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New Landmarks, More Building Battles Marked 2004 By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Monday January 03, 2005

The year just ending added some stellar landmarks to the city’s architectural pantheon, while triggering some feisty showdowns before the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). 

Berkeley’s first landmark of 2004 was the Mrs. Edmund P. King Building at 2501 Telegraph Ave., a classic Colonial Revival business building created for Stella King, who ran a dry goods business in the ground floor. 

Two other buildings were added at the same meeting, the 1924 Hillside Club at 2601 Cedar St. and the Morgan Building at 2053 Berkeley Way. 

In February, commissioners landmarked the Montgomery House at 45 Oak Ridge Road, an Italian Renaissance-style estate designed by architect Walter H. Ratcliff. 

On March 1, commissioners created Sisterna Historic District 106, only the second neighborhood designation since the city began landmarking. 

The 48-page extensively illustrated application was written by Blumenfeld and colleague Sarah Satterlee with the help of 14 other volunteers, including an archeologist, and architect and a woodworker. 

While many of the city’s landmarks honor large buildings, the modest cottages in the new district were built in the 1870s and ‘80s to house working class residents. 

Designation of the tract would play a major role in a drama that would consume many hours of the commission’s time in the months to come. 

On March 1, the LPC landmarked both the home and property at 2104 Sixth St., but only the land at 2108 Sixth St. because the structure itself had been significantly altered from its original Victorian features. 

Developer Michael Feiner, who planned to turn both cottages into duplexes, appealed the decision on May 12, and LPC hearings followed on June 7 and July 12, drawing substantial turnouts from preservationists and neighbors who spearheaded the landmarking on one side and architects and development-related partisans on the other.  

Feiner’s plans went through numerous revisions before commissioners finally gave their consent to his proposal on Nov. 1. 

In the year of celebrations marking the 35th anniversary of founding of People’s Park, it was especially fitting one of Berkeley’s new landmarks will be forever linked to those momentous events on Telegraph Avenue. 

On April 12, the commission bestowed a landmark designation on the structure at 2501 Telegraph Ave. It was on May 15, 1969, atop that 1888 structure, now the home of Krishna Copy and other merchants, that a hapless bystander was fatally shot in the back by an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy. 

On June 7, Berkeley gained three new landmarks—although two are sited on UC Berkeley-owned property earmarked for possible demolition for a proposed hotel, conference center and museums complex the university plans for the heart of downtown. 

The largest addition was the University Press Building at the northwest corner of Center and Oxford streets—a 1939 New Deal Moderne creation where the original copies of the United Nations Charter were printed in 1945 for the signatures of delegates gathered in San Francisco in for the U.N.’s founding. 

The other UC-owned property landmarked in June were the 1911 storefronts at 2154-2160 University Ave., where the University has indicated it may build a parking structure for the proposed downtown hotel complex. 

Also added to the city’s landmarks in June was the single-story business building created by architect James Plachek at 2145 University. Built in 1915 to house Sill’s Grocery & Hardware Company, the structure today houses Berkeley Hardware. 

Another University Avenue buildings was added on July 12, the 1915 Ernest A. Heron Building at 2136–2140 University. 

In August, commissioners landmarked the 1906 Frederick H. Dakin Warehouse at 2759 Adeline St., built of hollow concrete block to create a fireproof structure in the wake of the vast fires created by the San Francisco earthquake earlier in the year. 

On Sept. 13, large contingents from the arts community and supporters of the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society turned out for the airing of a proposal to landmark vintage West Berkeley buildings owned by the humane society and occupied, in part, by the artists. 

Both sides now say they want to preserve the structures, including a 1924 unreinforced two story brick building constructed by the Austin Company, the same firm that built two other Berkeley landmarks, the Heinz and Sawtooth Buildings. 

The artists want to stay, but the humane society needs more space, and the issue was still pending at year’s end. 

At that same meeting, commissioners got their first look at San Mateo developer Dan Deibel’s plans to create a block-square four-story condominium project at 700 University Ave. 

The block houses one landmark the developer has promised to spare, the pink-coated Southern Pacific Railroad Station, and two other structures that would be proposed as landmarks later in the year.  

On Oct. 4, commissioners took a look at one of Berkeley’s more famous existing landmarks, the 1930 Howard Automobile Building at 2140 Durant Ave., one of Berkeley’s last remaining Art Deco/Moderne buildings. 

The Buddhist Churches of America and the Institute of Buddhist Studies plan to turn the structure into a school, offices and study center, replete with a two-story addition. 

The building was designed by Frederic Reimers for Charles Howard, a former cavalry trooper turned bicycle mechanic who had become the nation’s largest Buick dealer in San Francisco. 

Howard’s wealth enabled him to become a leading player in the “sport of kings,” most notably as the owner of America’s most famous racehorse, Seabiscuit. The now-vacant structure remained a dealership for many years, most recently under the ownership of another sports legend, Reggie Jackson. 

The proposal was still pending by year’s end, but designs revised after commission criticisms seemed close to approval. 

The 700 University block was back on the commission’s agenda Nov. 1 in the form of proposals to landmark two buildings on the site, Brennan’s Irish Pub at Fourth Street and University, and Celia’s, a Mexican restaurant at 2040 Fourth St. 

While Celia’s owners have said they have no plans to reopen at the site, Deibel and the owners of Brennan’s, who favor demolition, have said the venerable pub will reopen in new quarters in the complex. 

After two sessions with no conclusion, the landmarking proposals will be back for the commission’s January meeting.  

On Nov. 1, commissioners were told they couldn’t act on a last-minute proposal to landmark a modest 1937 redwood home at 1650 La Vereda Trail designed by William Wurster, one of America’s most prominent mid-20th Century residential architects. 

Owned by Marguerite Rossetto, mother of WIRED Magazine cofounder Louis Rossetto, the home had been featured in several prominent books and magazines. 

Neighbors charged that the proposed addition was out-of-character with the home and would obstruct views. 

Because the two-story structural remodel had already been approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board, only the city council could remand the proposal back to ZAB and the commission. 

Brian Viani, a coauthor of the landmarking application, had already filed an appeal to the council, which obliged him later in the month. 

When the Rossettos and their supporters appeared before the commission in December, opponents won the landmark designation but lost the war when Architect John E. Holey offered an additional design for the remodel which would effectively create a modified mirror image clone, connected to the original by a breezeway. 

Commissioners liked what they saw and gave their blessings. 

One landmark sailed through at the same meeting without a single voice in opposition: The Webb Block, a three-story curved-front turn-of-the-20th-Century business at the corner of Ashby Avenue and Adeline Street. Designed by Charles W. McCall for Christopher Webb, the building once housed the pharmacy of Thomas E. Caldecott, who later became the Alameda County Supervisor whose name graces the most famous of the East Bay tunnels. 

The building is now houses some of the Bay Area’s most popular antique shops, and most commissioners said they thought it had already been landmarked.›