Historic Blood House Back on Zoning Board Agenda

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday August 07, 2007

The Blood House is back on the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) agenda Thursday after the board failed to take action almost two years ago on its proposed removal from 2526 Durant Ave. to make room for mixed-use development . 

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  

Berkeley developers Ruegg and Ellsworth will ask the Zoning Board for a permit to construct a 34,158-square-foot, five-story building with 44 apartments, 18 parking spaces and retail space after moving the historic structure to a different lot. 

Designed by architect Robert Gray Frise, the Blood House was built in 1891 for Mrs. Ellen Blood, who first came to Berkeley in 1889. This stately Victorian near Telegraph Avenue is flanked by two more landmarks—the Albra and the Brasfield—on each side. 

The Blood House was declared a structure of merit by the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission in September 1999. 

Ruegg and Ellsworth’s appeal of the designation failed at the City Council a month later. 

The zoning board was previously unable to make the findings necessary to approve the demolition of the historically designated structure and had wanted the developers to explore other alternatives which would help preserve it. 

Ruegg and Ellsworth presented the idea of relocating the Blood House to an empty lot owned by developer John Gordon at Regent Street and Dwight Way at a May 27, 2004 ZAB meeting. 

Plans to move the landmarked John Woolley House at 2509 Haste St. to the same empty lot to allow Berkeley developer Ken Sarachan an opportunity to build on the site, which is adjacent to another site he owns at the corner of Haste and Telegraph, are also being explored. 

The John Woolley House is currently owned by UC Berkeley. 

At a Dec. 8, 2005 ZAB meeting, staff was directed to prepare an addendum to the certified environmental impact report (EIR) for the Blood House in order to come up with the required findings. According to staff, the addendum to the EIR, which will be presented to the ZAB Thursday, meets CEQA requirements. Under CEQA, moving a structure designated as a historic resource is equivalent to demolishing it. 

After reviewing the addendum, the board will direct the staff about whether or not they should go ahead with the building proposal. 

2323 Shattuck Ave. 

The ZAB will once again hear the request of Berkeley architect Jim Novosel to convert the Fidelity Bank Building at 2323 Shattuck Ave. into a mixed-use development. 

At the July 31 meeting, the board agreed that while they were in favor of the proposed preservation and reuse of this historic structure, they wanted the city manager to look into instituting a fee to offset the project’s elimination of eight parking spots. The fee would be applied toward creating more downtown parking. 

Currently, the city does not have any such fund or even a list of projects for which this fee might be collected. 

The property is currently owned by members of the Lakireddy family who own a significant amount of property in downtown Berkeley. The proposed project would take the existing 4,000-square-foot structure and convert the two-story bank space into a restaurant and a dwelling unit.  

The project also includes a new five-story building, to be built in place of the existing three-story building adjacent to the Fidelity Building, which would have 2,609 square feet of commercial floor area and 15 dwelling units.  

According to staff reports, the city attorney has advised that an in-lieu fee would not be enough to make a variance for the finding which would allow development to occur without any on-site parking. 

Staff recommends that ZAB deny the variance and recommend that the Planning Commission and the City Council conduct a nexus study which would help decide on the range of fees and the list of projects for which such fees could be used. 


Photograph by Daniella Thompson 

The Blood House, 2526 Durant Ave.