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Eddie Bauer Closure Marks Sad Saga’s End

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday January 13, 2004

Two weeks ago, national representatives of Eddie Bauer stores announced the closure of its retail outlet at Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way in downtown Berkeley, seven years after Berkeley preservationists fought a pitched and ultimately unsuccessful battle to prevent the city from allowing the demolition of the 1890’s-era Edy’s Ice Creamery building where the Bauer store now stands. 

Excerpts from selected city documents written at that time show how fiercely that battle raged, and how prophetic the preservationists were about the 

likely outcome. 


• “The main building on Shattuck Avenue will have a new storefront at the ground level, however the second story facade will remain the same. ... There will be some additional square footage to this building, however, not enough to trigger any use permit requirement.” 

—Architect Mary Li Wong to Deputy City Attorney Zack Cowan, Jan. 8, 1997. 

• “My office has reviewed the scope of your building remodel project at 2201-17 Shattuck Avenue [also known as the Hulbert Block or the Edy’s Building] determine if there are any zoning issues which trigger a Use Permit or Variance per the City’s Zoning Ordinance. The project as proposed does not necessitate a Use Permit or Variance, and therefore does not require review by the Zoning Adjustments Board in a public hearing. The information you have provided concludes that less than 50% of the exterior walls of the Shattuck Building and less than 50% of the exterior walls of the Allston Building will be removed, therefore, the project is not considered a ‘demolition’ ... and no Use Permit is necessary.”  

—Dan Marks, Current Planning Manager, to Marcy Wong Architects, Feb. 21, 1997. 

• “The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association herewith is appealing the decision of the Design Review Board made on March 17, 1997, regarding approval of plans to redesign the facade of 2201-2217 Shattuck Avenue... The proposed plan...appears to fail to meet the fundamental facade criteria as set forth in the ‘Downtown Design Guidelines’: ‘The form, rhythm, and character of Downtown established by its Landmark and significant buildings should be reinforced and enhanced by renovation and new construction.” 

—Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association to Zoning Adjustments Board, March 31, 1997. 

• “It is my opinion that the [Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s] appeal, as presented, is without merit.” 

—Downtown Berkeley Association president Larry Bush to Members of the Zoning Adjustments Board, April 9, 1997. 

• “The Hulbert Block is a prominent site in downtown Berkeley. It plays a central role in helping to define the area’s historic fabric. ... The [Landmark Preservation Commission] feels that the current proposal for the site ignores the structure’s true historical fabric. ... Alternative design proposals incorporating the Hulbert Block’s historic elements should be solicited. ... Under the Zoning Ordinance..., any proposed demolition of a building over 40 years of age shall be forwarded to the LPC for review. The LPC believes that the proposed project (including the removal of the roof structure which is intrinsic to the building’s history) may constitute a demolition...and require that a permit application be filed...” 

—LPC Chairman Robert Kehlmann to the Zoning Adjustments Board, April 9, 1997. 

• “[I]t has come to my attention that BAHA holds several mistaken beliefs about my building at 2201 Shattuck Avenue which I have owned for many years. ... These include the belief that the two existing ‘keyhole’ storefronts are worthy of preservation. ... The two keyhole storefronts that BAHA wishes to preserve, are not only without historic significance, they lack a historic fabric to justify their presence... I am also aware that BAHA believes that the roof currently on the building is historically significant. In fact, the extensive renovation in 1941 resulted in the complete removal of not only the exterior wall components and finishes, but also of the roof tiles and significant portions of the roof framing itself.” 

—Weston Havens to Mayor Shirley Dean, April 16, 1997 

• “When people in Berkeley heard that Eddie Bauer was leasing the [Hulbert Block] building, they were very optimistic. Many of us are customers of your elegant Home Store at Union Square in San Francisco, and fans of the sensitive restoration you did there. ... Imagine, then, my horror at discovering that the building owner had potentially engaged the architect best known in Berkeley for Walgreen’s and BlockBuster Video. ... [Their renovation plan for the Hulbert Block Building] was more like taking a good solid Eddie Bauer shirt, cutting off the collar and the sleeves, and saying that you’d made a ball gown. It just doesn’t work. ... My suggestion to you is that you ask the architect of your San Francisco store to give you a second opinion on what can be done with the very nice building you’ve leased.” 

—Elisabeth Peters O’Malley to Jeff Roberts, Real Estate Department, Eddie Bauer, Inc., April 18. 1997. 

• “I’ve been nursing this project along and I think it would be a major shot in the arm for the downtown. Any delay could jeopardize the project.” 

—Mayor Shirley Dean, quoted in the Berkeley Voice, July 3, 1997, shortly before the Zoning Adjustments Board’s hearing on the appeal to rescind approval of the Hulbert Block Building’s renovation plan. 

• “Guess what! I noticed the other day that I could see through the old Edy’s building which, last I heard, was simply being gussied up on the outside..., getting a new roof and some interior remodeling. As I recall, the owner insisted that nothing more than Design Review was required because they were not changing permitted interior uses, etc., and did not want to have to get a demolition permit. I had foolishly assumed that this meant they were not going to do a demolition. Now, granted, three walls seem to still be standing (barely), but other than piles of rubble, it doesn’t look like there is any interior inside them. Have there been some unanticipated collapses of floors, or did we issue permits for this work? Or, is it, um, unpermitted?” 

—Memo from Deputy City Attorney Zack Cowan to unidentifiable recipients. 

• “When the project at 2201-2217 was brought before the LPC for review last February the commission was presented with a ‘storefront remodel.’ Inspection of the site now reveals demolition of the original historic structure has taken place. I request that the City halt work on the property and refer the project back to the LPC for review.” 

—Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Kehlmann to Planning Manager Steve Solomon, Dec. 3, 1997. 

• “Oops. Have architects for the new Eddie Bauer store on Shattuck Avenue torn down one old wall too many? That’s the consensus of some citizens and preservationists who are shocked by the gaping hole that used to house Edy’s Grand Ice Cream and Restaurant.” 

—From the Dec. 11, 1997 Oakland Tribune. 

• “On January 5, 1998, the Berkeley Landmarks Commission appointed commissioners Burton Edwards and myself to review the demolition calculations of 2201-2217 Shattuck Avenue [to] determine [if] a demolition has occurred. We hereby conclude that a demolition has occurred. We request that a stop work order be issued...” 

—Berkeley Landmarks Commission member Timothy Hansen to Acting Current Planning Manager Bob Brown, Jan. 8, 1998. 

• “I believe the percentage of exterior wall area removed exceeds 50%... I will bring the issue of continued construction to the attention of Gil Kelley, Director of Planning and Development, which may result in a Stop Work notice from the City until the question of demolition has been finally resolved.” 

—Current Planning Manager Robert M. Brown to Architect Marcy Li Wong, Jan. 15, 1998. 

• “We worked really hard to bring the Eddie Bauer retail outlet here, and we’re going to work hard to keep them here.” 

—Mayor Shirley Dean, quoted in Chip Johnson’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 17, 1998. 

• “I have reviewed your latest revisions to demolition calculations dated January 20, 1998, and concur with your result that 49.77% of the original exterior wall area has been removed. ... In total, these revisions reduce the proportion of removed exterior wall area once again to below 50%, thereby not constituting demolition of the building.” 

—Current Planning Manager Robert M. Brown to Architect Marcy Li Wong, Jan. 20, 1998. 

• “I am writing to request concern over the procedures being followed by City of Berkeley regarding demolition of the buildings at 2201-2217 Shattuck. ... I request that the City not grant the applicant special favors, that a stop work order be issued, and that the applicant be required to obtain the proper demolition permit, use permit, and other permits required by law.” 

—Landmarks Commissioner Timothy Hansen, writing as an individual and not in his capacity as Commissioner, to Acting Current Planning Manager Bob Brown, Jan. 20, 1998. 

• “[T]he historic Edy’s building...has been demolished to make way for a structure which is more appropriate to a suburban mall than to our historic downtown. ... Tenants in buildings come and go. Developers and architects move on to other projects. Current Planning Managers seem to appear and disappear rather quickly in Berkeley. If you, Mr. Brown, in your powerful role as Planning Manager, allow Berkeley’s historic past to be dismantled without proper control and review, you are forsaking our City’s historic past. Once this is lost, it will be lost forever.” 

—Landmarks Preservation Commission Robert Kehlmann to Current Planning Manager Robert M. Brown, Feb. 9, 1998. 

• “In your letter [of February 17, 1998], you asserted that the City’s acceptance of the applicant’s method of calculation...prevents the City from redefining the means of computing wall retention/removal at this time. This begs the question: shouldn’t compliance with City and State laws take priority over private arrangements that City staff make with individual applicants? BAHA has reviewed notes from a meeting held on 17 December 1996 between City officials and project architect Marcy Wong. These notes confirm that the City assisted the developer in misrepresenting the extent of the project and circumventing public review where one was warranted: ‘If it’s initiated, & LPC says it’s a significant impact under CEQA, LPC can suspend a demolition permit. Therefore—don’t apply for a demolition.’” 

—Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association President Monica Rohrer to City Manager James Keene. 

• “It was with sadness that we viewed the new east wall of what used to be 2108 Allston Way, now the new Eddie Bauer building. ... A little over a year ago, when the bulldozers rolled through the old Edy’s building, we knew that the City’s building laws had been violated. ... A few months ago, the LPC issued a new report on the demolition. It noted that more than 70% f the Allston Way building had been demolished, not the 35% claimed by the applicant and seconded by the Planning & Development Department. ... The battle over Edy’s ... was about the corruption of the Downtown Plan, the Downtown Development Guidelines, and the City’s zoning ordinance. If Edy’s can be demolished without the proper permits, no Berkeley building can be considered safe from destruction.” 

—Berkeley Heritage Association Chairman Carl Wikander to Mayor Shirley Dean and Berkeley City Councilmembers, Sept. 22, 1998.