of life and a sense of place, these objections are groundless.

The increase in property values will eventually promote urban growth and paralyze those social functions you cherish. Without the creation of historic districts, unless strict planning and design guidelines are in place, higher property values will lead to demolition, inappropriate and out-of-scale additions, or large in-fill structures. Without the creation of historic districts and design guidelines to follow, BAHA will face battle after battle for each new development within your community. Don’t let Berkeley become another Laguna Beach, La Jolla, Pleasanton, Tracy, or Santa Cruz.

In summary, Berkeley is a related collection of primary groups and purposive associations unique in California. The first, like family and neighborhood, are common to all communities, while the second are especially characteristic of Berkeley’s city life. These areas form the nexus of a historic district to tell the continuing story of social culture and the group drama. For Berkeley, it’s important not to dwell too long on the physical attributes of individual structures but rather on the social activities within the context of these structures. You are not the forced Spanish Revival of Santa Barbara, the modern movement of Palm Springs, or the Mission Revival neighborhoods of Riverside.

Berkeley is the social creation of different opportunities, specialized interests, intensively trained aptitudes, discriminations and selections, all leading to the significant collection of Berkeley drama, told through its people. If you keep the scale, keep the communities and your spirit of culture, Berkeley will be Berkeley.

23 May 2005

SHPO Wayne Donaldson speaks at Hillside School

Hillside School Auditorium (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

BAHA’s annual Members’ Meeting and Preservation Awards Ceremony will take place on Thursday, 26 May, in the auditorium of the Hillside School (Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., 1925; #82000961, National Register of Historic Places), 1581 Le Roy Avenue at Buena Vista Way.

The keynote speaker will be California’s State Historic Preservation Officer Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA. Inducted into the national AIA College of Fellows in 1992, Mr. Donaldson was decorated as the Preservationist of the Year by the California Preservation Foundation in 1995 and received more than twenty awards for the House of Hospitality reconstruction in San Diego’s Balboa Park. He is one of the leading figures in preservation architecture in California and the Western U.S., most notably for the restoration of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, now a National Historic Landmark District.

Mr. Donaldson is affiliated with several historical and preservation organizations and is a past president of the California Preservation Foundation (CPF) and past chair of the State Historical Building Safety Board, the State Historical Resources Commission, and the Historic State Capitol Commission.

The doors will open at 6:00 pm, with dinner (catered by Poulet, with dessert by Gregoire) at 6:30, the business meeting at 7:30, and the program and awards ceremony at 8:00. All members are invited to the business meeting and the program.

Dinner is by reservation only and costs $30 per person. For dinner reservations, please send a check made out to BAHA to:
BAHA Dinner
P.O. Box 1137
Berkeley, CA 94701

Reservations will be held at the door.

You may also pay online.

20 May 2005

ABC 7 Listens community feedback meeting

ABC 7 Listens is an ongoing community outreach project started by KGO-TV/ABC 7 News. Community meetings are held every month at different locations around the Bay Area.

The next ABC 7 Listens community feedback meeting will be held in Berkeley on Wednesday, 25 May, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm at Dwinelle Hall, Room 160, on the U.C. campus.

Local residents and people involved in Berkeley groups and organizations are invited to participate. Story ideas and feedback on KGO’s news coverage are sought.

Reporter Heather Ishimaru and several news managers will be present. A news camera will record parts of the meeting.

Space is limited. RSVP via e-mail to abc7listens@kgo-tv.com or call the Public Affairs Department at (415) 954-7702.

12 May 2005

Demolitions, integrity, and
Structures of Merit

The Squires Block (left) at Shattuck Avenue and Vine Street (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2005)

I’m relieved that enough Planning Commissioners last night manifested the common sense to rein in the zeal of others who were intent on stripping the Landmarks Preservation Commission of all its meaningful powers, and especially the power to deny demolitions.

Yet some grave perils to our Landmarks Preservation Ordinance are still ahead. When Planning Commissioners Burke and Wengraf recommended “strict adherence to the standards of integrity set out by the Secretary of Interior standards, as recommended by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO),” they subverted the spirit of the SHPO’s own language, which was quite inclusive and allows a building to be designated on the strength of its historic, cultural, or social merits quite apart from any architectural merit or integrity it may or may not possess.

On the issue of Structures of Merit, Burke and Wengraf’s recommendation was to abolish the designation for now and to “create a new designation with lesser protections, distinct from a landmark designation, as suggested by SHPO.” Again, the SHPO never suggested such a thing. It merely asked the LPC to think about the issue of having two separate categories with equal protections.

I’ll say it again: the SHPO asked the LPC—not the Planning Commission or any other body unqualified to deal with architectural and historic resources. The LPC was going to deliberate the Structure-of-Merit issue at a later date. Let the experts do their job without meddling.

Especially in light of the real-estate interests’ outcry for architectural integrity in landmarks, the Structure of Merit category makes eminent sense, for it allows buildings that have been altered but retain their historic, cultural, educational, or social significance to be designated and protected.

What Berkeleyan would want this city to lose the Durant Hotel, or the Weisbrod Building at 2001 San Pablo, or Weltevreden (the Cal Band house) on the Northside, or the Squires Block at Shattuck and Vine? These are all designated Structures of Merit. The appellation “Merit” was not given without reason.

See Berkeley’s Structures of Merit here.

The Landmarks Preservation Ordinance’s Section 3.24.110 Landmarks, historic districts and structures of merit—Designation—Criteria for consideration.

11 May 2005

Whither goes our Landmarks Ordinance?

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a depressed colleague in Nebraska. He wrote:
Here in Lincoln, the only Progressive on our city council was voted out of office May 3 with the help of tons of negative (and false, twisted) radio, TV and print advertising paid for by the Nebraska Republican Party.

I told him that on our city council, everybody is a Democrat, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they kiss up to developers and sell the city’s interests away.

He replied:
We have the same problem with developers in Lincoln. Several members of the Lancaster County Board are developers, and the rest support the developers’ agenda. The County Board has overruled its own planning commission many times to approve new developments that violate our comprehensive plan. And now the city council is developer-oriented, too.

Monday night at the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting, Commissioner Patti Dacey expressed herself eloquently on the subject. Later she expanded her discourse in writing:
Berkeley neighborhoods are under real-estate speculation pressures unknown since the 1960s. The hideous apartment buildings and out-of-scale developments that still scar our flatland neighborhoods stand as testimony to the conditions that gave rise to our Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance and our Landmarks Preservation Ordinance in the first place. These conditions seems to be making a real comeback. Now, the Planning Commission is finishing up a very ill-conceived rewrite of our LPO that basically strips huge amounts of protection from the flatland neighborhoods while greasing the way for real-estate speculators.

These changes are essentially an attack on the flatland neighborhoods. What is ironic (or perhaps par for the course) is one of the leaders of this attack is Helen Burke, Linda Maio’s appointee to the Planning Commission and the Chair of the Creeks taskforce. Ms. Burke evidently believes that creeks deserve more protection than our flatland neighborhoods and our homes. Our vibrant, diverse, and unique flatland neighbornoods are being set up as economic opportunity zones that deserve even less protection than the small amount granted now. The proposed amendments also contradict the letter and the spirit of the General Plan, without any analysis why that document should be trashed.

People who love their neighborhoods need to really understand what is being lost in this process. Neighbors need to understand exactly who is plotting the gutting of the LPO. I can even give you examples of the ignorance of preservationist law displayed by the people who are rewriting the Landmark Preservation Ordinance to aid developers.

I fear the fix is in, and we are being sold down the river by an elitist and class-based agenda to sacrifice the flats to big developers. If you do not believe that the flatlands should be sacrificed to real-estate speculators, let your council people know. If we don’t take care of our neighborhoods, I assure you that the Planning staff will not. Just witness the mischief and the inappropriate actions taken by staff around the “Flying Cottage.”

Read also:
Canary in the Coal Mine: Berkeley’s Landmarks Ordinance by Zelda Bronstein for the Berkeley Daily Planet

Revising landmark law by John English

Letters by attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley on behalf of BAHA to the Planning Commission regarding the latter’s proposed amendments to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance:
27 April 2005
11 May 2005

04 May 2005

Reception for Burl Willes’ postcard books

Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore at 2904 College Avenue will host a reception for Burl Willes and contributors to Picturing Berkeley: A Postcard History, just released in paperback, and Burl’s new hardcover book of vintage postcards, The Monterey Peninsula: A Postcard Journey.

The reception will take place on Wednesday, 11 May, at 6 pm. Telephone: (510) 704-8222.

03 May 2005

Panoramic Hill tour photos

Tour goers inspect Walter T. Steilberg’s 1930 Fabricrete cottage
on Mosswood Lane. (photo: Daniella Thompson, May 2005)

Our 30th annual Spring House Tour, held on Sunday, 1 May, was one of the most successful in BAHA’s tour history. Approximately 1,500 tour goers climbed up and down the leafy paths and stairs of Panoramic Hill with the obligatory guidebook in hand. Their exertions were rewarded by perfect weather, stupendous vistas, lovely gardens in full bloom, and vintage homes in a great variety of architectural styles.

A glimpse of the participants and what they saw on the tour is available in four special Photo Gallery pages.

30 April 2005

GTU library undergoes repairs

Frank Wilson’s house, seen from Hearst Avenue
(Edward H. Mitchell postcard)

The Graduate Theological Union’s Flora Lamson Hewlett Library is about to undergo repairs and waterproofing construction, which will begin on 2 May and is expected to be completed by mid-November 2005.

The library is located at 2400 Ridge Road, former site of the Frank M. Wilson house. Wilson was the president of the Scenic Park Realty Co., which subdivided the Northside tract known as Daley’s Scenic Park. An early member of the Hillside Club, Wilson hosted Club meetings at his house, a barn-like Brown Shingle built by George Frederick Estey in 1894.

When Benjamin Ide Wheeler came to Berkeley to assume the presidency of the university, Frank Wilson sold him a large lot at 1820 Scenic Avenue, across the street from Wilson’s own house. It was Wilson who engaged the architect A.E. Matthews and the contractor Dingwell Brothers to build Wheeler’s shingled residence in 1900. Next door, at 1816 Scenic Ave., Wilson commissioned in 1902 a temporary residence (later to become the university reception hall) for Regent Phoebe Apperson Hearst. This building was designed by Ernest Coxhead, who went on to design Mrs. Hearst a more permanent residence around the corner, at 2368 Le Conte Avenue. All three houses are still standing.

On the Ridge Road side, Wilson sold a lot to U.C. Supervising Architect John Galen Howard, who built his home at no. 2420 in 1902. Next door and across the street, Howard designed homes for Lucy Sprague Mitchell, the first Dean of Women at U.C., and for her brother-in-law, economics professor Adolph C. Miller. Of the three houses, only the Miller residence survived the 1923 fire. It is now an USCA residential co-op called Ridge House.

Wilson house and neighboring residences in 1911 (Sanborn maps)

After the 1923 fire, various seminaries esablished themselves in the vicinity (the land was cheap), hence the moniker Holy Hill. The Wilson plot remained in private hands, and by the late 1950s, both USCA and U.C. were vying for it. The university wanted to build a parking structure at Hearst and Scenic and a string of buildings to its north. USCA had more grandiose plans; as recounted in its official history, the architects Ratcliff & Ratcliff presented a design for the following USCA complex in 1959:
A three-winged high-rise men’s residence unit spoked around a living-center hull would tower twelve stories above Ridge and Scenic. An eight-floor hall for women would squat in the present location of Ridge House. Between these two massive structures a central kitchen, office, and dining room edifice would sit.

The university stopped USCA’s plan. It built the parking structure, but nothing more. The GTU Library history tells us:
The site for a new library building at the corner of Ridge and Scenic was purchased from the American Baptist Seminary of the West and the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The lot was known as the “Wilson Property.” [...]

In 1972, the architect, Louis I. Kahn was chosen to design a library and administration building. [...] (The drawings for Louis Kahn's original design for the library are at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania.) Kahn completed preliminary designs, but died suddenly in 1974. The GTU then selected the architectural firm of Peters, Clayberg and Caulfield, in association with Esherick, Homsey, Dodge, and Davis, to carry on the project Kahn inspired.

The process for building permits was difficult. Neighborhood and student groups opposed the new construction. After many delays, permits were granted, the existing structure demolished and the site prepared. It was now 1979, and the building fund was not enough to cover the cost. The GTU Board of Trustees decided to build the library in two Phases. Phase I construction consisting of the basement and Level I began in 1979, and was completed in 1981. [...] Phase II construction of Levels II, to complete the Library, and III, to house GTU administration offices, began in 1985 and was completed 1987.

27 April 2005

Conditional approval for Foothill bridge

At last night’s City Council meeting, the Council received the following recommendation from the City Manager:

Adopt a Resolution authorizing the City Manager to issue a major encroachment permit to the University of California for a pedestrian bridge crossing (Foothill) over Hearst Avenue east of La Loma Avenue on the following conditions: 1) an improved bridge design is submitted and approved by the Public Works Director, in consultation with the Design Review Committee; 2) any detrimental effects on the immediate community are offset by contributing to specified pedestrian safety and public infrastructure improvements in the “Hearst Corridor,” in the amount of $200,000; and 3) all plan check comments and other technical issues are resolved to the satisfaction of the Public Works Director.

During the Public Comment period, Alan Seher, attorney for the owners of the adjacent National Register–listed structure, informed the Council that contrary to the university’s assertion that a tunnel alternative is not feasible, there are many tunnels under the campus, including one under Gayley Road.

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak did not even wait for a discussion but immediately moved to adopt the City Manager’s recommendation.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington introduced a substitute motion, including a requirement that U.C. defend and indemnify the city from any legal action resulting from its approval of the encroachment permit. That motion passed.

Councilmember Worthington also included a requirement that U.C. pay market rate for the encroachment permit, but this clause was voted on separately and went down to defeat.

Indemnification of the city can’t be done without the U.C. Regents’ approval. This story is not over yet.

Here are some campus tunnel stories:

Under Cal (with photos)

Berkeley Underground (Daily Californian, 8 June 2001)

Campus Tunnels (downloadable text files)

25 April 2005

LPO public hearing at
Planning Commission

Weltevreden (postcard from Dimitri Shipounoff collection, BAHA archives)

On Wednesday, 27 April, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on proposed amendments to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.

At stake are several vital issues, including the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s right to deny demolitions of historic structures, the Structure-of-Merit category, and the question of what constitutes “integrity.”

One of Berkeley’s most significant structures is a building that has been altered and could be said to have lost its “integrity.” Weltevreden, located on the corner of Le Conte and Le Roy Avenues on the Northside, was built in 1896. One of only two Berkeley structures designed by Albert C. Schweinfurth (the other is First Unitarian Church, listed in the National Register of Historic Places), Weltevreden was the first Berkeley residence to be clad entirely in clinker brick, a material then considered as refuse. The house featured distinct Dutch-style stepped gables at either end and was approached via an arched clinker-brick bridge over Strawberry Creek, which meanders through the property.

For several decades after it was built, Weltevreden was the most famous dwelling in Berkeley. Its image appeared on postcards, in promotional pamphlets, and in architectural magazines. Herman Whitaker, writing in the Sunset magazine article Berkeley, the Beautiful (December 1906), described the house as “most beautiful of all” and the “premier residence of Berkeley.” To this day, Weltevreden is cited in architectural history books as an important example of the first San Francisco Bay Region tradition.

Weltevreden survived the 1923 fire and became a fraternity house. In 1956, architect Michael Goodman enlarged it to accommodate forty-four residents by removing the stepped gable ends and adding a full third story and a kitchen-and-library wing on the eastern end. The ground-floor veranda and the second-floor balcony were enclosed, and the two upper floors were clad in stucco, leaving the brick on the ground floor.

Tellefsen Hall (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

In 1973, Weltevreden became the home of the University of California Marching Band and was given the name Tellefsen Hall. It was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark, Structure of Merit, in August 1990. The Structure-of-Merit designation was tied to the loss of physical integrity, recognizing that even in its altered state, Weltevreden continues to be a key component of its historic neighborhood. Owing to this designation, the ground-floor exterior was preserved when the building underwent seismic improvements in 2000. Had it not been for the Structure-of-Merit category, there would have been no imperative to preserve any historic feature in this important building.

The public hearing will be held at the North Berkeley Senior Center, beginning at 7 pm. Come and speak.

21 April 2005

Phi Delta Theta chapter house

Phi Delta Theta chapter house in 1915 (San Francisco Architectural Club Yearbook)

The former Phi Delta Theta chapter house at 2717 Hearst Avenue is a Berkeley Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a very beautiful building within and without. It is currently being restored.

Completely surrounded by the Foothill student housing complex, the building is at the center of the long-running Foothill bridge controversy scheduled for a vote by the City Council. The proposed bridge would be placed next to the landmark’s front entrance.

Here is the long overdue story of this building and its history.

25 March 2005

Actors Reading Writers at the BCC

Berkeley City Club (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

The Berkeley City Club and the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts are offering a new performance series: Actors Reading Writers. Popular local actors will read modern and classic short stories every first Monday of the month at the Club. These events are free.

Monday, 4 April at 7:30pm
Russian Masters 
• “Lady with Lapdog” by Anton Chekhov, read by John Mercer.
• “Hodel” by Shalom Aleichem, read by Larry le Paule.

Book Exchange: bring a book and/or take a book.