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Claremont closer to designation

By John GeluardiDaily Planet staff
Wednesday August 22, 2001

The 86-year-old Claremont Hotel came one step closer to achieving landmark status last month when the Oakland Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board voted unanimously to send the proposal on to the Planning Commission. 

The neighborhood proponents of landmarking and hotel management are on the same page about landmarking the hotel but still differ about whether to landmark the entire 22-acre property. 

“There was a lot of public support for the landmarking,” said Berkeley-Oakland Neighbors of the Claremont member Wendy Markel, referring to the July 9 LPAB meeting. “It was almost like a love fest, although I don’t think the management is too keen on having the grounds landmarked.” 

The BONC group began the landmarking process last October, just months after learning of the hotel’s plan to develop 86 guest units, 75 time-share villas and a three-story garage.  

The 279-room, Tudor Revival Claremont is in Oakland just the other side of the Berkeley border at the mouth of Claremont Canyon. The KSL Resort Corp., a billion dollar luxury resort chain, purchased the hotel three years ago for $88 million and has since added an exclusive resort spa inside the hotel. Last August, KSL announced it was considering building the guest units, villas and parking garage. 

Ted Axe, the vice president and general manager of the hotel, said the development plans were only conceptual and there are no current plans to develop the property. “Those plans may never materialize but they are something we might like to do at the appropriate time,” he said. 

The LPAB approved the entire property for landmarking including the tennis courts, a grove of eucalyptus trees and “the grounds as a whole,” according to a July 9 report from the planning staff.  

Axe said hotel management supports landmarking the building but has reservations about the grounds. “We are excited about the landmarking process and we are excited about designating the Claremont Resort,” he said, “but we do not look at the grounds of the hotel as being of historical significance.” 

Axe said any future improvement plans to the property could be significantly hindered by the landmark designation. “We don’t want to have to worry about a parking lot or an isolated tree getting in the way of an improvement project that doesn’t affect the main building.” 

Markel said landmarking the entire site would ensure that any improvements would be in keeping with the historical elements of the property, which she said extend beyond the hotel.  

“When the landmark includes the entire site, alterations to the landscape, features that have been identified as character-defining elements, would be reviewed for preservation of historic and architectural integrity,” she said.  

According to the July 9 planning report, the hotel and grounds meet the historical and architectural criteria for landmarking. The hotel was completed in 1915 and has retained a high degree of the original design’s integrity.  

Well-known East Bay architect Charles W. Dickey designed the building. Dickey also designed the Temescal and Golden Gate branches of the Oakland Public Library, University High School (that became the former Merritt College on Martin Luther King Jr. Way) and the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland. 

Oakland planner Patricia McGowan said the next step in the landmarking process will be the LPAB’s Sept. 17 formal approval of the recommendation. Next the Planning Commission will consider the proposal and hold a public hearing before voting to send the designation on to the Oakland City Council. 

If the Planning Commission approves the recommendation, the City Council will vote on the final approval of the hotel as a city landmark. At that time, the council could landmark the entire property or just portions, for example landmarking the building but not the grounds. 

The Landmarks Preservation Board will meet to formalize the already-approved recommendation to landmark the hotel and grounds at 4 p.m. Sept. 17 in the Hearing Room at City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.