Berkeley Landmarks :: A Plan for Saving the Historic Blood House

A preservation alternative for the Blood House

Letter from BAHA to Current Planning

The preservation alternative allows the historic Blood House to coexist with
40 new housing units.

Update: The Blood House was moved to 2508 Regent Street in August 2014 and restored.

8 January 2004

Greg Powell, Senior Planner
Current Planning
City of Berkeley, Planning and Development Dept.
2120 Milvia Street
Berkeley, CA 94704

Dear Mr. Powell:

Please find enclosed a preservation alternative for the 2526 Durant project that meets the financial feasibility requirements of the developers while preserving the Blood House. To do this, BAHA contracted with Mark L. Gillem, AIA, AICP, and together we developed specific project goals and a concept design. Mark has also met with Brendan Heafey of Ruegg & Ellsworth to identify the developers’ goals and discuss this alternative. We are awaiting their reply.

In developing this alternative, we followed relevant policy guidance from the Berkeley General Plan, the Zoning Ordinance, and the Draft Southside Plan. These documents provide excellent direction and highlight the need for preserving historic buildings, creating sensitive infill development in mixed-use buildings, and limiting automobile use in this area.

For the developers, the primary goal is an acceptable yield with a positive value. The preservation alternative actually provides a slightly higher yield and value than their proposed project. Second, the developers want to provide some retail space, which the preservation alternative does, albeit not to the extent of the original project. And third, the developers want to include some on-site parking. However, given written policy guidance from the city, it is clear that this project does not require any parking and arguably should not have any if the city is serious about the “car-free” zone, which, of anywhere in the city, is most applicable here. Hence, the preservation alternative provides no on-site parking.

To achieve these benefits, the preservation alternative gently wraps a new 35-unit mixed-use building, with 4-story and 5-story wings, around the existing Blood House. For purposes of comparison, the construction type is assumed to be the same in both cases (stucco-clad wood frame over concrete podium). A small retail space faces Durant Avenue, and a shallow setback allows for outdoor seating or other public uses. Unit sizes between the preservation alternative and the developer’s plan are similar. Additionally, the Blood House is renovated and returned to its historic use as housing—in this case as an apartment building with five units. To do this, the building needs to be elevated approximately two feet. In total, this alternative proposes 40 units, which includes seven affordable units per city policy.

We know the developers are very concerned about the lack of parking in the preservation alternative, and we respect their position. But this alternative gives the Zoning Adjustments Board an opportunity to consider seriously issues of city policy with respect to the “car-free” concept and historic preservation. We also know the developers are concerned about the renovation costs we have used for the Blood House. However, the cost estimates are derived from renovation estimates prepared by the developers and submitted to the city in a letter dated 20 August 2003. Significantly, on a per-square-foot basis and on an overall basis, the costs used in the preservation alternative are higher than the costs proposed by the developers in August. Moreover, based on the full project data submitted by the developers on 8 December 2003, many of the soft costs were not reduced at all despite the fact that in the preservation alternative these costs will likely be less as a result both of a reduction in the construction cost and a reduction in the number of residential units. And we are aware of the fact that the developers are concerned about the security and marketability of residential units on the ground floor. But in the preservation alternative, all ground-floor units are accessed and have their windows behind security fences/gates and, with the exception of the two ground-floor units in the Blood House, the other seven units are elevated above grade by at least two feet on the north side and approximately seven feet on the south side; hence they are not directly at grade.

In the end, the intent of this alternative is not to have a project built that follows these plans exactly but, rather, to show members of ZAB that alternatives do exist that are 1) contextually appropriate for the area, based on relevant city policy guidance, and 2) financially feasible using the same assumptions that the developers have used in their feasibility studies.

We are willing to work with you to determine an appropriate manner in which to present it to ZAB when the project is considered again.


Susan Chase, President


See also:
Give the Blood House a transfusion


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