29 December 2006

Gale Garcia: Save historic buildings

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006

The following is a letter to the editor published today in the Berkeley Voice:

For several years, Mayor Bates and other pro-development forces have been trying to weaken our 32-year-old Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, which is all we have to protect the historic character of our town.

Measure J was a grassroots citizens’ initiative to retain our existing ordinance, in response to the mayor’s plan to adopt a new, demolition-friendly ordinance. Tens of thousands of dollars from developers and the chamber of commerce were spent to defeat Measure J, through a mean-spirited campaign of ridicule and lies.

On Dec. 12, the City Council approved the mayor’s new “Landmark Preservation Ordinance,” which is more like a demolition ordinance. When the public was allowed to comment, no one spoke in favor of this ordinance; many spoke in opposition, receiving vigorous applause.

Last-minute changes were hastily made so that no one had the chance to read the final version before the council adopted it, not even the council members!

The mayor’s ordinance enables demolition of historic buildings when there are no current plans to replace the buildings. This could lead to tax losses for the city, as some property taxes are based on square footage of structures.

With the market changing, several developers have already dropped their plans to build, in some cases after demolishing the existing buildings, leaving blighted vacant lots in their stead.

If you care about Berkeley’s unique neighborhoods and commercial areas, and if you care about honest public process, please sign the referendum to place this matter on the ballot. This will ensure that the mayor’s ordinance can be read, considered and understood before it becomes law—and before it’s too late.

Gale Garcia

26 December 2006

Save the Stadium Oaks videos

Jess Walsh entertains the SF Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius atop her tree perch. (L.A. Wood)

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Memorial Stadium oak grove or participate in the various events that have been taking place there, not to worry. L.A. Wood is recording it all on videos that you can watch online.

See the ceremonies, the vigils, the rallies, the tree-sitters and their ground crew, police interventions, and even a columnist and a photographer from the San Francisco Chronicle huffing and puffing their way 50 feet up to Jess Walsh’s tree perch (the columnist C.W. Nevius lasted 3-1/2 hours in the tree).

29 November 2006

Memorial Stadium now in the National Register

The California Memorial Stadium, designed by John Galen Howard and completed in 1923, is finally listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

John English wrote the application at the behest of BAHA. It was submitted in September 2005 and has undergone several revisions since.

The nominated property includes the contributing structure (Memorial Stadium) and the contributing site, which includes the oak grove & other open spaces around the stadium.

The listing came as good news to all Berkeleyans currently waging a battle to save the stadium oak grove (see the post dated 10 November).

The Regents’ Committee on Grounds & Buildings will meet on Tuesday, 5 December 2006, at 4:30 pm, in the UCSF Mission Bay Community Center, 1675 Owens St., San Francisco, CA 94158-2265 (see map).

People wishing to address the Committee should call the Regents’ Secretary ahead of time at (510) 987-9220.

15 November 2006

A visit to the U.S. Court of Appeals

Photo: Allen Stross, 2006

Kicking off BAHA’s third annual Outings on Fridays series of guided tours, we visited the magnificent U.S. Court of Appeals Building at at Seventh & Mission Streets in San Francisco.

This imposing granite edifice was designed in the 1890s by James Knox Taylor, chief architect for the U.S. Treasury Department, to house the federal courts and the main San Francisco post office. When it opened in 1905, Sunset magazine called it the Versailles of the West.

See photos of the opulent interiors in our photo gallery.

10 November 2006

Save the Stadium Oaks rally

Circle Around the Oaks ceremony (photo: Daniella Thompson)

Yesterday, the Save the Oaks Coalition held a ceremony at the Memorial Stadium oak grove, followed by a rally at Sproul Plaza. Over a hundred students and community members took part in the rally.

U.C. recently released its final EIR on the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP), which proposes to cut down approximately 43 heritage trees in the stadium grove—38 of them Coast Live Oaks protected under a City of Berkeley ordinance—to make way for the new Student Athlete High-Performance Center.

Jane DeCuir chants for the trees (photo: Daniella Thompson)

In the oak grove yesterday, participants included former Berkeley mayor Shirley Dean and her husband Dan; Peter Selz, founding director of the Berkeley Art Museum; Carole Schemmerling and Jennifer Pearson, co-chairs of Friends of Strawberry Creek; Sally Sachs, former BAHA president; Jerry Wachtel, president of the Panoramic Hill Neighborhood Association; activists L.A. Wood, Doug Buckwald, Fredrica Drotos, and Michael Kelly; and representatives of various neighborhoods and associations.

Wearing green ribbons, all formed a circle while Zachary Running Wolf burned sage leaves and Jane DeCuir blessed the trees in a Native-American ceremony. Green ribbons were then tied around the threatened oaks.

Students demonstrate for the oaks in Sproul Plaza (photo: Daniella Thompson)

Following the ceremony, participants marched to the U.C. campus, where they were joined in Sproul Plaza by a large group of students bearing signs. The enthusiastic crowd was addressed by Doug Buckwald, Juliet Lamont (on behalf of the Sierra Club), Zachary Running Wolf, councilmember Dona Spring, three student leaders, the one-and-only Wavy Gravy, and representatives of Julia Butterfly Hill’s Circle of Life Foundation and the California Oak Foundation. Beating her drum, Jane DeCuir led all present in a chant for the oaks.

Hand-made signs abounded (photo: Daniella Thompson)

The event concluded with a march to California Hall, where Chancellor Birgeneau has his office. The chancellor not being on hand, a stack of 3,000 petitions was handed to security officer Al Rollins.

Demonstrators deliver petition to California Hall (photo: Daniella Thompson)

See L.A. Wood’s videos of the two events and more photos on his website.

02 November 2006

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.

It’s no secret to anyone that the land under Celia’s 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 Celia’s 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 LPC’s Notice of Decision, the Planning Department’s recommendation to the council, and the council’s 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 who’s responsible? Naturally not Flint, but the Landmarks Preservation Commission. At least that’s what the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce would have you believe, with the mayor’s 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 don’t count.

So how do we get rid of the LPO? Easy. Just pin all of Berkeley’s ills on it. And if it doesn’t sound entirely credible, let’s throw in a handful of lies. Nobody will know the difference anyway.

Let’s tell those saps that the existing LPO (and thus Measure J) “violates state law.” It sounds convincing, even if it’s a bare-faced lie.

Let’s 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 mayor’s proposed LPO is no different in this respect.

Let’s plant in their feeble minds that Measure J “allows designating anything built before 1966 as a landmark.” They won’t bother to investigate the truth and won’t discover that Measure J includes fairly stringent criteria for designating historic resources.

Let’s have them believe that only Measure J will reduce the number of signatures on a landmark petition to 25. Surely they won’t check the mayor’s proposed LPO and won’t find out that it stipulates exactly the same number, because the State Office of Historic Preservation recommended it.

While we’re at it, we’ll also tell the innocent ninnies that Measure J “removes the state historic standard of integrity from our landmarking process.” That’s a particularly good one. Everybody will fall for it. So what if it’s a shameless fib? Who’s to know that Measure J incorporates the state standard of integrity into the LPO?

And finally, let’s hit them where it really counts—in the pocketbook. We’ll tell them that Measure J will waste tax payers’ money and slow down their home upgrades. Yes, it’s only an urban legend, but you know how many people fall for those.

That should take care of it. Then we’ll plant some of our own on the Landmarks Preservation Commission—people smart enough to appreciate an opportunity site when they see one.

In ten years, no one will remember what Berkeley used to look like.

27 October 2006

Inspired by Precedent, Part 2

Anthony Hall, U.C. Berkeley campus (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006)

How can the beguiling U.C. campus pavilion known as the Pelican Building be so Maybeck and yet not be?

This question and others about the origins of buildings inspired by others find an answer in part two of the series.

13 October 2006

Inspired by Precedent

Chapel of the Cross (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006)

How many distinctive structures in the East Bay are modeled after famous precedents? The article Inspired by Precedent tracks down some of them.

The first of two parts was published today in the Berkeley Daily Planet. The version on the BAHA website includes many more images of the buildings and their inspirations.

10 October 2006

California Tiles: Arts & Crafts Principles Revive the Golden Era

Tile expert and collector Riley Doty was a major contributor to the book California Tile: The Golden Era 1910–1940 (Schiffer, 2004). In this lecture, Riley and fellow historian Joe Taylor will argue that a second golden era is currently underway. The lecture will be illustrated by images of significant installations from the Middle Ages to the present and a selection of contemporary and historic art tiles. Part of an ongoing Arts & Crafts lecture series at the Hillside Club.

Thursday, 26 October 2006, 8:00 pm
Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley
Suggested donation: $10

09 October 2006

The pleasures of Point Richmond

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006

On Saturday, 7 October 2006, Susan Schwartz led a Berkeley Path Wanderers walking tour around historic Point Richmond.

You can follow the tour’s path in our Photo Gallery.

Jay Cross posted another set of photos on Flickr.

26 September 2006

Mills College Landscape Heritage Plan lecture series

Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz
The Design of Mills College: A Campus Rooted in Hope
Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Reception 5:00 pm
Lecture 5:30 pm with Q & A to follow
Bender Room, Carnegie Hall, Mills College

Professor and renowned author Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz of Smith College will consider Mills within the evolving plan of women’s colleges in the United States and its bearing on the campus today.

Phoebe Cutler
Mills College and Oakland's Golden Age of Horticulture, 1918–1950
Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Reception 5:00 pm
Lecture 5:30 pm with Q & A to follow
Bender Room, Carnegie Hall, Mills College

Author Phoebe Cutler, who writes and lectures on garden and landscape history, will speak about the work of landscape architect, Howard Gilkey, the first landscape architect at Mills College, and Dr. Howard McMinn noted botanist and their influence both regionally and nationally.

Vonn Marie May
Reading the Cultural Landscape of Mills College: Findings from the Getty Campus Heritage Grant Project
Wednesday, 28 March 2007
Reception 5:00 pm
Lecture 5:30 pm with Q & A to follow
Bender Room, Carnegie Hall, Mills College

Vonn Marie May, Cultural Landscape Specialist and prime consultant to the Mills College Landscape Heritage Plan, will present the team's findings on the campus' development by significant architects, landscape architects, botanists, and campus planners whose influence helped shape the cultural landscape of the Mills College campus.

Please RSVP to Carrie Milligan at (510) 430-2125 or cmilliga@mills.edu.

Mills College is located at 5000 MacArthur Boulevard, Oakland, California 94613.

22 September 2006

Vote for our treasures

First Church of Christ, Scientist, school wing (photo: Daniella Thompson 2004)

Partners in Preservation is a $10 million, five-year commitment to historic preservation that will increase public awareness of the importance of historic preservation in the United States and around the world. This commitment will help protect historic and cultural landmarks and will strengthen local communities. It is a joint effort between American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the World Monuments Fund.

This year, the Partners in Preservation initiative is focusing on the Bay Area. Twenty-five resources (including seven in the East Bay) have been chosen to compete for award money. The three Berkeley resources in the running are the First Church of Christ, Scientist, the Berkeley City Club, and the Tilden Park Carousel.

Who decides on the award winners? You and the rest of the voting public. All you have to do is register. It’s free. Then vote for any resource of your choice as often as once a day until 31 October.

Rankings change daily. Your repeated voting can influence results, so vote late or early, but vote often.

19 September 2006

Outings on Fridays in Berkeley & SF

U.C. Faculty Club

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). Tickets: $15 per tour or $50 for all four
Lunch is optional.

1 December 2006
Berkeley Public Library (lunch downtown)

2 February 2007
U.C. Faculty Club (lunch at the club)

2 March 2007
First Church of Christ, Scientist (lunch on the Southside)

6 April 2007
Sisterna Historic District (lunch in West Berkeley)

And a special treat, free for all!
3 November 2006
U.S. Court of Appeals Building, San Francisco

See the BAHA Events Calendar for details.

29 August 2006

Save the Oaks at the Stadium

BAHA ramblers at the oak grove (photo: Daniella Thompson 2006)

Save the Oaks at the Stadium is a grass-roots volunteer citizens’ group dedicated to stopping the destruction of the oak grove adjacent to California Memorial Stadium.

The university plans to cut down the oaks and build a Student Athlete High-Performance Center (see BAHA’s letter to UC).

Visit Save the Oaks to send an e-mail to Chancellor Birgeneau, Mayor Bates, U.C. President Dynes, U.C. Regents & the Berkeley City Council. Then learn what else you can do to help.

13 August 2006

Harris Allen: the spirit of individuality

Griffith house, 2830 Russell St., 1919 (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006)

Architect Harris C. Allen (1876–1960) had no cookie cutters in his professional toolbox. No two of his buildings looked alike—each was designed for its particular site and stamped with the owner’s individuality.

Yet Allen was hardly the Zelig of architecture. All his buildings are marked with strong personalities and demonstrate, through many fine details, their designer’s enlightened sensibility to “patterns” (in Christopher Alexander’s term) that make a building livable.

Between 1901 and 1926, Allen designed 22 houses in Berkeley. Most of them are still standing. The article Harris Allen: the spirit of individuality will take you on a pictorial tour of these houses.

11 August 2006

Roadside architecture worth preserving

This noteworthy building at 2747 San Pablo Ave. is slated for demolition. (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006)

Currently used by the Berkeley Patients Group as a medical cannabis dispensary, 2747 San Pablo Ave. is scheduled for demolition. The site’s owner, David Mayeri, intends to raze the building and construct mixed-use entry-level condos, a development he describes as “a green mixed-use housing development on a major transit corridor in Berkeley, seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification through the U.S. Green Building Council.”

The building is a prime example of mid-century roadside architecture. Buildings of this type are being recognized as cultural resources worthy of preservation. Listings in the National Register of Historic Places or designations at the state or local level abound across the country. Numerous books on the building styles of roadside America have been published. Municipalities and local organizations are stepping up to protect their significant exemplars.

The building at 2747 San Pablo Avenue has all the earmarks of a classic in this genre. It possesses the prized circular design and carries it further with slanting windows and an up-tilted roof. Why can’t David Mayeri incorporate the very attractive circular façade into his green condo development?

Read the full story in Roadside architecture worth preserving.

You might also be interested in following a similar story in Santa Cruz.

03 August 2006

Harvey Helfand photography exhibit at the Faculty Club

Hearst Memorial Mining Building (photo: Harvey Helfand)

The U.C. Berkeley Faculty Club’s August art show is devoted to the work of photographer Harvey Helfand, a graduate of the College of Environmental Design and longtime campus planner.

Harvey is a columnist for the Alumni Association’s California Magazine and author of The Campus Guide: University of California Berkeley (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002). His photographs of the campus appeared in many publications. In addition to campus material, Harvey will show photographs from other parts of his life, including the time he spent working in the Palau Islands of Micronesia.

31 July 2006

Mysteries of Captain Boudrow’s house revealed

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006

Captain Boudrow’s house at Sea Captain Corner is one of Berkeley’s oldest landmarks, not only because it was built in 1889 but because it was one of the first dozen buildings to be designated in Berkeley.

According to the 1976 landmark application, “The grand Queen Anne house was built for Joseph Hart Boudrow, who was the captain of a Nova Scotia windjammer, though he made most of his his money in wrecking steamboats and sailing vessels that were no longer seaworthy.”

That remained the prevailing wisdom until this year, when BAHA bestowed a Preservation Award on the current owners of the Boudrow House for the magnificent restoration on which they had spent two years.

Subsequent research revealed that the original owner was Charles C. Boudrow (1830–1918), a shipping magnate in San Francisco who owned many sailing ships. Captain Boudrow’s nephew, Charles E. Boudrow, was a ship chandler and dealer in ship material. It was he who bought the decommissioned sloop-of-war USS Marion from the War Department in order to break it up for materials.

Across the street from Boudrow lived his partner, Captain William E. Mighell. This would account for the Oxford-Cedar intersection’s moniker Sea Captain Corner. Before Mighell, the same house (no longer standing) was owned by Thomas Murphy Antisell, the man who subsivided that neighborhood and was a piano manufacturer to boot.

Read the full story of the Boudrow House.

29 July 2006

The house that students built

Phi Kappa Psi in the 1970s (photo: Elizabeth Crews)

In 1901, when the Northide was still largely unpopulated, U.C. president Benjamin Ide Wheeler recommended it to the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity as a site for their new chapter house. The building was designed by fraternity member Harris C. Allen, a Stanford graduate who was instrumental in establishing the Berkeley chapter.

Although Allen was only 24 at the time, the building—his first— became the most admired and talked about “frat” house in Berkeley.

At its June 2006 meeting, the Landmarks Preservation Commission initiated the Phi Kappa Psi house. The public hearing on the designation proposal will take place Thursday, 3 August.

The landmark application provides the full story of this Berkeley Fire survivor.

28 July 2006

The Architecture of Ratcliff at the Oakland Museum Café

Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr. (courtesy of the Ratcliff family)

The photographic exhibit “The Architecture of Ratcliff” will be on display at the Café of the Oakland Museum of California from 1 October until 31 December 2006. The 100-year retrospective covers the work of the Ratcliff firm, which celebrates its centennial this year. Photos on display will showcase the work of three generations of Ratcliffs and will include Mills College, the Wells Fargo Building in Berkeley, U.C. Berkeley’s remodeled Life Sciences Building, Oakland Airport Terminal II, Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Palo Alto, Berkeley City College, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fresno, and many more.  

26 July 2006

William Morris: Socialist and Shopkeeper

Lecture at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St.
Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 8 pm

British design historian Alan Crawford is the author of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1995) and C.R. Ashbee: Architect, Designer, and Romantic Socialist (1986). He is currently working on a history of the Arts and Crafts movement in England for Yale University Press, and on Court Barn, a new museum and study center in Chipping Campden devoted to the Arts and Crafts movement and its legacy in the north Cotswolds.

In his lecture at the Hillside Club, Mr. Crawford will focus on the contradictions in the career of William Morris, who was both capitalist and communist, socialist and shopkeeper.

$15 (refreshments provided)

Payment may be made online via credit card/PayPal or by check, payable to BAHA and mailed to:, payable to BAHA, to:
P.O. Box 1137
Berkeley, CA 94701
Questions? Call (510) 841-2242 or e-mail BAHA.

30 June 2006

Cohen-Bray House wins Ugly Window contest

Pardee Home Museum, Oakland

At a party held in the garden of the Pardee Home Museum on Thursday, 29 June, Wooden Window, Inc. of Oakland announced the results of its Ugly Window contest, which promised the winning entry a custom-made replacement worth up to $5,000.

The winning entry

An independent panel of judges selected five finalists from a pool of over fifty entries. The winner by the judges’ unanimous decision was the highly deserving historic Cohen-Bray House, none of whose windows are particularly ugly, but some are deteriorated to such an extent that they have contributed water infiltration that caused additional damage within the building.

Party guests were treated to a tour of the Pardee Home’s ground floor.

21 June 2006

BAHA Preservation Awards online

Captain Boudrow House (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006)

The 2006 BAHA Preservation Awards, presented at our annual membership meeting on 25 May, are now online. Come visit.

16 June 2006

Wendy Rogers Dancing explores Julia Morgan’s architecture

YWCA of Oakland, 1515 Webster St.
Thursday, 29 June 2006, 2:00 & 6:00 pm

ODC Theater and Wendy Rogers Dancing present A Tour with Dancing: a peek at new choreography by Wendy Rogers, exploring architecure by famed Bay Area architect Julia Morgan. Morgan designed a series of YMCA buildings in California, Hawaii, and Utah. Her Oakland YWCA was built in 1915. A Tour with Dancing features danced findings produced during two weeks of site-derived research by Rogers and an ensemble of dancers. The tour will be interspersed with commentary by historian Karen McNeill and YWCA staff member VJ Purvis.

Admission: $10 general; children 10 and under free. Tickets may be purchased online or by phone: (415) 863-9834.

09 June 2006

Susan Cerny discusses Berkeley’s architectural heritage

Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore, 2904 College Ave.
Sunday, 16 July 2006, 4 pm

Architectural historian Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny, author of Berkeley Landmarks, newspaper articles, and monographs for BAHA, will talk about Berkeley’s architectural heritage, the unique quality of its early twentieth-century neighborhoods, and why preservation is essential to maintain Berkeley’s charming old-fashioned character.

Most of BAHA’s neighborhood guidebooks will be available for sale. If you’ve wanted to add to your knowlege about the houses in your neighborhood, when were they built and by whom, don’t miss this event.

27 May 2006

Ramble & picnic in the Berkeley hills

Strawberry Canyon c. 1905

Sunday, 25 June 2006, 12 noon

The California Native Plant Society’s East Bay Chapter and BAHA will sponsor a picnic and field trip with amateur California naturalists.
  • View the Berkeley Property tract California oak grove
  • Picnic in the garden of the Willis Lynn Jepson House on Panoramic Hill
  • Ramble up Strawberry Canyon following the course of the creek
$15 (picnic lunch provided). Attendance by reservation only. Payment may be made online via credit card/PayPal or by check, payable to BAHA and mailed to:, payable to BAHA, to:
P.O. Box 1137
Berkeley, CA 94701
Please include your telephone number and the names of all participants in your party. Questions? Call (510) 841-2242 or e-mail BAHA.

25 May 2006

Art Deco walking tours

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2007

The Art Deco Society is offering the following walking tours this summer:

Saturday, 3 June
Pacific Heights
Meet at 11 am Gough and Washington Sts., San Francisco
90 minutes, hilly terrain.

Sunday, 4 June
Downtown San Francisco
Meet at 11 am at the Mayan deco masterpiece, 450 Sutter St.
90 minutes, flat terrain.

Saturday, 8 July
Downtown Alameda
Meet at 11 am at Central and Park, across from the Alameda Theater.
Flat walking, about 3/4 miles, 90 minutes. Cute shops to explore nearby.

Sunday, 9 July
Downtown Oakland
Meet at 11 am at 427 13th St. and Broadway. 90 minutes, flat terrain, free on-street parking.

Saturday, 5 August
South of Market, San Francisco
Meet at 11 am at the SF Merchandise Mart, 1355 Market Street, San Francisco. Flat walking, about 90 minutes.

Sunday, 6 August
Marina District, San Francisco
Meet at 11 am at Marina Middle School, at the corner of Chestnut and Fillmore. 90 minutes, flat terrain.

Date to be announced
Downtown Berkeley
Meet at 11 am in front of the United Artists Theater on Shattuck. 90 minutes, flat walking.

Tours are $10 general, free to ADSC members or those who join on the spot. Tours are canceled in inclement weather. Call (415) 982-3326 day of tour for latest advisory. For more information or questions, e-mail us or call (415) 982-3326.

20 May 2006

Path Wanderers architectural walks

Berkeley Rose Garden (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

Saturday, 27 May, 10:00 am

Alan Kaplan, retired East Bay Regional Parks naturalist and storyteller extraordinaire, leads a Berkeley Path Wanderers walk to explore gems of North Berkeley architecture.

Meet at the entrance to the Berkeley Rose Garden, west side of Euclid Avenue between Bay View Place and Eunice Street. Bring water, snack, and sun protection. The pace will be moderate, with some steep stairways. Information at (510) 526-7609 or at berkeleypaths.org.

Saturday, 10 June, 10:00 am

Ron Sipherd leads a Berkeley Path Wanderers walk of “Willard Plus” neighborhood landmarks.

On Ron’s website you can view photos of the tour highlights and download an itinerary and a printable map of the walk. Meet on Russell Street by the streetcar bend near Regent Street. Moderate pace, mostly flat walk. Ron suggests you bring your BPWA map.

16 May 2006

What’s wrong with the city staff’s new LPO

On 1 May, staff-proposed language for the revised Landmarks Preservation Ordinance finally came out of the city’s oven, complete with a Negative Declaration. Both are available for perusal on the Planning Department’s website, as is Planning Director Dan Marks’ report to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In the meantime, a ballot initiative was filed by a group of Berkeley citizens to retain the existing LPO with modifications requested by the California Office of Historic Preservation.

John English and Laurie Bright demystify the staff’s draft in their point-by-point analyses.

11 May 2006

House Tour photo album

Montgomery house (photo: Daniella Thompson)

Did you go on our Ratcliff Centennial House Tour on 7 May? Then you might find your photo in our album.

Didn’t go? See the houses that were open on the tour (sorry, exteriors only).

08 May 2006

BAHA Annual Membership Meeting & Preservation Awards

Photo: Daniella Thompson

Hillside Club
2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley, CA 94709
Thursday, 25 May 2006

7:00  Membership meeting
7:30No-host dessert & wine
8:00Jane Powell: Travels in Preservation—Success Stories of Restoration and Adaptive Reuse
8:30Preservation Awards

This year’s keynote speaker is Jane Powell, author of the best-selling series of Bungalow books and well-known for her vivacious presentation style.

Admission to the program is free of charge.

01 May 2006

OHA at 25

A quarter-century of preserving Oakland’s history

Celebrate the work of the Oakland Heritage Alliance, preserving and protecting Oakland’s historic architecture, unique green spaces and cherished neighborhoods at the historic Lake Merritt Hotel in downtown Oakland. The Mediterranean Art Deco building was designed by prominent California architect William Weeks and opened in 1927.

Prizes! Birthday cake! Oakland songs with Joyce Whitelaw!
Complimentary appetizers & cash bar.
Tickets: $40 members/advance; $50 non-members/at the door
Additional information and tickets at oaklandheritage.org or (510) 763-9218.

Lake Merritt Hotel
1800 Madison St. on Lake Merritt
Friday, 19 May 2006
6 pm to 8 pm

Valet parking available; 15-minute walk from BART.

05 April 2006

Landmark applications online

The days of the definitive printed landmark application may soon be over. Even after an application has been filed with the city, new information often comes to light that necessitates amendments and corrections. Applications are most easily amended in digital form, and an online version can be made instantly available not only to the Landmarks Preservation Commission but to all interested persons.

Online applications have the added advantage of providing the capability to display an unlimited number of photographs without the need for printing.

Two landmark applications are currently available online. The first, for the Laura Belle Marsh Kluegel House (John Hudson Thomas, 1911) at 2667–69 Le Conte Avenue, has been repeatedly updated since it was first filed in late November 2005. The public hearing, continued from 2 February, will resume tomorrow, 6 April.

The second application, for the Bevatron and Building 51, returns to the LPC initiated by a 50-signature petition after the commission failed to act on its own initiation during its January meeting. In tomorrow’s meeting, the LPC will set a new hearing date for the Bevatron application.

31 March 2006

The residential work of Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr. in Claremont Park

Photo: Daniella Thompson, 2006

Our Spring House Tour & Garden Reception
Sunday, 7 May, 1 to 5 pm

This year’s Spring House Tour celebrates the Ratcliff centennial by showcasing the residential work of Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., Berkeley’s only official City Architect, Mills College Campus Architect, and founder of the architectural firm currently celebrating a hundred years of continuous practice.

The tour features eleven charming and elegant homes located in Duncan McDuffie’s Claremont Park, a gracious “residential park” subdivision opened in 1905. Houses open for viewing will include private commissions as well as Ratcliff’s speculative houses, noted for their beauty, spaciousness, and high quality of detail.

Tour goers will visit a gabled, brown-shingle house perched on a hillside—one of the earliest houses Ratcliff built after starting his own practice; a picture-perfect Craftsman bungalow with a riverstone fireplace; several examples of Ratcliff’s elegantly-proportioned stucco houses of the early 1910s, with superbly detailed wood-trimmed interiors; a unique English-cottage studio home from 1910; a California Mission-inspired hilltop mansion from 1909; a Spanish Colonial Revival; as well as several other houses designed in the woodsy Bay Region tradition.

Tour map, illustrated guidebook, and refreshments will be provided. General admission $35; BAHA members and guests $25. See additional information and reservations.

House docents receive complimentary admission to the tour. To volunteer, call Lynn Crosby at (510) 653-3718 or e-mail BAHA.

A pre-tour illustrated lecture will be given on by Woodruff Minor, author of the book Ratcliff Architecture, to be published in the fall by Heyday Books:

Lecture: Walter Ratcliff, Architect
Thursday, 4 May, 7:30 pm
Claiborne Hill Chapel (Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., 1949)
American Baptist Seminary of the West
Hillegass Avenue, Berkeley
Admission $10.

24 March 2006

Cardwell on the Berkeley architecture of Maybeck

First Church of Christ, Scientist (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

U.C. Architecture Professor Emeritus Kenneth H. Cardwell will speak on the Berkeley Architecture of Bernard Maybeck at the annual meeting of the Berkeley Historical Society. Cardwell is the well-known author of Bernard Maybeck: Artisan, Architect, Artist. He was a friend of the legendary architect and lives in a Maybeck-designed house.

Sunday, 23 April 2006
3 to 5 pm
Berkeley History Center
1931 Center Street, Berkeley, 94704
Admission free

18 March 2006

Kenney Cottage: a call for rescue in the SF Chronicle

Kenney Cottage awaiting a rescuer (photo: Daniella Thompson, 2004)

In August 2003, BAHA took charge of the historic Kenney cottage, a City of Berkeley Landmark, Structure of Merit that had been located behind the former Kelly-Moore Paint Company building at 1725 Universty Avenue. That building was demolished to make way for affordable housing, and BAHA undertook to find a new home for the cottage.

On Sunday, 24 August 2003, the cottage was moved (see photos) to a temporary site on a city lot at 1275 Universty Avenue. Ever since, BAHA has been trying to find it a permanent site, as well as funding for restoration. It’s been an uphill battle, and we’ve had no success so far. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle published a photo of the cottage, as well as the following letter from BAHA president Wendy Markel:
It is already two weeks since Susan Fornoff’s piece “The little house that roared” (March 4), but I am still thinking about the relevance of the Katrina Cottage and a story that is being played out here in Berkeley.

About 20 years before the 1906 earthquake, similar cottages were being built in Berkeley for settlers. The article mentioned that some of the 5,000 earthquake cottages or shacks in San Francisco are still standing, but today in Berkeley there is only one such cottage still standing, and it is in dire need of a rescue mission.

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association is custodian of the Kenney cottage after rescuing it from the builder’s demolition ball. The city generously lent the association a lot on which to place the cottage temporarily. After many false starts, grant applications, lot surveys and the like, we are still looking for a buyer. Councilwoman Linda Maio, in whose district the cottage is, recognizes the historical and cultural worth of the Kenney cottage but has been unable to solve the problem.

What do you think it will take? The Kenney cottage stands on blocks, with graffiti on its walls, and the city needs to sell the lot. Could the Parks and Recreation Department see the value and place it (like Jack London’s little shack in Oakland) at Aquatic Park, where it can be admired and even used? Maybe, like the Katrina Cottage, it could be a “grow house”? Maybe it can fulfill the “in-fill” mantra in some way? With rescues from the 1906 earthquake on our minds, will this surviving cottage be rescued?

Let’s follow the dots. Arrol Gellner wrote “Modern life throws away lessons of our frugal past” (Feb. 25); Lynette Evans wrote “What if small were fashionable” (March 4); Fornoff wrote “The little house that roared” and again Gellner wrote about “Why those ’Painted Ladies (Victorian homes) were despised for so long” (March 11). Old and small can be beautiful.

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association needs help to save a small and symbolic piece of our frugal past.

06 March 2006

Mayor’s final recommendations on the LPO

Would Weltevreden qualify as a Structure of Merit under the new rules?

On Friday, 3 March, Mayor Tom Bates released a memo containing his final recommendations for revisions to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.

These recommendations will be presented to the City Council tomorrow. The Mayor proposes that the Council charge staff to prepare new ordinance language that would adopt the changes included in his memo, to provide the draft language to the LPC and the Planning Commission by 1 May, and to set the revisions for a public hearing on 11 July.

One of the two most controversial issues in the previous round of recommendations has been the Structure of Merit category, which the Planning Commisison and some development advocates have sought to reduce to an honorary status with no CEQA protections. The Mayor’s new recommendations call for retaining Structure of Merit as a second-tier historic resource under CEQA, but require that buildings designated as Structures of Merit “have integrity as per the California Register of Historic Resources definition of integrity.”

The California Office of Historic Preservation’s Technical Assistance Bulletin #6 defines integrity as follows:
California Register

Integrity is the authenticity of an historical resource’s physical identity evidenced by the survival of characteristics that existed during the resource’s period of significance. Historical resources eligible for listing in the California Register must meet one of the criteria of significance described above and retain enough of their historic character or appearance to be recognizable as historical resources and to convey the reasons for their significance. Historical resources that have been rehabilitated or restored may be evaluated for listing.

Integrity is evaluated with regard to the retention of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. It must also be judged with reference to the particular criteria under which a resource is proposed for eligibility. Alterations over time to a resource or historic changes in its use may themselves have historical, cultural, or architectural significance.

It is possible that historical resources may not retain sufficient integrity to meet the criteria for listing in the National Register, but they may still be eligible for listing in the California Register. A resource that has lost its historic character or appearance may still have sufficient integrity for the California Register if it maintains the potential to yield significant scientific or historical information or specific data.

It’s possible that under the California Register criteria, the historically important Weltevreden (A.C. Schweinfurth, 1896) might pass muster although it was severely altered in the 1950s. Then again, it might not. It’s all a matter of personal interpretation. Weltevreden is already a Structure of Merit and will be grandfathered under the LPO revisions. But what of other such treasures that have not yet be designated?

Another controversial issue has been the Request for Determination. The Mayor seeks to sweeten the pill by creating a single process called Assessment of Historic Significance. A property undergoing historic assessment with no project pending must be fully noticed as if it were subject to a pending land-use decision. This, claims the Mayor, will ensure that nearby neighbors know the LPC is making an assessment decision. The sugar coating soon wears out, because the timeline remains that recommended by the Planning Commission. “Any structure not desginated by this process would be exempt from any further attempts at designation for a period of two years or until a pending permit application was completed, unless significant new information is presented.”

Who would determine which new information is significant? Would it be the Historic Preservation Officer?

The Historic Preservation Officer position is back on the table, albeit on a half-time basis owing to the budget crunch. Among his/her other duties, the HPO would have authority over “minor alteration permits for historic resources (subject to appeal to the LPC and City Council).”

This begs the question, “What are minor alterations?” Planning staff has been known to treat alterations considered major by neighbors as minor changes. Is it wise to entrust such responsibility to a single staff person rather than to a commission of nine citizens?

21 February 2006

Leslie Freudenheim returns

Leslie M. Freudenheim, whose lecture on 10 February drew 240 people to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, will return to the Bay Area for several additional presentations of the interesting discoveries she reveals in her book Building with Nature: Inspiration for the Arts & Crafts Home.

19 MarchSwedenborgian Church of San Francisco, 2107 Lyon Street at Washington; 1 pm (reservations required).

6 AprilBuilders’ Booksource, 1817 Fourth Street, Berkeley; 7:30 pm (20-minute talk with slides).

7 April—Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco; 6:30 pm (lecture with slides).

8 AprilBook Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera; 4 pm (20-minute talk).

Signed copies of Building with Nature are available for sale at the BAHA bookstore. BAHA members receive a 22% discount.

18 February 2006

Memorial Stadium and Southeast Quadrant update

California Memorial Stadium, ca. 1945 (Bancroft Library, UARC PIC 03:119)

The massive development known as the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (“Integrated Projects”) is having another public airing this coming Wednesday evening. Starting early at 6:00 p.m. on 22 February, the meeting will be between four city commissions, the University of California’s architects, and the public.

On 13 December 2005, the City of Berkeley issued its response to the University’s Notice of Preparation (NOP) and Draft Initial Study for the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects in which it expressed its disappointment regarding the adequacy of this effort. BAHA expressed similar sentiments, as did the Coalition of Affected Parties.

It is very important that the commissioners be informed about the project context, which is to say, the neighborhood context. Without our voice, they truly will have no idea. Many people know nothing about the residential character of the various neighborhoods impacted by growth in this inaccessible part of Berkeley.

The meeting only lasts till 7:30 p.m., so please arrive on time. The hour and a half will be packed with a presentation by the architects, comments from 36 commissioners, and comments from the public. The four commissions include Planning, Landmarks Preservation, Transportation, and Design Review. Notably absent is the Disaster Council.

Although we in the public will not have much time to speak, our presence is important anyway. Our numbers matter.

The meeting will take place at the North Berkeley Senior Center, which is located at 1901 Hearst Avenue at MLK. Come early and get in the queue to speak. See the Joint Meeting agenda.

See also the university’s Historic Structure and Landscape Reports for California Memorial Stadium and Piedmont Way.

14 February 2006

What we can learn from Riverside

To: Mayor & City Council
Re: Proposed revisions to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO)

Honorable Mayor and Councilmembers:

It’s not the individual buildings by name architects that make up the fabric of our town, but the clusters of Victorians, Colonial Revivals, Brown Shingles, and Craftsman bungalows that dot our streets. These clusters are prime candidates for Neighborhood Conservation Districts, which Berkeley sorely needs.

If any revisions are to be made to the LPO, they should include the new category of Neighborhood Conservation Districts, as stipulated in our General Plan.

The people of Berkeley are no fools. They know that there are far more buildings that qualify as Structures of Merit in our midst than there are potential Landmarks. Many potential Structures of Merit have been identified in surveys, others are still awaiting discovery. If you remove protections from these buildings, the face of Berkeley could change dramatically, and not for the better.

Alternatively, you could take a lesson from the city of Riverside, which is as old as Berkeley and has four cultural-resource categories: Landmark, Structure of Merit, Historic District, and Neighborhood Conservation Area.

In Riverside, anyone who wants to alter, remove, or change the appearance of any cultural resource has to apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness. Such a simple yet brilliant idea: Certificate of Appropriateness. Why doesn’t Berkeley adopt it?

Riverside also provides for appropriate penalties: any person who alters, removes, or demolishes a cultural resource shall be required to restore the building, object, site, or structure to its appearance or setting prior to the violation. Why didn’t Berkeley think of it?

A lot of damage has already been done. Don’t be the ones to compound it. Since neither the mayor nor the councilmembers understand the LPO, don’t rush into a decision that we will all live to regret. Follow the recommendations of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and let the experts craft the language.

Daniella Thompson
Read more opinions on the LPO in Preservation Discourse.

28 January 2006

Exploring the Adirondacks

The Hillside Club Arts & Crafts Lecture Series presents
a slide lecture by Steven Engelhart:
Exploring the Adirondacks: An Architectural Tour of a Great Rustic Tradition

Thursday, 9 March 2006
The Hillside Club

2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley
8 pm; doors open at 7:30

Tickets: $12 at door; $8 for Hillside Club members

The furniture and architecture of New York Adirondack State Park represent a uniquely regional form of arts and crafts design. Steven Engelhart, Executive Director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is coming to the Hillside Club to present this heritage to our community.

During the late 19th century, sportsmen and others came to the Adirondacks seeking recreation and revitalization in this six-million acre wilderness region. The slide lecture will show how resident builders and professional architects developed a rustic style of architecture that is best represented by the dramatic Great Camps and many churches, libraries, railroad stations, and other structures still used in this region’s towns and villages.

Information about a six-day AARCH tour on 9–15 September will be available following the slide presentation. A detailed itinerary will describe the daily travel to Great Camps, historic buildings, and other sites of interest. Steven Engelhart is a native of the Adirondack region. He has a master’s degree in historic preservation from the University of Vermont and is author of Crossing the River: Historic Bridges of the AuSable River.

Come a little early or stay a little late and enjoy conversation and refreshments. Proceeds benefit the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.

17 January 2006

Berkeley’s Heritage is under Attack

Do we want Berkeley to look like this?

Or like this?

In the 1960s and 1970s, Berkeley lost many homes. Neighborhoods were destroyed when apartment buildings, BART stations, and parking lots were built, many with no review of the impact on the people living in the immediate and surrounding neighborhoods.

We thought this could never happen again.
But it is about to if we do not stand up and speak out.

After the travesties of the ’60s and ’70s, neighborhoods and individuals stood together and ultimately passed the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance (NPO) and the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO). Since then, these ordinances have helped restrain the random and uncontrolled development of earlier years.

This protection of our neighborhoods, historic homes, and historic and cultural sites is about to end if the Mayor, the Planning Commission, and probably the City Council have their way. They want to strip the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance of most of the neighborhood protections that it contains. Once again, developers will have free reign over Berkeley and what it will look and feel like.

We cannot let this happen. Please call BAHA if you have any questions: 841-2242.

Come to the City Council’s Public Hearing
on the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance
Valentine’s Day (make it a date!)
14 February 2006
at Old City Hall, 7 p.m.

Speak out against the proposed changes
to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance!

16 January 2006

Neighbors of Ashby BART v. Transit Village

On 13 February 2001, The Berkeley City Council approved Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek’s Housing Policy for Development of Ashby BART West Parking Lot to “Adopt policy guidelines that the west parking lot at the Ashby BART Station be developed with housing as a top priority.  To the extent possible, housing should be affordable and available to public sector workers.  If necessary, replacement parking and movement of Berkeley Flea Market to another site should be considered.”

On 13 December 2005, the City Council voted to endorse a $120,000 grant application to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) for major Transit Village development with 300 units of housing built over ground-floor commercial space, which would displace the flea market. The actual grant application had been filed two months earlier.

It is not a coincidence that Transit Villages are the 1994 creation of then-Assemblyman Tom Bates in Assembly Bill 3152. It is also not surprising that the Ashby BART neighbors are taken aback at the half-mile radius project area, the eminent-domain implications, and potential upzoning for higher density.

This proposed Transit Village development joins the future Ed Roberts Campus, slated for the Ashby BART east parking lot. The Ashby Station neighborhood is a classic turn-of-the-century streetcar suburb, predominantly Colonial Revival in style. City of Berkeley planners have deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. (See our extensive photo essay on Ashby Station.)

For comprehensive information about the Transit Village project, visit Neighbors of Ashby BART. Here you can find an area map and links to all the newspaper articles and public documents involving the case.

To receive updates on the Transit Village project, join the Neighbors of Ashby BART news group: http://groups.google.com/group/nabart.

A panel discussion on the proposed Transit Village District, sponsored by local neighborhood associations, will take place on Tuesday, 17 January, 7:00pm, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. at Ashby.

13 January 2006

Bates v. Neighborhoods

The Mayor’s proposed revisions to the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance are giving preservationists a great deal to worry about.

Read Roger Marquis’ commentary on what the proposed LPO revisions really mean to Berkeley’s neighborhoods.

A City Council workshop on the proposed LPO revisions will take place on Tuesday, 7 February. The workshop will be followed with a Public Hearing a week later, on Tuesday, 14 February.

After the public hearing is closed, the City Council will give direction to staff to prepare draft ordinance language. The Mayor’s staff anticipates that it will take a minimum of 30 days to prepare the draft.

02 January 2006

Building with Nature: Inspiration for the Arts & Crafts Home

Lecture & book signing by Leslie Freudenheim
Friday, 10 February 2006
7:30 pm
First Church of Christ, Scientist

2619 Dwight Way at Bowditch Street, Berkeley

Reception to follow
Tickets: $15

This new edition of the classic Building with Nature: Roots of the San Francisco Bay Region Tradition focuses on the beginnings (1865 and on) of the California Shingle and California Mission Style Arts & Crafts houses, and the origins of the trend toward building simple rustic homes in harmony with nature. Some of the key players in this drama were Bernard Maybeck, Willis Polk, Ernest Coxhead, A.C. Schweinfurth, John Galen Howard, Julia Morgan, Charles Keeler, William Keith, Bruce Porter, and their “wizard” mentor, the Swedenborgian minister Joseph Worcester. The cast of characters also include eminent figures on the national scene, such as Daniel H. Burnham, Frederick Law Olmsted, John Muir, and William Randolph Hearst.

Building with Nature: Inspiration for the Arts and Crafts Home presents some revolutionary ideas, including exciting new material that places California in the forefront of the Arts & Crafts movement. It shows how  the architectural development of San Francisco’s Russian Hill and widespread interest in William Morris and John Ruskin subsequently influenced Berkeley’s architecture via Olmsted, Polk, Coxhead, Maybeck, Howard, Morgan and the Hillside Club. The book also features Berkeley’s First Unitarian Church with its tree-trunk columns and the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church, now a National Landmark and an Arts & Crafts icon. The author shows how the Swedenborgian Church’s Mission-style chairs provided the model for several lines of Mission-style, Stickley and Craftsman furniture popular once again today. Freudenheim suggests that the Arts & Crafts “simple home” spread from the Bay Area to Pasadena and Los Angeles and then nationwide, promoted heavily by Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman and by other magazines.

Building with Nature can be purchased at the BAHA bookstore. Call (510) 841-2242 or e-mail us for shipping information. The book is also available for purchase online from the publisher, Gibbs Smith, or from Amazon.

In her lecture, Leslie Freudenheim will talk about her discoveries and examine how Joseph Worcester and his circle encouraged less materialism through architecture that complemented a simpler life in tune with nature, inspired by vernacular architecture in Yosemite and worldwide. Freudenheim will quote letters from Joseph Worcester, Daniel H. Burnham, Bernard Maybeck, William Morris, Frederick Law Olmsted, and John Muir, and illustrate her lecture with rare historic images.

A reception will follow the talk, with refreshments and book signing.

Order tickets online: