Zoning Board Postpones Blood House Decision

Tuesday June 17, 2003

The potential demolition of the historic Ellen Blood House on Durant Avenue was supposed to be addressed at last Thursday’s Zoning Appeals Board meeting, but the matter was misstated on the agenda and postponed until next week. 

The board had planned to consider whether to approve the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the project, but the agenda incorrectly stated that the board was considering the use permits for the project. The discussion of the final EIR will be held June 26. 

Opponents of a plan to remove the historic house to make way for the construction of a 31,000-square-foot, mixed-use project on Durant Avenue say the EIR for the development is dated and insufficient. They contend that the EIR for the Durant Apartments project was done so long ago that it lacks pertinent data concerning recent housing developments in the area surrounding the project. 

They say this information is important because the city, before approving a use permit to remove a designated city landmark, must issue a Statement of Overriding Considerations. The statement gives a reason or reasons why the benefit of a new development outweighs the loss of a historic resource. In this case, such a reason might be the city’s need to build more housing in order to meet regionally mandated housing production goals. 

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Blood House a structure of merit in 1999. At the June 12 meeting of ZAB, Carrie Olson, commission president, said the October 2002 EIR fails to mention the fact that the University of California has added about 1,000 units of housing in the Southside Area in the three years since the developer initially applied for a permit in May 2000. Those units are either already built or in the pipeline, Olson said. 

“When the project was initially proposed, there was a need for housing. But to say it’s needed now is not based on the current situation,” she told the Daily Planet. She added that the city has identified three areas—along University, South Shattuck and San Pablo avenues—in which housing should be created. “The Southside is not a location that has been called out to be built on,” she said. 

Durant Apartments developer Ruegg & Ellsworth proposes to replace the two-story, 19th-century, Queen Anne style house with a five-story development that would include two ground-floor retail establishments and 44 units of housing.  

“We think the EIR is adequate,” said Paul Dyer, project manager for Ruegg & Ellsworth. He said the developer is willing to relocate the building rather than demolish it if an appropriate site can be found. 

The ZAB and City Council must “certify” the final EIR—that is, agree that it adequately addresses all the environmental issues as outlined by state law--before it can consider whether to issue a use permit.