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Claremont gets ‘landmark’ status

By Kurtis Alexander, Daily Planet Staff
Thursday July 18, 2002

Neighbors show mixed reactions 


Berkeley residents showed strong, varied reactions to protection measures put in place Tuesday to preserve the historical facade of the Claremont Resort and Spa. 

Surrounded on three sides by the city of Berkeley, but sitting on a finger of Oakland, the Claremont was granted “landmark” status by Oakland City Council for its stately, 85-year-old physical structure. The designation puts extensive restrictions on the changes that can be made to it. 

While the “landmark” designation was widely celebrated, many neighbors were disappointed that Oakland leaders failed to grant the same protection to the resort’s 15-acre grounds.  

Critics fear that the resort owner, Palm Spring-based KSL Resorts Corp., could build additional facilities on the property and ruin the Claremont’s historical integrity. 

“Buildings on the grounds could drastically affect views, ambiance and open sight lines,” neighbor Wendy Markel said. 

Neighbor Ellen Peterson noted that the hotel has expressed interest in building a three-story parking garage and condominiums on the site. 

In lieu of granting “landmark” status to the property, Oakland’s City Council strengthened the zoning standards in an attempt to prevent overdevelopment.  

“Our measures give a much higher level of protection for the grounds than if they were not there,” said Oakland Councilmember Jane Brunner, who represents north Oakland. 

Anything built on the Claremont property is required to be “in harmony” with the main building, she said. 

“My preference would have been to landmark the entire grounds or at least a part of it but I wasn’t going to get that [support from other councilmembers],” Brunner said. “As it stands, it gives the hotel the right to manage it’s property but still gives the community certain protections.” 

Claremont officials applauded council’s action. The hotel had been on record for supporting neighborhood calls to grant “landmark” status to their building, but not the grounds. 

“We’re very pleased with the decision taken by the Oakland City Council,” the resort said in a written statement. 

Neighbors, formally organized as the Berkeley Oakland Neighbors of the Claremont, had gathered 900 signatures on a petition calling for “landmark” designation for both the hotel and the grounds. 

For this reason, Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington was critical of Oakland’s decision. 

“I’m glad the building was landmarked, but I don’t think the grounds decision respects the concerns of the community or the magnificence of the property,” he said. 

“Oakland’s decision tells KSL that the Oakland City Council will blink,” Worthington said. “A one block difference in the Claremont’s location would have made a big difference [in the outcome of the ‘landmark’ decision].”