The City of Berkeley’s Public Works Department (the developer)
has been described as a 500 pound gorilla who does anything it wants.
This is has been the experience for neighbors regarding the maintenance
yard’s operations and property development for at least two decades
Most recently, this “bully” behavior was displayed at the
Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and then again at the council
hearing on the landmark designation. I have attached a copy of my complaint
to this process so you might better understand how bankrupt this public
process has become for neighbors.
When the City Council deliberated the landmarks question last year,
they opted to wait till 11:30 at night to hold the public hearing. This
required the Council waive its rules of practice/process. Because of
this variance in the rules, few families waited to speak. The political
maneuvering insured that there would be little public debate of the
project. Perhaps even worst, Council refused to allow the landmark applicant
(me) the opportunity to counter the many landmark misrepresentations
of the developer, Public Works. The net result was that the developer,
Public Works and its project, went completely unchallenged.
The City of Berkeley’s “hardball” approach to the
public process should stop. It’s time that the City and Public
Works begin to follow the normal zoning, LPC, and development process
and requirements imposed on other developers/businesses. No demolition
or construction should be allowed until there is an updated Master Plan
for the Corporation Yard and a completed environmental review. The Yard’s
current Master Plan is over fifteen years out of date. This is what
the project demands and what the City would clearly demand of others
I authored the landmarks application at the LPC and believe it would
be a tragedy to lose any of the original Ratcliff building. This landmark
may well be the most significant in Berkeley, especially to the development
of the city and our municipal government. The Public Works has argued
that some of the original building should be torn down. They acknowledge
the buildings significance but claim they should knock it down because
of the costs. This is the cry of nearly every developer faced with a
landmarked building. Few developers ever want to invest in such a building.
This is hardly a legitimate reason to destroy this or any city building
designated a landmark.
I encourage each of you to read this history contained in my application.
I also encourage you to uphold the LPC designation and concern that
all the original building be preserved. I ask that you not grant a demolition
permit for any of the original footprint of the Radcliff as delineated
in the LPC application. This building is a very important part of our
Berkeley History and should be preserved. Sincerely,
Corporation Yard Needs More than Makeover Berkeley Daily Planet
2-21-02, L A Wood
Landmarks Designation Appeal 12-9-02, L A Wood
Ratcliff Appeal sent to City Council c/o City Clerk by
fax which includes photos.
Mayor and City Council City of Berkeley Council Agenda: December 17, 2002
Toni Horodysky Berkeley, CA
Re: Landmark Status for Corporation Yard Ratcliff Building and Environs
There should be no doubt in your minds that the Walter Ratcliff Building
at the Corporation Yard is a historic and architecturally significant
structure worthy of Landmark Status.
This building, designed by Berkeley's first City Architect, was built
in 1913. It was one of the first industrial buildings in the United
States to be designed to blend into its surrounding neighborhood and
to present a friendly face to its environs. This brick building has
beautiful detailing and looks more like a school or Art studio than
its true function.
Here are two early views of the Ratcliff Building:
Note: sent to City Council c/o City Clerk by fax which includes photos
The real question behind this Appeal by the Public Works Department
is whether a City Department is subject to the same standards and rules
as ordinary business and homeowners in this City.
The Public Works Department did not have the courtesy to attend and
speak at the Landmarks Commission hearings, although the meetings were
continued for several months providing much opportunity to do so.
Public Works Department is in violation of its Use Permit, gradually
having placed 20 large storage containers on the property, all without
benefit of Use Permit.
In its Application for a Use Permit during its last construction project
in 1988, the Public Works Department in its CEQA report and in its Use
Permit proposed rebuilding a Sound Wall along the southern border of
the property and expanding off-street employee parking by restriping
and removing several small structures on the northern side of the lot.
It took eight years and protests from neighbors to get the Sound Wall
built. The employee parking has never been increased.
Further, during this construction project, plans shown to the community
in the Use Permit were revised, and a new building was constructed which
encroached upon the adjacent Strawberry Street Park, in clear violation
of Measure L.
The Public Works Department met with neighbors in March to discuss plans
for work at the Corporation Yard, and stated repeatedly that they had
no plans for construction or demolition at the site. In fact, they have
a Master Plan, approved by the City Council in July 1988 which includes
demolition of a nearly half of the Ratcliff Building.
As a follow-up to the issues raised at the March 20, 2002 Community
meeting on April 2, 2002, we submitted a series of 25 questions to Patrick
Keilch of the Public Works Department, regarding Corporation Yard changes.
Following are excerpts from our questions and his replies of July 3,
1. Please confirm that you have no plans for any construction at the
Corporation Yard as stated at the meeting.
[Keilch, Patrick] At this time, we have no plans for construction at
the Corp. Yard.
2. Please confirm that there is no Master Plan for the Yard. What was
the date of any previous Master Plan?
[Keilch, Patrick] Our research up to this time has found no approved
Master Plan for the Corp. Yard.
3. Please confirm that you have no plans to raze and replace the Quonset
hut or any other buildings or parts thereof, other than moving the Lawn
Bowling storage facility from the Corporation Yard.
[Keilch, Patrick] Correct, we have no such plans to raze or replace
17. Why were the mitigation projects of the 1987 Use Permit never completed?
Such as: planting trees along Allston Way, restriping employee parking
lot to create 22 more spaces, demolishing 3 small buildings along Allston
way to create additional employee parking. Why did it take 10 years,
including one year of protests, to build the planned wall along Bancroft
Way? [Keilch, Patrick] Obviously, because the City did not take the
actions or allocate the resources to do these things or took longer
to make the decision and allocate the resources for measures which were
completed. This certainly legitimate question but is a comment to make
a point, I believe, as much as a question.
18. The 1987 Use Permit shows the proposed Paint Building as a long,
narrow building along the west property line with Strawberry Creek Park.
The drawing of the Corporation Yard at present shows a shorter, wider
building that straddles the property line, encroaching into the Park.
When and why were the plans changed? Measure L requires a two-thirds
vote of the citizens to change the use of park or open space. On whose
authority was Measure L violated? [Keilch, Patrick] We don't have the
research yet to answer all these questions. This is information we need
to research more to determine. I'm asking Alex and Planning to further
elaborate on this.
So the question before you today is whether a City Department is subject
to the same standards as anyone else in the City.
We ask you to deny the Appeal and designate the Ratcliff building and
its environs as a City Landmark.