A crew member watches as an excavator removes rubble and debris from the site at 2441 Haste at Telegraph. Photos: Tracey Taylor

Two businesses on the site of the demolished Sequoia Building at Haste and Telegraph may re-open, and plans are under way to build a new structure on the site. City officials are hosting a meeting today to discuss the future of the site with its owners, who are known to have retained an architect for a potential new project there.

Crews have been working since last week on removing the many tons of debris and rubble that were left on the site of the Sequoia Building at 2441 Haste Street following its demolition in December prompted by a devastating fire on November 18th last year.

An investigation into the potential toxicity of the building’s debris revealed evidence of lead, but not of asbestos as had been rumored (see update at foot of story with more details). The removal of the rubble is expected to continue into next week.

Several excavators and trucks have been on site with the debris removal crew since the middle of last week

In the meantime, according to sources close to the building’s owners, Kenneth and Greg Ent, plans are under way to re-open Raleigh’s Bar & Grill and Intermezzo Café — both of which are owned by the Ents.

Reached by phone, Greg Ent said he would not comment on his plans for the site.

The only part of the 1916 Sequoia Building which is still standing is the one-story Telegraph Avenue façade that fronts the two damaged businesses. Ideas being considered include erecting temporary tents over the two retail spaces in order for them to be able to open their doors again. Both eateries were established in the 1980s as part of a renovation of the 39-unit apartment building and were popular destinations for UC students, as well as other locals.

The sheer quantity of debris left in the wake of the November 18th fire means its removal could take two weeks or more

The fire which ravaged the Sequoia on November 18th and the early hours of November 19th started in the basement of the five-story building around the elevator machinery. It burned for more than 17 hours, and was described by Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong as the biggest one he could remember in his career after the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm.

Update, 2:30 pm: According to the city of Berkeley, the top of the pile of rubble was analyzed and the hazardous materials that were identified were principally in the “heavy metals” category, likely from lead paint that became ash, pipe (with zinc, copper, lead) and electrical wiring. The waste is being separated and sent to three different categories of landfills, according to the contents of the particular load: municipal, special, and hazardous waste.

Ferma, the contractor working on site, will next test the lower levels of the pile, where smaller items have settled. They will go through the same process of analyzing what they find, categorizing it, and making plans for removal.

Once all the debris is removed, the contractor will submit documents showing the exact facilities where all the waste went. The property owner is responsible for the debris removal.

The property owners have been approved for a bracing permit for the storefront, and have spoken to the city about their plans for the site. No applications have yet been made.

Telegraph named a disaster zone to help the fire-affected [12.14.11] 
Sequoia fire aftermath: Cause, rights, future under scrutiny [12.07.11]
Demolition of Sequoia Building halted after wall collapse [12.02.11]
A Berkeley building is turned into a heap of rubble, debris [12.01.11]
Sequoia fire accidental, started in elevator machinery [11.30.11]
Berkeley’s 95-year-old Sequoia Building is brought down [11.29.11]
Sequoia: Demolition imminent as tenants meet to complain [11.28.11]
The Sequoia Building: At heart of Berkeley’s rich heritage [11.23.11]
Friday’s fire “another hit in the face” for Telegraph Avenue [11.21.11]
“Largest fire since 1991″ leaves many locals homeless [11.19.11]
Devastating fire in apartment building, Haste at Telegraph [11.19.11]

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...