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City Expedites Permit Process But Cannot Save Doyle House

Friday May 16, 2003

A plan brokered between Mayor Tom Bates, developer Patrick Kennedy and preservationists to move the 19th-century home of Berkeley pioneer John M. Doyle to another location appeared to be dead this week when organizers discovered that moving the structure would require a 20-day waiting period. 

Preservationists with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) have been struggling to save the Doyle House, located behind the Darling Flower Shop on University Avenue, from demolition by Kennedy, who wants to build a 35-unit housing project on the site. A lawsuit filed by BAHA against Kennedy argues that demolition of the house, which BAHA says is a historical resource, requires an environmental impact report. BAHA lost the suit earlier this month. 

Shortly after BAHA gave up its legal battle against Kennedy, Bates began talking with the developer, BAHA members and resident Ian Faircloth, who wants to move the house to his property. BAHA, Faircloth and the developer agreed to cover the cost of the move, with Faircloth donating $25,000, BAHA putting in $15,000 and Kennedy contributing $10,000. 

Bates and city councilmembers expedited the permitting approval process necessary to get PG&E and the telephone company moving on the project. The last minute scramble appeared to be paying off, with BAHA announcing that it was rapidly approaching its $15,000 goal through aggressive fund-raising efforts. But earlier this week, it was discovered that the city requires a use permit, which calls for a 20-day waiting period before moving a structure to give the public an opportunity to appeal the decision. 

Kennedy had said he needed the move to happen before June 1 because of contractual agreements that require him to start work on the project by then. With the waiting period, Bates said, the deal seems to have fallen through.  

Bates said he wished the disputing parties would have considered the compromise months ago, instead of continuing to battle it out in court. “It was a wasted opportunity,” Bates said. “I hope in the future I can get involved earlier. We need to look for the win-win situation rather than fighting it out to the death in court.” 

Kennedy has already secured the demolition permit for the project, but it isn’t clear when he will begin demolishing the building. BAHA board member Austene Hall said members of her organization have called Kennedy to ask him to extend the June 1 deadline, but have received no word. 

Kennedy did not return calls for comment for this story.