Help save Berkeley landmarks

You may know that I love the Berkeley hills and their pathways. Last year I described a beautiful walk up a hill lined with houses designed by our revered, indigenous architect, Bernard Maybeck. A few days ago, a resident of that hill asked my help in getting the local Zoning Board to deny granting a special use permit that would allow someone to build an enormous, view-blocking, 22' by 2-story wall in this neighborhood. I'll do what I can.

To make a difference, you need to register your feelings with the Berkeley Zoning Board by this Thusday. For particulars, email: [email protected] They'll respond quickly and with gratitude!

Take your choice:


a. Unobstructed View


b. Two story, 22' high, industrial box

Click thumbnail for larger images.

The neighbor's letter:

History It's a sad day when the character of the Berkeley Hills is jeopardized by a new, very determined land-owner. The area comprising Buena Vista Way, La Loma and Maybeck Twin Drives, is cited as one of the most significant in the state by architectural historians.

The origins of the neighborhood's special reputation go back to the late 1890s when Maybeck began designing homes in Berkeley that blended into their natural surroundings and projected a simple, healthy lifestyle for their inhabitants.

Maybeck lived on Buena Vista Way and designed a number of significant houses there: the "Sack" House and the Wallen Maybeck House and the Mathewson studio to name a few. All designs reflected his guiding principles of blending in with the environment. In addition to Maybeck's former buildings, others such as The Boynton House ("Temple of the Wings") and the Hume Cloister, add historic interest to the neighborhood. All of these houses have been respectfully developed and many have been designated National or State Historic Landmarks, under a time-consuming process initiated by their owners.

Call it Buena Vista Way, Maybeck's area or more curiously, "Nut Hill," it's a place with a lot of history. And a place that has been preserved by owners and occupants for everyone in all Berkeley and beyond to enjoy. Those who live there delight to see runners, bikers, interested tourists and of course, the Path Wanderers, come up and take a look around, take in the views and peer inside some unique homes. Often times, when they see a walker huffing and puffing toward the top, they offer a glass of juice or an invitation "to come inside and poke around." It's a resource for the whole city, and residents are proud to be its guardians.

It's not always a breeze to live in the area however because the codes around zoning and building are fairly strict. Additions to homes and even permits to build carports are not easy to come by. Thus far, these few special "blocks" have developed organically and their uniqueness remains intact.

The Issue at Hand
Unfortunately, residents living in Maybeck homes and others there, are now faced with a possible decision by the Zoning Adjustments Board to allow a very large, very modern and mostly windowless house to be built in the middle of the historic area. The lot to be developed was part of the site of the home that Maybeck built and lived in until it was destroyed by the major Hills fire in 1923.

If Use Permits are granted, the house as designed will be almost twice as tall as anything else in the area and characterized by a 22-foot long fašade that would eliminate the views of the Bay from the street.

Neighbors have written letters, gone to late-night Zoning Board Hearings and as respectfully but solidly as possible opposed these Use Permits being granted. The residents are not against development, in fact, some are contractors and builders.

They are however united against this project that does not respect the history of the area. They have worked to preserve the Hill as a Berkeley resource and find it difficult to believe that its future could soon be forever altered.

Taking a Stand
They would be very appreciative to have Path Wanderers Members write a letter to the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board and/or the Planning Commission or otherwise communicate with the powers that be in the City, to OPPOSE this project.

The final Zoning Board vote is scheduled for FEB 12th. Zoning Board members will review all letters and input received by FEB 5th.

Wes Boyd, MoveOn founder, when he was interviewed by CTNow last August said, "You wish these things would be taken care of by other people." Area residents are hoping the Path Wanderers might be a group that cares enough about the history and preservation of the Hills that they would be inspired to write to the City on this.

The address:

    Zoning Adjustments Board C/o Current Planning Division 2120 Milvia Street Berkeley, CA 94704

    Re: proposed house at 2861 Buena Vista Way
    Attn: Sage



Temple of the Wings


Posted by Jay Cross at January 31, 2004 03:40 PM | TrackBack
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30 Poppy Lane
Berkeley, California 94708

1.510.528.3105 (office & cell)



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