Public Comment

What Is Your History Worth?

Carol Denney
Saturday January 06, 2018 - 06:57:00 PM

A conversation about the potentially imperiled view between the campus and the bay is happening right now. And there is still time to be part of it.

When city planning happens, it can seem small. It can even seem boring. Your extra six inches of roof height can block sunlight to my garden, which is no small matter to me and my tomatoes.

But the issue at stake in this case is decades of generations who have carefully planned the preservation of the iconic view of the Golden Gate from the Berkeley hills, a view so powerful that it's been celebrated by successive generations of artists, architects, planners, students, city and campus workers, residents, and visitors from all over the world.

The leading lights of voices for the preservation of historic landmarks spoke Thursday night at the Landmarks Preservation Commission on behalf of a petition to preserve Campanile Way, not just a setting one can see from the marina up to the campus as well as the hills above but also an irreplaceable, unforgettable view from either direction. The most compelling voices included former commissioners, architects, and historians who recognize, as have hundreds of petitioners, that it is our generation's obligation to honor the extraordinary efforts of previous generations to preserve the amazing intersection of both built and natural elements represented by this landmark petition. 

If this is news, take the time to walk to the Campanile and look west, where your view will sweep through the entire length of the city through the shoreline, past the extremities of the fingers of San Francisco Bay and on a clear day include the pastel elements of either islands or fog - one has difficulty knowing which from moment to moment. Imagine the sad state of our city if, without guidance regarding its protection, this powerful image which draws thousands of admirers and is documented by thousands of wedding and graduation pictures from every continent was sacrificed. 

One could put the biggest billboard on earth across the Grand Canyon. What would stop such a thing, or the destruction of any landmark? Voices. Voices of people who have walked the Campanile Way, and who have been moved by the sweep of imagination included an expansive setting in what would otherwise be just a lovely sunset. 

The last voice at Thursday's meeting, the final part of a unanimous parade of support for the landmarking of Campanile Way, was a woman who said she worked with young people who see a lot of concrete and asphalt and made a brilliant, concise case for the clarity and power of the sweeping vista to a young imagination. She somehow made us all understand its necessity, to resounding applause, making us think about not only what our history is worth, but what our history is worth to those young eyes looking for a sense of connection to the generations that came before. 

Note: to send support for the Campanile Way landmark application, write to Fatema Crane, Senior Planner, Landmarks Preservation Commission Secretary (510) 981-7413,, 1947 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94704. To speak on the application's behalf, attend the next Landmark Preservation Commission meeting in February.