NOTE; Below is the Zoning Adjustments Board communication offered as a public record in 2013 regarding the demolition of the California Bungalow located at 1936 Delaware Street in Berkeley. The bungalow was first assessed in 1908 and this suggests that it was built in the latter half of 1907 or in early 1908, following the earthquake. It is unclear if William G. Black, who was then a building contractor and mason, actually built this bungalow since no initical building permit has ever been located. It is most likely that the Black family did raise the structure since property assessments records for the year 1908, 1909 indicate that the family owned this property. (Sea View Park, APB 2056, block 4, lot 4; owner: Luella F. Black; assessed value: $850.)
The first tenant to occupy the house was David A. Evans. He and his family lived in the bungalow until some time in the early 1920s. City directories of that decade also show that the Black famly actually lived at 1936 Delaware Street for a number of years. Unquestionably, this property should have been referred to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for consideration. L A Wood, Berkeley Citizen
Zoning Adjustments Board, City of Berkeley
L A Wood, June 13, 2013
We appreciate the opportunity to express our concerns regarding the proposed demolition of the historic 1936 Delaware (William and Luella Black California Bungalow) single-family dwelling/property and to the shortfalls of the proposed use permit and new construction project as delineated by the pending Use Permit #13-10000001.
Please consider the following:
Structure History: Purchased to Demolish
The 1936 Delaware Street property was purchased approximately 18 months ago by Mr. Kao and Ms. Kluner. The bank-owned property received nine bids, according to Redfin Reality, and the property was sold for more than what was being asked. It is reasonable to assume that prior to purchasing this historic residence that the buyers were made aware of the legal consequences and restrictions if any historic preservation issues were raised.
The 105-year-old structure and the obvious historic character of the residence, location, and the signature theme of brick that connects several properties including 1930 Delaware, 1803 Bonita, 1805 Bonita and the applicant’s property are entwined in a common history. 1930 Delaware is listed on the State of California, State Historic Resources Inventory (SHRI) list.
The application makes little mention of the historic significance of the structure, attributing its construction to the time just after the 1906 earthquake. However, an April 18, 2013 email that was sent to Toby Long, the architect for the 1936 Delaware project, and forwarded to ZAB staff Greene from Ms. Kluner regarding her visit to BAHA reflects that Mr. Long, the applicants and ZAB staff ALL understood much more than they were willing to disclose to the city’s land use process. (See Attachment 1.)
It is difficult to determine who might be the most responsible for the failure to disclose. By withholding critical information, the public's interest in and comments about the historic elements of the structure were effectively deflected.
When questioned on June 11, 2013 regarding this email and the failure to fully disclose the known historic resources of the property, ZAB staff Greene was quick to state that ZAB staff had reviewed the historic records. Why didn’t she require the applicants to reveal these facts? Why didn’t city staff disclose this historic record? Staff investigations and those of the applicants are of no value to the application and public process unless these are revealed.
While the owner Ms. Khuner was at BAHA, Mr. Bruce looked through the 1920s' directories and found that the Blacks actually lived at 1936 Delaware Street for some years. This statement is inconsistent with the April 18, 2013 email between Greene and the applicant’s claim that. . .
“…1936 Delaware, while registered in Luella Black's name (as were all the properties they owned), appears to be irrelevant to the family's history. It is not mentioned in any of the articles, and the couple appears to never have lived there, and instead used the house as a rental unit."
There was also a failure to fully convey all relevant information discovered at BAHA pertaining to the structure’s history. Why weren’t the applicants or ZAB willing to follow up on the collected information and begin to make the logical and simple connections to the structure’s history?
ZAB staff failed to meet the legal demand of this application by their egregious omissions. It appears that ZAB is simply facilitating the owners' application at the expense of our neighborhood and its basic character.
The zoning record of this application reflects that the applicants purchased the 1908 Black Bungalow with full intent to demolish it. What was not noted by Ms. Khuner in the application or revealed in the email mentioned above was that while at BAHA, several persons associated with BAHA attempted to convince her to preserve the 105-year-old structure and that they encouraged her to expand at the rear of the property and preserve the historic house. She openly stated that, “the house doesn’t work for me.”
The statement above certainly begs the question, why did they ever consider buying this historic building if their intent was to tear it down? The use permit application should be updated to include all historic information discovered by both the applicant and ZAB staff. Then the application should be required to be recirculated to enable neighbors and the Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission an opportunity to respond to this legally-mandated review.
Additional materials regarding the historic record
• 2009 article on the 1930 Delaware street property next door to the applicant’s property and regarding the impact of the developer/contractor William Black to the tract of land from Delaware to Berkeley Way. (See Attachment 2.) “East Bay Then and Now/ A Yankee Bricklayer’s Creation, Bonita Hall Endures”, Daniella Thompson, Berkeley Daily Planet, August 6, 2009
• No building permit found. There is evidence that the Blacks owned this property from the very beginning. City of Berkeley Property Assessments 1908, 1909 Sea View Park, APB 2056, block 4, lot 4; owner: Luella F. Black; assessed value: $850
• The 1911 Sanborn fire insurance map for the neighborhood. It shows all the Black-owned buildings from Delaware to Berkeley Way. The only one not included is the commercial building at 1942–1946 Bonita Avenue, which is situated south of Berkeley Way. (See Attachment 3.)
• The applicant’s property is cut from the same cloth, as seen in the construction of the adjoining properties: 1930 Delaware as well as 1803 and 1805 Bonita, all of which border the applicant’s property. These three properties have the same brick retaining walls extended across their entire fronts. Our residence at 1803 Bonita Avenue, also shows this unique brick veneer across the front of the bungalow.
The William and Luella Black California Bungalow
This application is the second attempt to demolish the bungalow in the last decade. The first application came via the previous owner in 2003. It should be noted that this first application proposed to incorporate the historic structure into the new construction. Later, this plan was abandoned. Certainly at that time, both staff and the owner recognized the historic value of the building.
The current application by Kao and Kluner fails to acknowledge the quality and style of this bungalow. They simply want to destroy it. Their statement in the application reads, “This house has fallen into disrepair and has all of the original systems and constructions, including brick foundation and problematic mechanical and electrical systems”. This dismissive statement follows the pattern set by the rest of the application.
Since taking ownership, the applicants have done little to enhance the property and have allowed the front as viewed by the public to become overgrown with weeds all the way to the curb. Not only has this effectively covered up the details of the structure, but it also promotes the idea (concurrent with the zoning process) that the bungalow is in poorer shape than it really is. Interestingly, this change in the property can be viewed in photos taken during the sale compared to current photos. Even the zoning notice sign in the front yard sells this idea. It has remained covered with graffiti for the last two weeks.
The interior photos of the house taken by Redfin Reality near the time of its 2011 purchase provide a clearer understanding of the bungalow’s condition. The photos show that much effort has been directed to the maintenance and upgrading of the 1908 Black California Bungalow interior. (See Attachment 4.) It includes two bedrooms, 1.5 baths, forced air heating, wall furnace heating, hardwood floors, laundry services and more.
It is the exterior that reflects much of the historic character of the Black California Bungalow. The scale and fabric of the exterior features reflect something very special. Within the context of the California Bungalow and its rise in the early 1900s, this is an excellent example of a truly unique type of structure with all the essential features and more. (See Attachments 5 & 6.)
The Black California Bungalow has widely overhanging eaves with unenclosed rafters. Its low-pitched gable (or hipped-roof) is set end to the street. Among its unique elements is the cantilevered bay window in the front right corner. It adds character to the bungalow’s exterior lines and also allows for some variably to the interior walls of this rectangular structure.
A standard fixture in nearly every bungalow is a fireplace. Yet this modest dwelling has two fireplaces. Undoubtedly, this came about because the owners were contractors and worked extensively in brick. Both chimneys have the distinct fingerprint of William Black and his use of “clinker” bricks. The scale of the front porch also speaks to his special influence. The large post and framework supporting the porch roof along with the cutout brackets (triangular knee braces) under the projecting eaves are certainly some of the finest elements of the architecture. This unique structure needs to be protected.
DESIGN (proposed structure)
The design of this proposed single dwelling home is absolutely incongruous with our neighborhood and area’s architectural styles. You merely have to look. Yet, ZAB staff supports the applicant’s assertion that the proposed two-story building is “Modern” and that the proposed structure, a flat-roof, single-family structure is somehow reflective of the “one or two lots on Delaware, on the north side of the street and to the west of this project” of large four-story multi-apartments buildings constructed in this area over fifty years ago. These nearly formless, massive structures are NOT the norm for our neighborhood. (See Attachment 7.)
The current application’s rationalization functions purely to justify this project. Staff is correct to assert that the structure at 1936 Delaware is NOT like the area’s principal housing stock of Victorian Edwardian homes built near the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. However, the comparison of the little, flat-roof single-family home to the few huge concrete apartments would be humorous if not for the impacts on our future zoning. What’s next?
To attempt to homogenize architectural styles is very destructive to an area’s historic housing stock and erodes the distinctions and protections granted by our zoning regulations and policies. ZAB in accepting this application far exceeded its discretionary authority, even in this R2A-zoned area.
The Bonita-Delaware neighborhood has struggled more than most neighborhoods to maintain some semblance of quality of life and stability. Our Delaware-Bonita street area is slowly being swallowed up by the downtown. This shift has placed substantial pressures on the zoning department to make changes in their practices affecting areas that abut the downtown such as our neighborhood.
Clearly, it’s not the job of staff to redefine our neighborhood's character through the application process such as is seen in the proposal before you tonight. Where are the zoning protections for our neighborhood as expressed in the policies of the Berkeley Zoning Code?
• Policy LV-7 Neighborhood Quality of Life - Preserve and protect the quality of life in Berkeley's residential areas through careful land use decisions. Actions: A. Require that new development be consistent with zoning standards and compatible with the scale, historic character, and surrounding uses in the area.
• Carefully evaluate and monitor new and existing uses to minimize or eliminate negative impacts on adjacent residential uses.
• Policy UD-16 Context - The design and scale of new or remodeled buildings should respect the built environment in the area, particularly where the character of the built environment is largely defined by an aggregation of historically and architecturally significant buildings.
• Policy UD-24 Area Character - Regulate new construction and alterations to ensure that they are truly compatible with and, where feasible, reinforce the desirable design characteristics of the particular area they are in.
In ZAB staff efforts to equivocate the extreme in styles, it has left out an honest discussion of the proposed building in this sensitive infill site as it relates to other single-family home dwellings in this area. Again, where were any considerations given to the above expressed zoning policies?
The fabric of the homes in this neighborhood is principally painted wood or painted wood and stucco. The proposed building is a major departure from this material and look. The applicants propose to use several metal applications including exposed “blackened” steel posting, some metal fascia, a steel garage door (exterior black), black window frames and weathered steel (Cor-Ten) siding. The black-metal and rust-color, cladding look may seem chic on paper, but this hybrid pre-fab building simply doesn’t fit in with the existing single-family homes and housing stock in this area.
It is important to repeat that these materials will make the proposed structure stand out and not fit in. Although the dwelling will have cedar material to help soften the appearance of the home on the front side, neighbors at 1803 Bonita Avenue will have their hill view replaced by the “rusting” walls of the structure. More needs to be done to soften the impact on the 1803 Bonita view, despite it being just a rental property.
If you stand at the sidewalk of the proposed site and look east, you will see that all these homes have hip/gable roofs. The setbacks of these structures is fairly uniform. The proposed project petitions to reduce the setback for the box structure. This will necessarily cause the structure to protrude out towards the street. One purpose of the setback is to provide for some landscape, as is seen with other family homes in this area. The design's priority should be to fit in as opposed to attempting to stand out.
Every care should be taken to preserve the Buckeye tree at the street edge. The Buckeye trees form an unbroken line on both sides of Delaware from Shattuck Avenue to where Delaware dead ends just east of Sacramento.
Green and Sustainable
The project makes claims of creating a leading-edge, green, sustainable home that meets some kind of progressive standard. The proposed structure contains some these elements in the use of materials and its design, but this is NOT a leading-edge, green project as their promotional materials suggest. The most sustainable and most green project is one that begins by incorporating the existing structure, thus minimizing the environmental impacts. The truly green and sustainable choice for these applicants is to reuse part or all of the existing building.
The project defines sustainability as hauling away some of the materials from the demolition of the existing bungalow for reuse in some other project and then bringing in recycled materials from other sources to be used in the proposed structure. The net gain is small compared to the impacts of "deconstruction".
As stated above, a leading-edge, sustainable project would never remove a reusable building. The sustainability of this project lies in a half-hearted approach, used to refocus attention away from what is actually being done or not being done. There is a difference, you know.
1803 and 1805 Bonita Avenue
Much of the staff discussions and determinations regarding impacts and potential detriments have focused on nearby properties on Delaware, and not Bonita Avenue, even though there are three adjoining properties on Bonita Avenue that share a common property line with 1936 Delaware. The detrimental effects of the proposed project on the properties at 1803 and 1805 Bonita Avenue have been ignored and dismissed.
Obviously, the proposed project poses significant detriments and impacts on the 1803 property and to those who live closest to the project as can be clearly seen by the attached photos of the adjoining properties. (See Attachment 8.)
• Figure 1 - The photo shows the apartment at 1803 Bonita Avenue and its relationship to the 1936 Delaware property. More specifically, it shows the existing garage’s back southeast corner. This approximates the extended southern reach of the proposed dwelling’s back southeast wall after the garage is demolished. The distance of the proposed structure to this back apartment at 1803 Bonita is approximately 18 feet. The photograph shows the shadow line of the project’s existing garage as it is projected onto the apartment’s exterior wall. From this image you can begin to see how the proposed structure would ACTUALLY impact the apartment.
The photo also identifies the three upper windows, kitchen, bathroom and a back bedroom for which this is the only exterior window. The back bedroom is more clearly viewed in Fig. 3. From these windows, you can now see the Berkeley hills and some of the backyards of the houses on Delaware immediately east of the project.
These same windows will all lose these views with the construction of the proposed building at 1936 Delaware. Instead, the view will change to a high two-story wall covered with the weathering rusted-metal siding of the proposed project. This constitutes an extreme loss of view and detriment.
• Policy UD-31 Views - Construction should avoid blocking significant views, especially ones toward the Bay, the hills, and significant landmarks such as the Campanile, Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. Whenever possible, new buildings should enhance a vista or punctuate or clarify the urban pattern.
The proposed 1936 Delaware structure proposes to construct a large second story window opposite to the three windows mentioned above. There has been no evaluation regarding the likelihood of a flash effect or sun reflection in the afternoon to any of three back windows on the 1803 Bonita apartment mentioned above.
ZAB staff should also be aware that new trees planted near the west rear of the property will also potentially block a considerable amount of light to both 1803 and 1805 Bonita Avenue. Staff should review this and set up some parameters for rear landscaping to protect this potential loss of both light and view.
• Figure 2 - This photo provides a glimpse of the backyard garden running along the fence between the 1803 Bonita apartment and its shared west fence with 1936 Delaware. The proposed structure’s two stories will high-wall in the garden affecting light, plant growth and wind circulation. The ZAB staff shadow study failed to consider these consequences and negative impacts.
The Board may not have a clear understanding of the dynamics of the rental market in Berkeley. Property ownership and rental leases are much the same as they relate to zoning and its changes. Units that offer more assets, like an outside garden as shown in the photos in figure 2, command a higher rental price for these coveted yards and are aggressively sought after in the rental market. The loss or degradation of such a major rental resource constitutes a significant detriment. The above issues were not raised by the application process or by ZAB.
It appears that rental properties are measured by a different standard than that of Berkeley homeowners in the zoning process. Despite the fact that the 1803 Bonita Avenue back apartment is but 18 feet from the shared property line, nearly all the drawings of the Bonita Avenue side of the proposed project fail to include the footprint of the housing. By omission, the project attempts to shield residents at 1803 and 1805 Bonita Avenue from making any connections with the development that could trigger our concern. It also appears that the owners of the 1803 and 1805 Bonita Avenue properties has been left out of the whole process. There is no record of notification of the owners.
It is no surprise to see that in the 2003 appeal to the 1936 Delaware application representing residents stated, “Indeed, we were victims of an unfair bias: it seems that if a building is located in the flatlands, especially near campus, then anything goes. While this project may not be located up in the Berkeley Hills, it deserves the same careful consideration and sensitivities to the existing environment as anywhere else.” A decade later, we are still suffering from this same lack of fair play in the zoning process.
Contrary to the application, this hybrid structure is not widely embraced by neighbors. There is little enthusiasm for this design. The very short list of those who have signed on to the project should be an indication of this.
Yes, staff contends that the current application meets all the requirements for this R2A-zoned property. This might be true if they levered all ZAB’s discretionary powers to support and justify this project, except for one thing. This application misrepresents the project elements from which ZAB’s findings are drawn, and as such, is illegal and misleading, making any honest public review impossible.
Further, this application grossly misrepresents the interests and concerns of the immediate neighborhood and its zoning as well as its cultural and historic resources. Your approval of this application will have long-lasting impacts on our families, our neighbors and for defining future zoning projects in the immediate area.
The current application meets the legal demand for correction and recirculation to both residents impacted by the project as well as to the Landmarks Preservation Commission and its agenda. We request this be done. We ask that ZAB be directed to reevaluate the 1936 Delaware project's application with regard to all the comments offered above and with a special sensitivity to the issues surrounding the extensive and detrimental impacts to the 1803 and 1805 Bonita Avenue properties.
ZAB PDF Documents for 1936 Delaware St.