Sources say the elderly owner of this property practically begged the LPC not to landmark it, claiming it was his family's primary source of income. Neighbors also urged the commission to let the ten-unit apartment project proceed. Commissioners didn't listen.
The now-fenced site housed a liquor store and Milt's Coin-Op Laundromat until a fire gutted both two years ago. But the LPC only cared about a two-story curiosity hiding out back. Long ago, the now-crumbling structure was the "demonstration building" for what was in the '30s a new concrete grid-style space. Several grid-style buildings were later built in industrial West Berkeley, but this was among the first. What's more, famed local architect Bernard Maybeck served as a design consultant, according to a historic survey report.
This was a rare case in which the landmarks commission had to make a tough judgment call. For one, the building was already listed as a state historic resource, and Maybeck's peripheral involvement further complicated things. Maybeck is among Berkeley's most famous early-20th-century architects, best known for his First Church of Christ Scientist at 2619 Dwight Way.
Yet numerous examples of Maybeck's own architecture already exist in town -- as of July 2000, the LPC has landmarked at least a dozen. Did the city really need to enshrine another one in which the architect played a limited role? The commission said yay earlier this month. Now the senior property owner must decide whether to appeal to the city council, redesign his project, sell off the land, or let it remain a festering eyesore.
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