Two years after rejection, a group of residents is trying again to get city landmark preservation status for Campanile Way, a historic roadway on the UC Berkeley campus. But this time, the application goes further by specifically landmarking not just the path, but the view from the Sather Tower west across the city and bay to the Golden Gate Bridge.
A petition signed by 56 residents supporting the landmark designation was submitted to the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission in September, a required step in initiating the process. Numerous letters of support accompany the petition.
The commission will consider the request as soon as the application is complete.
Many of the residents who signed this petition also put their mark on a similar request in 2015, which was rejected by the commission and appealed to the city council, which upheld the commission’s denial.
The new attempt meets the two year waiting period required before trying again.
A few things have changed in the past couple of years, which may be fueling this second go at landmarking Campanile Way. Berkeley has a different mayor and a more progressive and less development-friendly City Council. The new City Council members all appointed landmark preservation commissioners.
It’s still unclear if this changed political landscape will reflect a change of perspective on the question of whether Campanile Way should be landmarked. But it’s understandable that supporters of the historical landmark designation might hope for this, given how the matter in 2015 was entwined in a heated debate on downtown high-rise development.
Steve Finacom, a local historian who spearheaded the 2015 application, is also taking the lead on the new attempt. He now sits on the Landmarks Preservation Commission as does Becky O’Malley, who had advocated for the landmarking status two years ago.
During the 2015 application process, many supporters of landmarking claimed opponents were placing more value on high-rise downtown development than historical or cultural merit. Many against the landmark designation felt supporters were overzealous and unwilling to accept changing urban landscapes. Some felt supporters were using the Campanile Way landmark process to obstruct approved downtown buildings.
The city’s downtown area plan, a guide for future development, calls for high-rise density in the city center area, a section of which happens to be in the Campanile Way view corridor.
In particular, contention swirled around the impact of the controversial 18-story mixed-use project at 2211 Harold Way, approved by the city in 2015. Photo mock-ups of the project showed that a piece of the project would intrude into the Campanile Way view corridor. The apartment complex would be visible if someone stood on one section of the esplanade or terrace area below the Campanile, but barely seen if that person moved to the southern end of the tower.
In response to comments made by the Design Review Committee, the Harold Way developer revised the profile of the project so it intruded less into the Campanile Way view corridor. Since the city approved the Harold Way project, the developer, Joseph Penner of Hill Street Realty, has put it up for sale.
Since then, another developer has submitted an application for a project that could impact the view from Campanile Way even more severely. Mill Creek Residential is proposing a 180-foot tower with 274 housing units over the existing Walgreen’s at 2190 Shattuck Ave.
The 2015 application raised questions about whether Berkeley could even landmark Campanile Way since UC Berkeley is not subject to local zoning restrictions. Other debated issues at the time included whether Campanile Way was already protected since many of the buildings that line it are on the National Register of Historic Places. Opponents also pointed out that trees had grown up to obstruct the original view. And some landmark supporters said the Harold Way photo projections weren’t accurate.
In the new petition, Finacom specifically calls out the Campanile Way view corridor, along with other elements including roadway, pathway, facades and landscape features.
“It also includes a historic view corridor projecting from and above the Way toward San Francisco Bay, extending to the Golden Gate in-between,” he writes.
Finacom did not respond to several requests by Berkeleyside to discuss the matter.
Many of the residents petitioning for landmark status, this time and two years ago, stress how the view westward to the Golden Gate from the center of campus along Campanile Way was a purposeful turn-of-the-century era design element, consistent with a westward-looking plan.
In a supporting letter to the new petition, Harvey Hefland, an architect, former campus planner, and author of University of California, Berkeley: The Campus Guide writes:
“One of the nation’s best examples of American Beaux-Arts planning exists on the campus of the University of California in the heart of Berkeley. This early 20th-century plan exemplifies the principles of that movement, with its ensemble of buildings and open spaces organized geometrically and axially and with careful alignment to natural features, vistas, and focal points that extend beyond the campus grounds.
The major organizing influence in this layout is its principal westward orientation to the Golden Gate. This connection to the Golden Gate, in fact, dates to the 19th-century origins of the university when the Berkeley site was selected for the university’s predecessor institution, the College of California.”