Berkeley Honda can now push forward with its plans to open in the former Any Mountain location on Shattuck Avenue after a City Council vote last week.
Neighbors had put together a petition late last year to ask the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the building, at 2777 Shattuck Ave. The LPC voted in December to designate the building a “structure of merit.”
See complete Berkeley Honda coverage on Berkeleyside.
Property owner Glenn Yasuda had appealed that decision. He has been trying to work out a deal with Berkeley Honda to let the company move in. The business had to leave its old location due to construction. Many Berkeley Honda employees attended last week’s meeting to ask council to overturn the LPC vote.
Many neighborhood residents also came to the March 15 council meeting to urge officials to uphold the LPC decision. Many said they don’t mind if Berkeley Honda moves in and didn’t think the LPC designation should stop Honda from forging ahead. They also criticized the company for trying to pit local residents against the workers.
Representatives associated with the Honda project told council last week that the vast majority of the building was reconstructed in the 1990s, and that only the tower was original.
One of those representatives, Ali Kashani, said the neighbors were doing all they could to create procedural delays, and that they would have tried to landmark the structure decades ago if they weren’t trying to stop the Berkeley Honda project now.
Neighbors said they were appalled to be called liars and obstructionists by members of the project team, and pleaded with council to uphold the LPC vote.
“This landmark application is not about Honda and it’s not about any tenant, and it’s not about union jobs,” said one speaker. “All of that is a red herring.”
Read more about the structure of merit decision.
At least one speaker expressed concern about the possibility of future development of the site into a housing project, which could cause even more disruption in the neighborhood.
Tim Beinke of Berkeley Honda said the company should not be having to struggle so much to move two blocks from its former location. He said, in addition to being one of the city’s largest taxpayers, many small businesses that Honda works with would suffer if the company has to move out of town.
“Why should you treat your small businesses like this?” he asked council. “Berkeley has an anti-corporate reputation.… What is happening to us is shameful, and it is happening under your watch.”
Councilman Kriss Worthington said he did not see why the “structure of merit” designation was an issue in the first place. He said it seemed like what was protected was fairly specific.
“I don’t understand why this is such a controversy,” he said.
City officials struggled to understand exactly which parts of 2777 Shattuck were original, and what the LPC decision would mean as far as what changes could be made. Staff had recommended that council uphold the LPC vote and dismiss the appeal, and said alterations to the building would still be allowed.
But council members, for the most part, weren’t convinced. They asked for clarification from an architect who had worked on the building previously, who said neither the windows in the building nor the entire facade were original any longer.
Most council members said they agreed with the appeal points, and felt that the structure overall was simply too new to be preserved.
“Frankly, I just don’t feel that this rises to the level of landmark status,” said Councilwoman Susan Wengraf. “What we’re doing is landmarking a new facade which is what’s visible from the street. It’s been dramatically altered.”
Councilwoman Linda Maio said the project will still get extensive review as it moves ahead, and said she didn’t think the LPC designation was valid.
“We’ve had so much alteration to the building,” she said. “I don’t want to use the landmarks system to hold this up.”
Councilman Max Anderson made a motion to uphold the LPC decision, but it died for lack of a second. He said he felt like Berkeley Honda was confusing the issue by bringing in the workers and putting them at odds with the neighborhood. He said, too, the concerns of the neighbors should be respected because they had “no vested interest” in whether Berkeley Honda moves in.
Seven council members voted in favor of overturning the LPC decision and upholding property owner Yasuda’s appeal. Anderson abstained from the vote. Worthington did not speak when called upon for his decision.
Mayor Tom Bates said he lives two blocks from the site, and first went there in 1956 when he was a UC Berkeley student. He bowled there when it was a bowling alley, and shopped there when it later became Berkeley Bowl. He called the LPC vote a red herring.
“I think people don’t want Berkeley Honda to be in that location,” he said. “I look at this and I say, ‘This is not a structure of merit.’”
Landmark designation another hurdle for Berkeley Honda (01.29.16)
Berkeley Honda says its future is at risk (10.09.15)
Adeline report highlights desire for affordable housing (09.01.15)
LeConte residents express concern about Berkeley Honda’s move (04.02.15)
Berkeley Honda hopes to take over Any Mountain space (02.25.15)
Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses (01.13.15)
Council to consider zoning change for ‘auto row’ dealers (09.27.11)
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