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Southside Projects Require Historic Houses to Move By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday August 02, 2005

Now entering its seventh year, the struggle over the fate of the historic Blood House centers these days on a complex game of what might be called “musical properties.” 

When members of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board got their first “preview” of the process Thursday night, the encounter left many feeling somewhat bemused. 

How, for example, is the board to go about approving permits for the five-story project that is planned for the 2526 Durant Ave. site of the Blood House when the developer won’t be able to build until the fate of the historic home is resolved? 

Consider, too, that the Blood House’s fate is linked to another nearby landmark on UC Berkeley-owned property as well as to a third location, a pair of adjacent vacant lots located in the shadows of yet more historic resources. 

“We need to see the plan for what’s going to happen to these houses; without it, we can’t move forward,” said ZAB member Dean Metzger. “There’s no way we can support it without it.” 

The first “it” in need of support is the proposal to build a five-story mixed-use project—ground floor commercial space and four floors of containing 44 apartments—on the site where the Ellen Blood House stands. 

The second “it” is the need for a vetted and endorsed plan for the site owned by John Gordon where developers hope to move both the Blood House and the landmarked 1876 John Woolley House, which stand in way of yet another development project on property further to the south.  

The second project, another stalled mixed-use proposal, is Rasputin Music owner Ken Sarachan’s plan to build on a pair of weed-and-concrete filled vacant lots at the northeast corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street. 

Sarachan’s plans, in turn, hinge on buying the fourth piece of property in the shuffle, a currently occupied lot to the east of the two he already owns. That property, owned by UC Berkeley, houses the Woolley House. 

The city has a half-million-dollar stake in Sarachan’s project in the form of property liens that Berkeley officials have agreed to waive if Sarachan’s project moves forward.  

City Community Development Project Coordinator Dave Fogarty told ZAB members that “it is vitally important that John Gordon go forward because there is no other site available for the house.” 

The city had filed the liens against the previous owners for failing to repair or demolish the fire-ravaged hulk of a transient hotel that once stood on the lots Sarachan already owns. The city agreed to waive the liens in exchange for a promise to build a mixed-use housing project on the site, with a strong recommendation that the UC lot be included as well. 

Sarachan filed preliminary plans on a truncated version of his project last September, the deadline imposed by the city. 

The city is eager to fill the now-vacant lot on a major corner in the heart of Telegraph Avenue business district, and Blood House project manager Brendan Heafey of Ruegg & Ellsworth, the development firm on the site, told ZAB members Sarachan and the university are close to deal. 

Gordon, Sarachan and Ruegg & Ellsworth reached a deal last month in which Gordon would buy both the Woolley House and the Blood House for a dollar apiece and then move both to a pair of neighboring lots he owns at the southwest corner of the Regent Street/Dwight Way intersection across from the southern side of People’s Park. 

The property is located immediately adjacent to a cluster of other historic structures, and the whole proposal has raised questions among members of Berkeley’s always-vocal preservationist community. 

The moves offer the potential not only of harming the two transported landmarks, but could also “adversely affect three additional historic buildings,” wrote Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association President Wendy Markel in a letter to ZAB members. 

The affected properties are the non-landmarked “Bonnet Box” that occupies a corner of one of Gordon’s lots, the King Building at 2502 Dwight Way, and the Arctic Soda Works Building at 2509 Telegraph Ave. 

Because the California Environmental Quality Act classifies moving a designated historic resource as a demolition, Markel wrote that the Blood House move would require a full environmental impact report, a process that could add yet another set of twists and turns and delays to the game of musical properties. 

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will be involved in all aspects of the three proposals. 

Landmarks Commissioner Leslie Emmington tried to speak at the meeting, but since the hearing had already closed and she hadn’t turned in a speaker’s card, acting Chair David Blake refused her request. 

ZAB member Bob Allen said he had reservations about what would happen to the two houses once installed on Gordon’s lots. He asked if both would both front on the street. It was a fair question since the dimensions of the two structures are too large to fit on the lots, according to a reporter’s measurements. 

The hearing began as it ended, with lots of questions and few, if any, decisive answers. 

In other business, ZAB members: 

• Approved demolition of a single-story home at 1638 Carleton St. and its replacement by a larger, two-story home. 

• Approved a second story addition to a home at 1323 Kains Ave. 

• Approved a permit to open a fast food eatery with outdoor seating at 81 Shattuck Square. 

• Denied an appeal by neighbors of their approval of an addition to a home at 2750 Buena Vista Way. 

• Approved a permit allowing a greenhouse supplies manufacturing company with a retail sales counter to move into a building at 801 Virginia St. 

• Authorized installation of ATMs at four locations on Durant and Euclid avenues.?