City Council overturns classification of original Berkeley Bowl as structure of merit

Audrey McNamara/Staff

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At its Tuesday meeting, Berkeley City Council voted to overturn the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s December decision to classify the original Berkeley Bowl building as a “structure of merit.”

Despite significant alterations to the structure in the 1990s, the commission voted to approve the “structure of merit” designation. The property at 2777 Shattuck Ave. — originally a bowling alley built in the 1940s — was the first location of the Berkeley Bowl grocery store.

The building was originally considered for landmark status by the commission, but it found that it did not meet the specific criteria for this designation, according to a city report for the Tuesday meeting submitted by Eric Angstadt, the former city planning and development director.

The commission cited the building’s streamline moderne architecture and its historical significance to the city as qualifying criteria, according to the city report. The report also noted that the commission wished to preserve building features including the central tower, the vaulted area and the horizontality of the building.

The designation, however, was disputed by building owner Glenn Yasuda, who submitted an appeal stating that the initial application for landmark status was hostile to the proposed user — Berkeley Honda.

According to Tim Beinke, owner of Berkeley Honda, the dealership decided to relocate to the previously unoccupied building in 2015. He added that the area where the structure is located had been designated for auto dealerships in 2012 and that the Fiat and Dodge dealerships were already located across the street from the building.

“We have been a good neighbor for 40 years on South Shattuck,” Beinke said. “We’re moving a block and a half south in the same neighborhood.”

In April 2015, the dealership submitted an application to expand the floor area of the building. Because of the building’s age, the proposed remodel had to be approved by the commission, according to Beinke.

The commission made no substantive changes to the proposal, according to the commission’s staff report. Issues regarding the classification of the structure arose after more than 50 Berkeley residents submitted a Landmark Initiation Application to the commission Oct. 1 to designate the building a landmark.

In correspondence submitted to Shannon Allen, secretary of the Zoning Adjustments Board, city residents cited traffic, parking and pedestrian safety as reasons for their opposition.

“(The Berkeley Honda project) is inappropriate for this location,” wrote Jane Kitchel, a Berkeley resident, in an email to Allen in March 2015. “It is not a neighborhood-serving business.”

City Council, however, believed that the 1990s alterations disqualified the building from being a structure of merit and voted in favor of the appeal against the designation, said Sally Zarnowitz, secretary of the commission.

Beinke said the presence of the Honda dealership would bring many benefits to the city.

“We are one of the largest tax revenue generators in the city and we provide a lot of good union jobs,” Beinke said.

Contact Shradha Ganapathy at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sganapathy_dc.