The group of Berkeley residents that lost a petition to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the view from Campanile Way is now appealing that decision before the City Council tonight. The group, led by former LPC Commissioner Steven Finacom, is concerned that a development at 2211 Harold Way would mar what they argue is a historic view.
Read more about what’s coming up at tonight’s council meeting.
The LPC voted 5-3, with one abstention, against landmarking the path and its view, though nearly everyone at the meeting agreed that the view is fantastic. The commissioners were divided about how much the 18-story development would impact the view. Even if the petition had passed, some commissioners argued, UC Berkeley is not governed by local ordinances and would not be legally required to pay attention to the ruling.
In a letter that garnered 110 signatures from Berkeley residents, Finacom listed four issues as the grounds for appeal.
City staff gave inaccurate information to the LPC about the historical status of Campanile Way, Finacom wrote. The packet given to the commissioners stated that Campanile Way is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; however, the collection of buildings around the path is landmarked, not the path itself.
“The LPC adopted a demonstrably false finding,” Finacom wrote.
The letter also took issue with the accuracy and relevance of several unnamed commissioners’ statements during the meeting.
Public testimony and commission discussion “was allowed to deviate” from LPC procedure, Finacom wrote. Even though commissioners were not supposed to directly address the development proposed for 2211 Harold Way but instead just discuss the landmarking issue, some of them did comment on the actual building. In addition, some commissioners also suggested that the proposed building on Harold Way wouldn’t be visible from Campanile Way, Finacom continued, even though the developer’s renderings show a minor intrusion of the building into the view.
Some commissioners “made discussion of the 2211 Harold Way project the centerpiece of their statements and, apparently, their votes,” Finacom wrote.
His final complaint regarded the experience of the two newest commissioners, Nick Dominguez and Kim Suczynski Smith. They both voted with the majority to withhold landmark status, but Finacom argued that, due to their recent appointments to the commission, they were “not necessarily familiar with the extensive record of hearings and discussions on the application.” His letter questioned whether they had actually reviewed the debate’s full history, which would be difficult and time-consuming because some of the record is available only in audio form rather than transcripts.
The EIR prepared by the developer of 2211 Harold Way concluded that the impact of the building on the view would “be less than significant,” and it included numerous renderings of its impact. The building is most noticeable from the north side of the base of the Campanile, and hardly noticeable from the south side, according to the EIR.
“The existing skyline is such that the view down Campanile Way and through downtown Berkeley’s urban skyline has already changed substantially over time due to development and landscape growth both on campus and in downtown Berkeley,” the EIR states. “Further, enough of the view of the Golden Gate Bridge would remain to convey Campanile Way’s significance.”
The developer, Hill Street Investments, did move the northern shoulder of the building back 23 feet, though it was based on feedback from the Design Review Committee rather than a response to the landmark application, said Mark Rhoades, the developer, in an email. That step reduced the building’s impact on the view.
The recommendation of the city staff to the council is reject the appeal and affirm the LPC’s decision not to landmark the path.
The city council meeting is Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Eden Teller, a junior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is a Berkeleyside summer intern. She is majoring in media and cultural studies and minoring in geology
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