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Beth El: project blends into area area

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Thursday June 07, 2001

More than 160 people signed up to address the City Council during a public hearing on the controversial Beth El proposal to build a synagogue and school at 1301 Oxford St. 

While time allowed for only 60 people to speak Tuesday, the others will have their turn June 26 when the hearing will be continued.  

Those who spoke on both sides of  

the issue raised concerns that have been debated since Beth El’s application process began two years ago.  

Members of the Live Oak Codornices Creek Neighborhood Association, which has taken the lead in opposing the project, raised concerns that Codornices Creek, which runs through the property, will never be daylighted if the project is allowed to be built at its current scale. They also spoke about traffic and noise problems and the concern that the property, a city landmark, will be altered. 

Alan Kay was the first LOCCNA member to address the council. 

“(Beth El) proposes for that site a massive building,” he said, “one that does not acknowledge or respect that site’s unique history, one that does not integrate gracefully into the neighborhood surrounding the site, and one that will flout the expressed wish of the citizens of Berkeley and the city’s own Creek Ordinance that (says) creeks (should) flow freely and be daylighted whenever possible.” 

Beth El member Harry Pollock was the first speaker in favor of the project. He told the council that the synagogue approached the neighbors during the design process and sought their feedback. 

“The process has worked this time,” he said. “We met with the neighbors and when we hired the architects, we instructed them to incorporate their concerns into the design.” 

The architect for the project, John Rubble of Moore, Rubble and Yedell of Southern California, then made a presentation to the council, showing the measures taken to reduce the scale of the project and to reduce its visual impact. 

“The buildings have been set back from Oxford Street,” Rubble said. “And there is little chance that passersby will be able to see the entire project from the street.” 

He also described how a children’s play area was surrounded by a low wall to muffle noise and how air conditioning allows Beth El members to keep the doors of the social hall closed, also reducing noise.