State Withdraws Objections To Ed Roberts Center Plans By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday April 22, 2005

º An agreement between the state and the city housing department cleared a major hurdle this week for the Ed Roberts Center, a planned facility serving Berkeley’s disabled community, when a state agency verbally agreed to withdraw its objections. 

“We’re very pleased,” said center President Jan Garrett. 

Berkeley Housing Director Steve Barton and center representatives met in Sacramento this week with State Historic Preservation Officer Milford Wayne Donaldson, who had raised objections to the project last fall and again in January. 

During a meeting in the office of Berkeley Assemblymember Loni Hancock Monday, Barton said, city officials clarified issues of impacts of the modernist building to existing historic properties which could qualify as national landmarks. 

Official city recognition of potential landmarks resolved part of Donaldson’s reservations, and the others vanished when the center agree to install four more trees to shield much of the building from Adeline Street, Barton said. 

“They said the building was well done,” Barton added. 

The center must still provide Donaldson with architectural drawings showing the additional trees before he can sign off on the project, which could happen within the next two weeks. 

Garrett said there are many steps remaining before the center becomes a reality, but Donaldson’s verbal acceptance paves the way to removal of the biggest stumbling block. 

Without his endorsement, the center couldn’t receive critical federal funding—which requires official acknowledgment by the state that the project won’t have significant negative impacts on historical resources within the structure’s vicinity. 

“We determined they have good screening and setbacks on three sides, but a strong impact from the facade. The architecture is stunning, really nice, but perhaps in the wrong place,” said Donaldson. “But with skillful mitigation, it works.” 

The state official praised the city staff for their handling of the project. Austene Hall, a preservation activist with the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, was less well disposed to the city’s conduct. 

“It’s been very disappointing,” Hall said. “We sent a letter to the city on Feb. 5 asking to be a consulting party on the project, but the city has never replied to or acknowledged our request. We believe that BAHA should be a party to the final review.”ô