The Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) voted 8-6 Thursday to allow Berkeley developers Ruegg and Ellsworth to relocate the landmarked Blood House at 2526 Durant Ave. to Regent Street and build a a 34,158-square-foot, five-story building with 44 apartments, 18 parking spaces and retail space in its place.
Designed by architect Robert Gray Frise, this 1891 Queen Anne-style building was originally constructed as a single-family home whose use was later altered.
Flanked by the Albra and the Brasfield buildings—two other landmarks—the Blood House is now used as an office building.
“The Blood House is a minority in the neighborhood because it’s not in good shape,” project manager Brendan Heafey told the board. “Our intention is to build condominiums and rent them out to permanent residents such as university staff and faculty who plan to stay in the neighborhood for a long time ... We are trying to improve the health of the area.”
Roland Peterson, president of the Telegraph Avenue Merchant’s Association, said that high-density housing would be economically viable for Telegraph.
“We have a number of projects in the neighborhood,” said Dana Ellsworth.
“By moving the house to a better location, it adds a much-needed link in the block which is required to make the street vibrant. Currently the house does not contribute to pedestrian activity.”
The city Landmarks Preservation Commission declared the building a structure of merit in September 1999. Ruegg and Ellsworth’s appeal of the designation was denied by the City Council a month later.
At an earlier meeting, the zoning board had denied the proposed demolition of the historically designated structure and had asked to see other alternatives which would help preserve it.
A compromise suggested by the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA), which would retain the Blood House on the site and build a 40-unit project, was heard by the ZAB in February 2004 but then abandoned by the developers.
Ruegg & Ellsworth presented the idea of relocating the Blood House to an empty lot at 2508 Regent St. owned by developer John Gordon at a May 2004 ZAB meeting.
According to a January 2007 addendum to the project’s environmental impact report, because “the residential character of Durant Avenue has been considerably altered, moving the building to another more residential location could mitigate to a less-than-significant level impacts to this historic resource.”
“We feel that the proposed alternative offered a solution to the community,” BAHA member Leslie Emmington told the board Thursday. “As an organization, we don’t feel there has been enough discussion ... the staff conclusions don’t demonstrate that the preservation alternative is infeasible.”
Board member Jesse Arreguin asked the zoning staff why the BAHA alternative had not been given serious consideration.
“I am for rental housing on the Southside but I have serious concerns about the process and the impact relocating it will have on the historic fabric of the neighborhood,” he said. “The reason why it was a structure of merit was to give some kind of historic character to the neighborhood,” he said.
Board member Bob Allen said the BAHA alternative had been given serious consideration.
“The proposal would cut down street frontage to less than half of what it was now,” he said. “It was a very unsatisfactory situation.”
Heafey told the board that the 40-unit preservation alternative would not have met California building codes.
Board member Terry Doran said that wrapping the Blood House with a large modern building would be offensive.
“By moving it to a new site, the historical character of the building will be kept intact,” he said.
Floor joists with steel beams will be used to lift the house from its first floor and lower it onto a trailer. The relocation is scheduled to take place on a Sunday and local traffic will be detoured to alternative routes briefly.
Plans to move the UC Berkeley-owned landmarked John Woolley House, at 2509 Haste St. to the same empty Regent Street lot are also being explored.
Gordon told the board that the Blood House would not be moved until he got a permit to move the Woolley House.