Public Comment

What the Courthouse Was

By Tao Matthews
Thursday October 22, 2009 - 09:36:00 AM

Thank you for the urgently needed summary story by R. Brokl. We are steadying ourselves from the shocking and utterly unjustifiable destruction of a B+ noted important Oakland Historic Resource, the Courthouse Club, 2935 Telegraph Ave. Mr. Brokl reported the plundering and pillaging of this property and its surroundings with accuracy and compassion. The beloved resource has withstood the test of time, having lived nobly through two earthquakes: 1906 and 1989. It had been retrofitted and became a very successful rehab gym that catered to, among others, vets returning from conflicts in Desert Storm and Bosnia. Truly it was a one-of-a-kind gym business that brought income and interesting people into our community. Its ample parking lot was often full all throughout open hours, with a Black Belt security guard on duty. 

So why should a thriving business, even in a slow economy, be shut down and allowed to sit vacant several years when all that time it could have earned income for its new owners, T.C.R.? It was even photo-shopped by architecturally savvy persons who showed T.C.R. how to incorporate the building into a complex that included condos and retail. My own suggestion was to use it to build around a center courtyard/commons with two-story condos to the south and west and retail facing front. It could have included a space for childcare and a big room for washers and dryers and common gym and pool. 

But no, potential lease tenants, nonprofit representatives, and even hopeful buyers were told, “No, it is not for lease or sale!” 

It also sat in-between two other precious landmarks: St. Augustine’s Church and Telegraph Medical Hill. T.C.R. thinks that Northgate is just asleep. We are not! 

We may well also qualify for a Level Two (Level One being the highest), Historic District Rating. And, oh, by the way, condos aren’t selling very well, and if you can’t afford to build even more (Oakland has enough, let me tell you; just look at downtown Emeryville), why not listen to what we are saying about what we need over here? 

We don’t need big condo complexes and we don’t need more. We already have an abundance of subsidized housing in this area. We don’t need more Oakland Housing Authority. Let O.H.A. spend its money, stimulus or other, on fixing up the properties it already possesses. 

At a Planning Commission meeting, Michael Colbruno, commissioner, remarked to T.C.R. that he was appalled at the condition that T.C.R had allowed the Courthouse to be in. It had never been adequately secured, even if they say it was “on paper.” T.C.R. also changed their design plans over and over: Jade Condos; Courthouse Condos; O.H.A; Alexan Element, etc.; even though they should have reapplied, they kept getting continuances! The whole time the building remained an open house to vandals. Not all neighbors within 300 feet were notified properly at the outset of the plans, and no one was notified that on Sept. 29, the building would be torn apart without even properly salvaging all recyclable materials. 

Our appeal period was usurped. We had until Oct. 5 to file. We raised the money, and we filed. We are also appealing the removal of two protected wildlife-inhabited redwoods with stands in the west end of the property. The hearing we weren’t supposed to know about either was on Oct. 20.  

The neighborhood has expressed interest in the idea of either a Trader Joe’s grocery or a Pet Co/Pet Food Express that would include a dog-friendly cafe, a fenced tot park, and a small fenced animal care center focusing on the education of families on responsible pet ownership. 


Tao Matthews is a member of the Northgate Neighborhood Group, Oakland.