A proposal to build a 44-unit residential building in the city’s Southside neighborhood is making its way through the city’s planning process.
If approved, the project would entail moving one of the city’s designated “Structures of Merit” – the Ellen Blood House, a single-family “Queen Anne” Victorian home at 2526 Durant Ave. between Telegraph Avenue and Bowditch Street -- to another location in the city.
David C. Ruegg and Robert A. Ellsworth, current owners of the site, applied for permission to build a five-story apartment building in June 2000. In their application, they say that the proposed building, which would include retail space at ground level, would help solve the city’s housing crunch and contribute to the Southside economy.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Blood House a “structure of merit” in September 1999. Ruegg and Ellsworth unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the City Council in October 1999.
Carrie Olson, a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, remembered the thinking that went into the designation.
“It’s one of the few single-family homes remaining from the College Homestead Tract,” she said. The College Homestead Tract was a subdivision of land owned by the College of California (later the University of California), which sold parcels to people eager to build a community around the nascent college. It comprises much of today’s Southside neighborhood.
“The university has really flattened all the old houses to build parking lots and student housing,” said Olson.
A study commissioned by the Landmarks Preservation Commission said the building “recalls (Southside’s) early character as one of Berkeley’s substantial family residential districts, where the streets were lined with the homes of prominent citizens.”
The Ellen Blood House was built in 1891 by Gary Frise, a popular 19th century East Bay architect.
For most of its 110-year history, the house was owned by individuals or families. The family of Perry Tompkins, an early Berkeley realtor, lived in the house for many years, as did Ruth Alice Greer, who for many years was in charge of finding jobs around the state for teachers newly graduated from the College of Education.
Ownership of the home passed to Ruegg and Ellsworth in the 1980’s.
The city has hired an outside consultant to perform an Environmental Impact Report on Ruegg and Ellsworth’s proposed building. The California Environmental Quality Act requires the city to consider such factors as “cultural resources” and “aesthetics” in determining a development’s environmental impact.