Berkeley commission declines Campanile Way landmark application

Michael Wan/File
Michael Wan/File

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission voted down an application to designate Campanile Way — and potentially, the view from the Campanile — as a city landmark Thursday at a public hearing.

The application would have made the roadway from the base of the Campanile all the way to the Valley Life Sciences Building a landmark. According to the landmark application, one of the factors that adds “character-defining” historical value to Campanile Way and makes it landmark-worthy is the view from the ground plane of the tower toward the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

The commission declined the application to designate Campanile Way as a landmark, according to its secretary, Sally Zarnowitz. The application was originally submitted in the form of a petition signed by 54 Berkeley residents in November.

The decision comes after proposed construction at 2211 Harold Way of an 18-story-high mixed-use residential building, which would replace Shattuck Cinemas and some adjacent establishments. The development has been criticized for potentially blocking the view of the San Francisco Bay from the Campanile steps.

Because the application listed the view from the Campanile out toward the Golden Gate Bridge as a “character-defining” feature of the tower, debate arose at the hearing as to whether Campanile Way’s designation as a landmark would impede further construction of high-rise buildings in Berkeley.

“This is about the legacy of all the generations of Cal students who … experience the view of the Campanile Way, and that shouldn’t be taken away from them,” said Steven Finacom, a planning analyst and historian from the Berkeley Landscape Heritage Plan, during public comment Thursday.

Vice chair of the commission Anne Wagley, who voted in favor of the landmark application, said “landmarking doesn’t stop construction” but is a way for the community to preserve things it values so future generations may also experience them.

But a majority of commissioners at the hearing did not feel that there was good reason to move forward with the application.

Emily Marthinsen, campus assistant vice chancellor of physical and environmental planning, said at the hearing that the view from the Campanile is not a “place-making character” and that there are different opportunities to see Downtown Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay.

In regards to the question of whether or not landmarking Campanile Way would impede the construction of high-rise buildings in Berkeley, Mayor Tom Bates’ assistant, Charles Burress, said it was fair to say that the landmark application presented to the commission could have an impact on the construction of other projects Downtown in the view corridor.

He added that whether or not the view from Campanile Way would have been protected by being made a landmark is a matter of interpretation.

“There is some confusion, I think, about what exactly would have been a landmark and what (that) would have meant,” Burress said.

Contact Lenin Silva at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Lenins69.