Berkeley Iceland has been closed for over five years. For the majority of this time, the current owners, East Bay Iceland — EBI, Richard Zamboni, President — has allowed their historic property to be defaced, trash to collect on and around the building, and landscaping to become a receptacle of garbage. Complaints are ignored and the garbage keeps piling up, becoming an eyesore and potential hazard to the neighborhood.

A group of SBI volunteers, having seen enough of the total neglect, spent a recent Saturday morning cleaning the front the best they could without trespassing on the property.

The before and after pictures of the cleanup (above) show what even a small group can accomplish within the limited scope and with basic equipment.

It wouldn’t take much more to make significant improvements in the appearance of the building — some fresh paint to cover the worst of the tagging; bleach and power washer to clean up the terrazzo in the entry; more thorough efforts to trim and clean up the landscaping; elbow grease and paint remover to clean the doors.

SBI has made the offer in the past and it remains open: we will help organize efforts to maintain Berkeley Iceland in cooperation with the owners. This offer has been turned down in the past, sometimes with a temporary cleaning. Whether the owners choose to let us help or not, we are committed to maintaining the front of the building and will clean up trash on a periodic basis in the hope that the owners will commit to maintaing the rest of the site.

Based on history, this will not happen unless a lot of people make their voice heard. It is apparent that the owners believe that letting the appearance of Berkeley Iceland deteriorate will aid their efforts to get public approval for the proposal to turn Berkeley Iceland into a Sports Basement.

Almost everyone agrees that a big-box retail store in the Berkeley Iceland building is not a very desirable use, especially when the opportunity to return a public community ice rink was an active possibility. Cynically, the owners use the condition into which they have allowed the building to fall as an argument to first fight historical designations and now assist Sports Basement in their efforts to remove the possibility of an ice rink returning. They hope that the Berkeley community will accept a bad use as the only way to get the eyesore cleaned up.

East Bay Iceland has shown no respect for Berkeley and our City leaders have failed to defend our community. While it is understandable that EBI sees it in their interests for Berkeley Iceland’s appearance to degrade, why has the City of Berkeley taken no action against them? Where is the Mayor’s outrage over the out-of-town owners letting their property become a blighted mess? Why, in the five years of degradation, hasn’t the Council member for the neighborhood called for a cleanup or penalties against the owners for the eyesore his constituents have had to endure? Regardless of what use you want to see for Berkeley Iceland, there is no excuse to allow this to happen.

SBI calls on East Bay Iceland to clean up their historic property and on Berkeley leaders to speak up and take actions to make EBI clean up Berkeley Iceland. We stand ready to help and will continue to clean the front as best we can.

In six weeks our City leaders will be taking action to determine Berkeley Iceland’s future — the appeal of Sports Basement’s permits is on the agenda for the September 11 Council meeting. The condition that EBI has allowed Berkeley Iceland to fall is one indicator of why they took no consideration of the needs of Berkeley in their decision to promote the first big-box store in our community. The City Council should seriously include this as part of their decision.

Help us deliver this message to them by contacting your Berkeley elected official, and/or East Bay Iceland (Richard Zamboni, President, And visit the City of Berkeley Public Works “Clean City” Program online.

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Tom Killilea is a long time Berkeley resident, internet technologist, and active in the Berkeley PTA. He is a cofounder and president of Save Berkeley Iceland.
Tom Killilea is a long time Berkeley resident, internet technologist, and active in the Berkeley PTA. He is a cofounder and president of Save Berkeley Iceland.