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.