Aftermath of Berkeley apartment building fire

Christopher Yee/File

A five-alarm fire destroyed a five-story historic building at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street on Nov. 18. The fire, which was contained about six hours after Berkeley firefighters responded to the scene, led to the collapse of the roof and the destruction of most of the building’s interior.

The building has since been demolished.

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Designs for Raleigh’s, Intermezzo tent structures

By Soumya Karlamangla | 2/14/12

After a massive fire destroyed the building that was home to beloved Berkeley restaurants and an apartment complex in November, plans are underway to reopen Raleigh’s Bar & Grill and Cafe Intermezzo under tents by the end of the semester.

Check out the proposed designs from the architecture firm in charge of the project, Kirk E. Peterson & Associates Architects:

An aerial view of the proposed structure.

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Report determines origin of November fire

By Adelyn Baxter | 2/8/12

An investigative report into the devastating Nov. 18 Berkeley fire released Monday determined the origin of the five-alarm fire but was unable to determine the exact cause of the blaze.

The report, conducted by Berkeley Fire Department, concluded that the Haste Street fire was accidental and that it “originated in or around the elevator resistors” in a basement room but was not able to determine whether the fire began due to “mechanical malfunction or improper installation of associated elevator equipment.”

The fire was the largest in Berkeley in more than 20 years. It began shortly before 9 p.m. and raged for roughly six hours, destroying the historic five-story Sequoia Apartment building and two restaurants located on the bottom level. Though their homes were destroyed, none of the building’s 68 tenants was injured.

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Final investigation report confirms Haste Street fire was accidental

By Soumya Karlamangla | 2/6/12

A report released Monday confirmed that the fire that destroyed the historic Sequoia building on Telegraph Avenue started accidentally in the building’s elevator room.

The five-alarm fire that broke out Nov. 18 burned down most of 2441 Haste St., including a multistory apartment complex, Raleigh’s Bar & Grill and Cafe Intermezzo.

“It is my opinion this fire originated in and around the elevator resisters. I am unable at this time to determine if this fire was caused as a result of a mechanical malfunction or improper installation of associated elevator equipment,” said Berkeley Fire Marshal John Fitch in the report. “It is my opinion this fire is accidental in nature.”

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Restaurants destroyed in fire to reopen in temporary tent structures

By Annie Sciacca | 2/5/12

After being reduced to rubble in November’s Haste Street fire, Raleigh’s Bar & Grill and Cafe Intermezzo are projected to reopen by May.

A building application submitted to the city of Berkeley in late January by architect Kirk Peterson calls for the construction of “temporary tent and shipping container structures” to run the eateries out of “while arrangements and preparations are made for a new permanent replacement building.”

“For the whole street it should be great, with three new businesses and an exotic tent-like atmosphere,” said Al Geyer, chair of the Telegraph Merchants’ Association and owner of Annapurna, a store located two doors from the debris site. “We all wanted to see something there immediately, and it was just a matter of whatever the city could do.”

The city is still reviewing the permit application, according to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross.

If the application is approved, each restaurant will have a self-contained kitchen in a storage structure resembling a trailer and will have at least one bathroom on the premise. While the details of the tents have not yet been fleshed out, Peterson said they would look like the large, white tents used for weddings and outdoor events and that all the structures will meet applicable health and safety codes.

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History of tenant complaints fuels claims of negligence against landlords

By Adelyn Baxter | 1/19/12

Piles of debris and a partial facade along Telegraph Avenue are all that remain of the historic building once located at 2441 Haste St.

The 39-unit apartment building burned down in November, leaving nearly 70 tenants homeless and destroying two beloved Telegraph eateries.

Now tenants — many of whom are UC Berkeley students and alumni — are preparing to file individual lawsuits against building owners Gregory and Kenneth Ent, who tenants claim ignored past complaints concerning faulty electrical wiring and fire alarms. Tenants believe these factors may have caused the blaze that consumed their homes, pets and personal belongings.

An investigation by The Daily Californian shows that the building had a history of complaints and incidents related to fire safety.

In a letter from June 2009, the city’s Fire Inspector Stan Fernandez addressed a situation in which fire alarms within the building were being silenced by building management without the mandatory notification of the fire department. According to a report quoted in the letter, residents told fire staff this was a “common occurrence.” The report also said the building had “been written up multiple times with no compliance from building owner.”

“These are major fire safety concerns that must not and cannot go unrecognized any further,” reads the letter.

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Raleigh’s, Cafe Intermezzo may reopen after Haste Street fire

By Weiru Fang | 1/9/12

Raleigh’s Bar & Grill and Cafe Intermezzo, the two popular eateries destroyed by the Haste Street fire in November, might reopen, according to an architect hired by the building’s owners.

This comes as welcome news for business owners operating in the fire-struck neighborhood who say the blaze has resulted in revenue losses as high as 50 percent. The fire, which broke out Nov. 18 and ravaged the five-story apartment building at 2441 Haste St., left little remaining of the two restaurants on the bottom floor.

So far, the prospect of reopening Raleigh’s and Cafe Intermezzo has been largely speculative and, according to city spokesperson Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, before the city can issue any building permits, the site needs to be cleared of debris and designs must be submitted to the city.

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After Nov. 18 fire, Telegraph Avenue area now a disaster zone

By Soumya Karlamangla | 12/14/11

Those affected by the Nov. 18 fire that destroyed a building on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue are eligible for low-interest federal disaster loans after the area was deemed a disaster zone Wednesday.

The area was declared a disaster zone by the U.S. Small Business Administration, meaning that homeowners can apply for loans of up to $200,000 to repair or replace damaged real estate, and homeowners and renters can get loans for up to $40,000 to restore damaged personal property, according to a Wednesday press release from the administration.

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Criticism raised after building demolition violates permit

By Adelyn Baxter | 12/2/11

Demolition of the building destroyed in the Nov. 18 fire was halted temporarily Wednesday following an accidental violation of the partial demolition permit, though some residents claim city staff did not intervene quickly enough.

A side letter of agreement issued with the demolition permit stipulated that the walls along Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue had to be left standing to a minimum of 29.5 ft and that the elevator shaft where the fire was believed to have started not be touched until officials had completed their investigation into the origins of the blaze. The remaining walls and interior of the building were to be demolished entirely.

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Tenants mourn pets lost in fire

The two hybrid cats of gradute student Christoper DiVittorio sit in a trunk. The two died in the fire at the apartment on 2441 Haste St. on Now. 18.

By Weiru Fang | 12/1/11

When UC Berkeley graduate student Hongxu Liu received a call from his roommate about the fire in his Haste Street apartment building, his first worry was the safety of his dog.

Liu immediately asked his roommate Corey Meadows — who was in the building at the time — to break down the door to his apartment and rescue Liu’s -7-month-old Chihuahua, Andre.

“I don’t know if Andre was hiding or was passed out, but Corey couldn’t find him,” Liu said. “Corey stayed in there before he couldn’t breathe anymore.”

In the wake of the devastating Nov. 18 fire that gutted the apartment building at 2441 Haste St. and led to the eventual destruction of countless personal belongings, at least four tenants have also lost their beloved pets.

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Investigators say Berkeley building fire started in basement elevator room

By Annie Sciacca & Jaehak Yu | 11/30/11

The Nov. 18 fire that destroyed a Haste Street apartment building most likely started in the elevator machine room in the basement of the building.

According to an update at 3 p.m. Wednesday on the city of Berkeley’s website, Berkeley Fire Department investigators are concluding their investigation of the fire at 2441 Haste St., which they said appeared to be accidental in nature and originated in and around the elevator machinery.

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Demolition begins at Berkeley apartment building destroyed by fire

After being destroyed by a fire Nov. 18, an apartment building on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue is undergoing a partial demolition process.

By Nicholas Luther | 11/30/11

About 30 spectators gathered at the intersection of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue Tuesday morning with smartphones and cameras at the ready as a demolition crane ripped the roof off of the apartment building that was destroyed in the Nov. 18 fire.

Over the next two weeks, the building will undergo a partial demolition process to reduce the risk of collapse. The decision to demolish the building was made after it was deemed structurally unsound and at risk of collapse. According to Gil Dong, deputy fire chief for the Berkeley Fire Department, the lower stories of the building will be braced by support beams and some of the walls of the upper stories will be removed in order to make the building safer for nearby residences and pedestrians.

The building on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue is demolished.

The five-alarm fire — which has been called the city’s worst since the 1991 East Bay Hills Fire — gutted at least some of the building’s floors and caused the roof to cave, displacing all 68 tenants of the building located at 2441 Haste St.

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Tenants displaced by Berkeley fire discuss possible legal action against landlord

By Adelyn Baxter | 11/29/11

Kriss Worthington speaks to a meeting of tenants displaced by the fire at the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue.

Temperamental elevators, mold, dangerous electrical wiring, no heat or hot water and damaged fire escapes are among the complaints of Berkeley residents displaced by a fire that destroyed their apartment building. Many tenants, who met Monday night with city and campus officials and legal representatives, are now looking to a possible settlement they may be able to seek due to suspected landlord negligence.

On Nov. 18, the city’s largest fire since 1991 displaced 68 tenants from the Sequoia Apartments at 2441 Haste St. as well as tenants from 2435 Haste St. next door, which has been temporarily evacuated while the fire-ravaged five-story structure awaits partial demolition after being deemed structurally unsound.

“Far too often, even in Berkeley, too many tenants get ripped off,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes the building, at the meeting. “This fire did not happen all by itself … given the track record of the city dealing with this landlord, I think there is serious evidence for negligence.”

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Displaced tenants struggle to find housing after Berkeley apartment building fire

UC Berkeley seniors Laurel Chun, left, and Katherine Kim were among those displaced by the Nov. 18 fire.

By Weiru Fang | 11/29/11

For some dozens of evacuated residents whose Haste Street apartment was destroyed on Nov. 18, the first step in moving forward is moving into a new place.

In the aftermath of the biggest fire since the 1991 East Bay Hills fire, displaced Berkeley residents — many of whom are UC Berkeley students — struggle to find permanent housing, coping with the associated difficulties only through the assistance of friends, family and strangers in the Berkeley community.

Like most of the other residents living in the 39-unit building at 2441 Haste St., UC Berkeley sophomore Kimiya Hojjat was not home when her building went up in smoke. She arrived at the scene straight from dinner and watched flames burst from her third-floor window before she realized everything she had in her apartment would be destroyed. With very little in her immediate possession, Hojjat looked to her friends for a place to sleep.

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 Berkeley landlord not required to financially support displaced tenants

The apartment building at 2441 Haste St. burns on Sunday, November 20th.

By Anjuli Sastry | 11/28/11

Despite tenant complaints of landlord neglect at last Monday night’s Rent Stabilization Board meeting, the city of Berkeley is not currently requiring the landlord of the apartment building at 2441 Haste St. to financially assist those displaced by the Nov. 18 fire.

Some tenants — many of whom expressed difficulty at the meeting in contacting the building’s owner Kenneth Ent — have called for compensation through the city’s relocation ordinance, which requires that the landlord provide financial assistance for the temporary relocation of tenants when mandatory repairs on a building are under way.

UC Berkeley junior Ian Goh, who moved into the building this summer, said many problems with the apartments resurfaced no matter how many times tenants complained.

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Fire-ravaged apartment building on Haste Street to be demolished

By Weiru Fang | 11/25/11

A partial demolition of the Haste Street apartment building destroyed by a fire last Friday could begin as soon as next week.

After the fire, the building — located at 2441 Haste St. on the corner of Haste and Telegraph Avenue —was deemed structurally unsound and at risk of collapse, forcing the city to block off the surrounding area to pedestrian and car traffic. Now, the lower stories of the building will be braced by support beams while some of the walls of the upper stories will be removed in order to make the building safer for nearby residences and pedestrians, according to Gil Dong, deputy fire chief for Berkeley Fire Department.

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City could waive permit fees to relocate Raleigh’s, Cafe Intermezzo


By Afsana Afzal | 11/22/11

Berkeley City Council members could vote next month on a proposal to allow the two businesses shut down by the Nov. 18 fire to relocate without having to pay permit fees.

The recommendation, authored by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, would not only waive permit fees for Raleigh’s Bar and Grill and Cafe Intermezzo — located on the ground floor of the building on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street that was destroyed by the fire over the weekend — but it would also cut down the time to attain a permit for relocation from an estimated six months to a couple of weeks, according to Worthington.

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Open letter to Berkeley mayor from concerned tenants displaced by fire

By Adelyn Baxter | 11/22/11

An open letter to Mayor Tom Bates — from “homeless, hopeless, and helpless tenants” of the apartment building destroyed by a fire Friday — is circulating around the city of Berkeley. The letter claims that the owner of the building has long neglected the needs of the tenants and has made no attempt to communicate with the displaced tenants since the fire. Read the full text of the letter:

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Raleigh’s, Cafe Intermezzo destroyed by fire

Raleigh's and Cafe Intermezzo, both Berkeley favorites, are closed as a result of the fire.

By Amy Wang | 11/22/11

On Telegraph Avenue between Haste Street and Channing Way, a row of traffic barricades and a sidewalk dusted with ash mark the site of two popular restaurants destroyed by a building fire that broke out this weekend.

Cafe Intermezzo and Raleigh’s Bar and Grill, the two eateries occupying the sidewalk storefronts of the fire-torn building, have been closed for the time being with no definite plans for reopening. Berkeley Fire Department officials have said that the building could collapse.

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ASUC hosts donation drive for students displaced by apartment building fire

By Jamie Applegate | 11/21/11

The ASUC will begin hosting a donation drive on Sproul Plaza Monday to benefit students displaced by Saturday’s apartment building fire on Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street.

The drive will run from Monday until Wednesday of this week and will most likely pick up after the Thanksgiving break, according to ASUC Student Action Senator Connor Landgraf, one of the organizers of the event.

“I hope the result is that we can tangibly benefit the students who have been displaced and help them get back on their feet quickly because it must be really distressing to have your life turned upside down right before finals,” Landgraf said. “We hope to help in any way we can.”

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Photo Gallery: Fire at Telegraph and Haste 

Tony Zhou/Staff

Some firefighters battle the blaze from the ground.

Look at a collection of photos from the night of the fire. 

Apartment building fire becomes Berkeley’s biggest in more than 20 years

A fire, which broke out Friday evening, consumed a building on the corner of Haste Street and Telegraph Avenue.

By Sarah Burns & Soumya Karlamangla | 11/20/11

Flames engulfed a building on Haste Street Friday night, destroying the structure in what is being called the biggest fire in Berkeley since the disastrous East Bay Hills Fire in 1991.

Though there have been no reports of injuries as a result of the fire, it has displaced all the residents of the 39-unit apartment complex located at 2441 Haste St. at the intersection of Telegraph Avenue. The fire raged for over six hours before it was contained, resulting in the collapse of the building’s roof and destruction of some of its floors.

Now, the building — gutted by the fire — is structurally unsound and could collapse, according to Gil Dong, deputy fire chief for the Berkeley Fire Department.

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A reporter’s account: the blaze two buildings away

By Christopher Yee | 11/19/11

I’m used to smelling a variety of scents when I get out of the elevator to the fourth floor of my building at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Channing Way — food cooking in the kitchen, just washed hair from someone who had rushed from the communal bathroom to their dorm room, too much cologne from someone going to a party — but the smell Friday night was different.

I was coming back from Cal women’s volleyball’s crushing loss to Oregon State at about 10 p.m., and when I got to my floor, I thought that maybe smoke from fireworks at the bonfire rally had made its way down from the Greek Theatre.  We’re pretty far from there, though, so it didn’t really add up. When I got into my room and onto Facebook to catch up with the world, I saw that friends had posted about a fire at Cafe Intermezzo. I was crushed since I quite enjoy the food there, but I moved on quickly since I had to make myself a late dinner.

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Video: Residents, passerby react to fire on Friday night

Displaced Berkeley residents, students watch belongings burn in fire

By Weiru Fang & Anjui Sastry | 11/19/11

Ashes rained down from the sky when Hanwool Park came home from the UC Berkeley bonfire rally at the Greek Theatre, in disbelief that his apartment building was engulfed in flames.

“I don’t even feel sad, I’m speechless,” Park said.

Park, a recent UC Berkeley graduate, is one of many Berkeley residents displaced from a five-story apartment building that erupted in flames Friday evening.The fire, which broke out at a 39-unit apartment building on 2441 Haste St. — located at the corner of Haste and Telegraph Avenue — continued to burn early Saturday morning as firefighters struggled to put out flamesnearly five hours after the first fire engine arrived just before 9 p.m.

“You never expect to go to college and your whole building burns down,” said UC Berkeley senior Jessica Watson, who lived in the building and said she thinks the fire started near her apartment unit.

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Storify: Updates, photos from building fire on Telegraph Avenue

By Stephanie Baer & Soumya Karlamangla | 11/19/11

Berkeley firefighters are working to contain a fire that broke out at an apartment building on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street at about 8:48 p.m. Friday.

The building has been evacuated and traffic on nearby streets has been blocked for several hours. As of 1:06 a.m. Saturday, the cause of the fire was unknown.

Check out our Storify with reactions to the fire.

Fire breaks out at apartment building on Telegraph Avenue

By Soumya Karlamangla | 11/18/11

View 2441 Haste St in a larger map

Flames engulfed a building at the corner of Telegraph and Haste — which is home to Cafe Intermezzo, Raleigh’s Bar and Grill and Thai Noodle II on the ground level — late Friday evening and early Saturday morning during a fire that took firefighters more than six hours to contain. The roof of the building has collapsed and firefighters will stay on the scene all weekend to knock out any hot spots that may occur, according to Dong.

“We can assume right now that there are still some embers that could still be burning or small fires that could reignite over time,” Dong said Saturday afternoon.

There have been no reports of injuries to firefighters or civilians.

The fire broke out at the apartment building at 2441 Haste St. just before 9 p.m. Friday, causing the building to be evacuated and traffic on nearby streets to be blocked for multiple hours. For hours, the scene was one of destruction — ash littered the sky as flames emerged from various parts of the buildings and smoke billowed out of windows and filled the surrounding streets. The fire was contained by 3:19 a.m. Saturday, according to Sabina Imrie, Berkeley Fire Department’s assistant fire chief for special operations.

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