Campanile Way no longer local landmark, Berkeley City Council decides

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Campanile Way will no longer be designated a local landmark, Berkeley City Council decided during its special meeting Thursday.

In April of this year, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, or LPC, designated Campanile Way as a city landmark, including language that its view of the San Francisco Bay was a “significant and contributing” factor to the landmark. The view was the central conflict Thursday, prompting arguments about whether it is possible to landmark a view.

Kristina Lawson, a local lawyer, filed the appeal that was accepted last night challenging the landmark designation.

“I’m extremely concerned about the unprecedented landmarking of scenic views and airspace in a huge swath,” Lawson said during public comment at the meeting. “If you want to come back and landmark Campanile Way, you should do that separately.”

According to Lawson, scenic views cannot legally be landmarked. The city’s Planning Commission stressed that the original landmarking was ambiguous, and it was not clear if the view of the San Francisco Bay was protected or not — though not listed as a feature to be preserved, its inclusion could allow some to interpret it as part of the landmark.  

Many Berkeley residents in attendance at the meeting argued that the views should be part of the landmark and that it fell into the category of “landscape element,” which can be designated a landmark. Others, including Lawson, worried that landmarking the views would stifle development, as the view extends over much of Downtown Berkeley and could prevent construction.

Steven Finacom, chair of the LPC, applied to designate Campanile Way as a landmark in December 2017. Though he felt that the view should be included in the language, he stressed the need to protect Campanile Way.

“If you absolutely disagree with that mention of the view, just remove that reference,” Finacom said during public comment at the meeting. “You should not reject a landmark designation wholesale.”

Another disagreement arose from the current protected status of Campanile Way. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín argued to reverse the landmark designation, citing the ambiguities of the view and the fact that it was already on a national register of landmarks, so local designation would be “redundant.”

Finacom pushed back on this point throughout the hearing, claiming that though the Campanile and the area immediately around it are on the register, Campanile Way is not explicitly protected.

Councilmember Kate Harrison, along with Councilmembers Sophie Hahn and Cheryl Davila, voted against reversing the designation. Harrison proposed a different solution: keeping the landmark designation but striking language that mentioned the views. They argued that many local landmarks appear on national lists, but there is still merit in local designation.

“I want to honor people’s fond feelings and honor history and designate this as a historic resource,” Harrison said during the meeting. “That’s what the local designation is about — it’s historical and we hold it deep in our hearts.”

Madeleine Gregory covers city government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @mgregory_dc.