Berkeley residents submit petition to protect Campanile Way view from high-rise building

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Zahira Chaudhry/Staff

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Berkeley residents are attempting to designate Campanile Way, the path accompanying Sather Tower, as a city landmark to protect its historic view.

Steven Finacom, chair of the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission, or LPC, submitted a petition Sept. 7, signed by 56 residents. Supporters of the petition sent about a dozen letters to the city in favor of it.

The petition defines Campanile Way as beginning at the facade of Sather Tower, commonly known as the Campanile, and running west, perpendicular to the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, up to Strawberry Creek. It also includes the view corridor projecting from and above Campanile Way toward San Francisco Bay. According to the petition, a detailed description will be included in the landmark application.

Nadesan Permaul, campus political science and rhetoric adjunct faculty member, said in his letter of support that visitors, as well as the campus community, care about the view of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate from the west face of the Campanile.

“Please do not destroy what generations of people have wisely preserved,” Permaul said in his letter.

City spokesperson Matthai Chakko cited an LPC report from Nov. 2 as the city’s perspective on the issue. In the report, the Senior Planner Fatema Crane said staff is currently waiting for the landmark application for Campanile Way. Once the staff receives a complete application, it will evaluate the proposal and arrive at a recommendation, which will take at least four weeks.

“What (landmark status) means and how it (would) be implemented still has to be reviewed,” Chakko said.

The petition comes at a time when community members are concerned about developments that may impede historic views in the city.

The Berkeley Department of Planning & Development’s Downtown Area Plan encourages new building development, including for buildings taller than 120 feet, in the city center, a section of which is in the vicinity of the Campanile Way.

The plan said the development is beneficial “to advance Downtown as a vibrant city center and encourage car-free options near transit (and) accommodate urban intensities by using building heights that are appropriate and feasible.”

Mill Creek Residential, an apartment developer, has also proposed to build a new 18-story apartment complex above the Walgreens located at 2190 Shattuck Ave. next to the Downtown Berkeley BART station. Some community members are concerned that the building would pollute the historic view from Campanile Way.

Finacom previously led an unsuccessful application in 2015 to make Campanile Way a city landmark. It was denied by LPC before Finacom was a member of the commission. The Berkeley Municipal Code states that “the commission may authorize such steps as it deems desirable to recognize the value of and to encourage the protection, enhancement, perpetuation, and use of any such structure of merit, or of any designated landmark.”

In the letters accompanying the petition, Berkeley residents, campus professors and students expressed support for granting Campanile Way landmark status.

Harvey Helfand, architect and campus planner, said Campanile Way is one of the best examples of American “Beaux-Arts” architecture because of its open space organized with careful alignment to natural features that extend beyond the campus grounds.

“This beautiful and dramatic view has been enjoyed by students, community members and visitors since the 1800’s,” said Berkeley residents Warren and Lorna Byrne in a letter. “Part of the magic of Berkeley, and the greater Bay Area, is our location near the Bay. You can’t enjoy it if you can’t see it.”

Contact Henry Tolchard at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @htolchard.