Landmark designation another hurdle for Berkeley Honda

Berkeley Honda is hoping to take over 2777 Shattuck Ave., the former Any Mountain location. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Berkeley Honda hopes to take over 2777 Shattuck, the former Any Mountain location. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The Berkeley City Council voted this week to review a decision by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the former Any Mountain and Berkeley Bowl location, where Berkeley Honda hopes to one day open, as a structure of merit.

Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to bring the decision to a public hearing “at the earliest possible date.” (Councilman Max Anderson was absent due to illness.) City staff said that hearing may happen March 8, but has not been finalized. Earlier this month, property owner Glenn Yasuda also filed an appeal of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) decision.

Honda hopes to open a new full-service dealership at 2777 Shattuck, between Ward and Stuart streets, and is currently operating out of two temporary locations, at 2627 Shattuck and 1500 San Pablo Ave. Initially, the company hoped to move to 1500 San Pablo but “lost that site to a multi-national developer,” according to project documents.

See complete Berkeley Honda coverage on Berkeleyside.


The LPC voted Dec. 3 to grant one type of landmark status to the building in response to a petition and application filed by “at least fifty City residents,” according to Tuesday’s staff report. The LPC deemed the building a “structure of merit” for two reasons: as a notable example of “streamline moderne” architecture, and “for its historical significance to the City and neighborhood within the context of indoor recreation.” 

The vote was split, with five in favor, three opposed and one abstention. The commission did not find that the building met the criteria for a straight “landmark” designation, which requires a higher standard of quality or significance.

The December vote was just the latest blow to Berkeley Honda, which told council in October that the difficulty of finding a new location and the city’s protracted permitting process had made the company’s future in the city uncertain. At that time, company representatives paid a special visit to council, during the public comment period for items not on the agenda, to update officials about the project’s status. They said, too, they had just learned of the neighborhood’s efforts to landmark the building.

Steve Finacom, who filed the landmarking application on behalf of supporters, told Berkeleyside previously that the effort was “not directly related to the Berkeley Honda proposal. I live in this neighborhood and have thought for many years that this handsome building should be a landmark.”

Project representatives for 2777 Shattuck have disputed that assertion in their appeal. Ali Kashani described the Finacom report Friday as “a hostile application.”

“It’s not on the merits of the building,” he said. “It’s targeted on killing the Honda project. The building has been bastardized over the years many times. The proposed project does not attempt to alter any of the features they consider significant.”

Wrote property owner Yasuda in his appeal letter, “If the term ‘hostile’ is too frank, then perhaps better to label this landmark application effort as a version of the writing of history referred to as ‘politically motivated myth-making.'”


Read the Yasuda appeal.

According to Finacom’s report, there are “only about a dozen non-industrial/non-residential buildings” in Berkeley in the streamline moderne style, which is a variation on the Art Deco architecture, he wrote. The original “Berkeley Bowl” was designed by architects Farr and Ward and built in 1940.

“From 1940 to approximately 1972/74 it housed Berkeley’s largest private bowling alley, as well as up to six other businesses with storefronts along Shattuck Avenue,” according to the report. In the 1950s, there was also a community theater in the building, Finacom wrote, where “Beat poet Allen Ginsburg first read a complete version of ‘Howl’ to a live audience.”

In the mid-70s, Glenn and Diane Yasuda bought the building and remodeled it to become a grocery store also under the “Berkeley Bowl” name. They moved the grocery store to 2020 Oregon St. in 1999. Any Mountain moved into 2777 Shattuck that same year, and operated there until it closed last year.

Read about the history of 2777 Shattuck in Berkeley (see page 10).

A preservation architect working with property owner Yasuda wrote in a companion report to his appeal that the area had “dozens of local bowling alleys,” making the Berkeley Bowl location less significant in this respect. He said, too, that the building is not listed as notable in “published Bay Area architectural surveys.”


He writes that the “streamline moderne” style was not particularly notable or significant and argues, further, it “is poorly representative of Berkeley architecture.”

The LPC ruling means that “distinguishing exterior features” of the building must be preserved. According to project documents, that includes the following bullet points (as they appear in the determination):

  • Original massing and character of the building, a low, horizontal structure punctuated by a single vertical element, the entrance tower.
  • The south end of the building which curves around the Shattuck / Stuart corner, containing a commercial space with a corner entrance flanking windows above bulkheads
  • The upper portions of the flat roofed tower including: front pylons in a modern Doric style each with five vertical, concave, flutes below horizontally banded caps; the general shape and mass of the tower; small rectangular and square windows on the north, west, and south top of the tower (two windows on each side/end; four windows on the west); decorative concrete screen pierced in the front wall of the tower, above the main entrance.
  • The wooden vaulted roof of the large central structure, and the western windows behind the tower, lighting the end of the vault.

New auto sales are among the largest generators of sales tax for Berkeley, according to information provided in early 2015 by the city’s Office of Economic Development. In a recent year, the city collected close to $1.2 million in sales tax for new cars. As of early last year, new car sales accounted for 7.8% of the city’s annual sales tax revenue, behind restaurants, which provided 21.3% of the sales tax revenue, and general merchandise, which accounted for 10.3%.

After company representatives described to council in October some of the challenges they’ve faced in their relocation efforts, Councilwoman Linda Maio promised that city officials would “for sure” look into the matter, and said that the city does not want to lose the business.

U.S. Honda has been pressuring Berkeley Honda to finalize its permanent location. The national operation has offered Berkeley Honda a new franchise license in Brentwood, according to project documents, but its owners — members of the Beinke family — say they want to stay in Berkeley if they can.

Related:
Berkeley Honda says its future is at risk (10.09.15)
Adeline report highlights desire for affordable housing (09.01.15)
LeConte residents express concern about Berkeley Honda’s move (04.02.15)
Berkeley Honda hopes to take over Any Mountain space (02.25.15)
Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses (01.13.15)
Council to consider zoning change for ‘auto row’ dealers (09.27.11)

Do you rely on Berkeleyside for local news? Support independent journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside member for $10 a month or even less, or by making a one-time donation.