Page One

Demolition Work Raises Questions in West Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday August 28, 2007

A group of Berkeley residents are questioning why the windows of a building at 1050 Parker St. are being dismantled prior to the building getting a demolition use permit from the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB). Demolition permits for any building over 40 years old in a commercial zone must first be reviewed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to determine whether it has any historic significance. 

Neighborhood business owners and residents said they were perplexed when the tall metal-sash multi-light windows went missing from the unoccupied one-story World War II-era building last month. 

The property, formerly owned by Pastor Gordon W. Choyce Sr., was recently purchased by San Rafael-based Wareham Developers. 

Choyce, who heads Jubilee Restoration—the charitable arm of Berkeley’s Missionary Church of God in Christ—had purchased the property along with several others to demolish them all and build Jubilee Village, a large affordable housing project. 

The project stalled in 2004 due to an investigation into Jubilee and the federal government withdrawing funding for the project. It was alleged at the time that the organization had been diverting federal funds. 

Wareham, who own the Fantasy Records building on Tenth Street, has recently applied for a demolition permit for the site, leading to speculation that the dismantling of the windows might serve a larger purpose. 

“It’s obvious to me that someone is attempting to take away any character-defining features from the building so that they can get the demolition permit,” said Berkeley Landmarks Commissioner Carrie Olson, “so that when it comes before the Landmarks Commission, we will say, ‘Oh what a dump’ and approve the permit.” 

Darrell de Tienne, who is representing Wareham, told the Planet Thursday that the windows were removed as part of an abatement process. 

“We had to do it to remove the asbestos from the building,” he said. “We have not started demolishing anything yet.” 

De Tienne said that there were no concrete plans for the site after the building is demolished. 

“It’s possible that it could be linked to Fantasy Records and used for parking or something,” he said. 

Laurie Bright, who owns the neighboring D & L Engines, said that the demolition had taken place during the night.  

“I am extremely suspicious of what’s going on,” he said. “The building’s been sitting there for four years and it has never been vandalized. Then suddenly someone starts tearing down the windows. It’s sitting there empty, open to weather, vandalism and graffiti. There’s nothing left but the shell. Any chance to re-use the building is lost.” 

Olson told the Planet that she had requested a stop-work order from the city’s Code Enforcement Division last week. 

Wendy Cosin, Berkeley’s deputy planning director, told the Planet that a staff shortage had prevented the order from being sent out. 

“It’s my belief that there’s no work going on there now,” she said. 


Photograph by Richard Brenneman. 

Demolition work on the windows of this World War II-era building at Tenth and Parker streets has drawn criticism.