2011 Partners In Preservation Awards USS Potomac The USS Potomac served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidential yacht from 1935 to 1945. Today, Oakland visitors find it a fascinating heritage tourism destination…but it was certainly a long journey for this amazing ship!
After many adventures and many owners – including Elvis Presley at one point – the USS Potomac was seized in 1980 as a front for drug smugglers. While impounded at Treasure Island, she sank. After being raised and unceremoniously dumped on the East Bay Estuary, she sat abandoned and rotting.
In 1981, the Port of Oakland purchased the ship at a U.S. Customs Service auction, knowing an enormous restoration project lay ahead. Almost all the wooden furnishings, decking, and paneling had rotted away – the only original wood left was that of two teak doors on the pilot house.
To help fund restoration, James Roosevelt, son of FDR, appealed directly to President Reagan. In 1982, the Reagan administration offered 2.5 million dollars…but required matching funds. The Port of Oakland formed the Potomac Association as a non-profit educational organization in 1983, and by 1988 the organization had raised the money through private donors. Restoration began in July of that year at the Colberg Shipyard in Stockton, California. While some professionals were paid, volunteers – mostly retired military or marine workers – provided their services.
Every effort was made to outfit the ship in the style of the FDR era, including new teak decking and replica wicker patio furniture on the fan tail. Crew quarters were furnished with bunks and other authentic memorabilia to create an authentic atmosphere. The engines were replaced by two tug boat engines donated by Crowley Maritime Corporation.
The US Coast Guard required modern navigation and communication equipment, but this technology was installed alongside equipment from the FDR era to provide visitors with an educational experience.
In 1990 the vessel was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1994, the restored vessel completed its sea trials, and in April 1995 opened to visitors from her berth at Jack London Square. Since then, more than 250,000 people have boarded her for narrated public history cruises of San Francisco Bay and dockside tours. In addition, the Potomac Association also offers free educational cruises to local middle school and high school students each season. More than 21,000 students have participated.
The USS Potomac cruises the San Francisco Bay each year from April through November.
The Potomac Association
Accepting Award: Marti Burchell, executive director, and John Tuttle, docent
Stearns Residence at 50 Ramona Avenue Owners of the 1913 Craftsman Bungalow at the end of Piedmont Avenue loved their home. However, with a growing family, the small residence seemed a little too cozy. Rather than move, they explored options for building an addition.
Room-by-room rehabilitation projects began in 2001. This included addition of period appropriate bead-board wainscoting in the bathroom and kitchen, replacement of the bathroom floor and tub surround and kitchen countertops with ceramic tiles, modification of molding to match the few rooms that still had original trim, and refinishing the hard wood floors.
In 2006, the owners agreed the addition they wanted would have to augment the architectural rehabilitation that had already begun. They met with potential architects and builders, setting several objectives for the expansion – a budge not exceeding $125,000 budget and retention of the Craftsman style.
The final result adds a very bright, airy master bedroom with cathedral ceilings that opens, via French doors, to the back yard. A small but cute infant nursery will eventually converted to a guest room and office. The master bath features stylish ceramic tiles, is accented by bead board wainscoting and custom-made medicine cabinets to match molding and detail throughout the home, and the brushed nickel fixtures bring a contemporary flare to a traditional design. The addition re-uses original all-wood double-hung windows and single panel doors, and matches the original trim, molding, and hard wood floors. It added two small bedroom closets, a linen closet, a large walk-in master bedroom closet, a large storage area, and a cottage-like storage shed in the back yard.
5628-40 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way In 2009, a high-speed chase on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way ended with a car catapulting into the Gerson Overstreet Architects office building.
The early 20th century commercial building had already suffered from neglect. Shuttered for many years, its front windows were boarded up and the doors were deteriorated. The 2009 car crash seemed to deliver a final blow, destroying much of the building’s interior and exterior, including its distinctive decorative brick façade.
Fortunately, the architecture firm recognized opportunity in unfortunate circumstance. According to the City’s Cultural Heritage Survey, the building was constructed in 1923 by Edward Larmer, “an active builder of small garages and small shop buildings.” The survey describes the structure as a “good example of decorative brick on a commercial building of the period.”
With this inspiration, planning for the rehabilitation project began. Challenges included finding a source for matching bricks and restoring the tri-toned brick design on the building exterior; unwrapping the remaining original windows, and using them as a template to replace missing windows; and installing two new doors to complement the 1920s structure.
Today, the building retains 90 percent of its original façade and maintains its original commercial use, as home to an Oakland family-owned and operated business. It provides a good model for the rehabilitation of the kind of early 20th century brick commercial buildings that survive in Oakland’s downtown and along many of the city’s arterial streets.
Laverna Allen, property owner
Harry Overstreet, Gerson/Overstreet Architectural, project architect
Silvestre Vera, Silvestre Vera Builders, project contractor
Oakley & Oakley, project engineers
Bar Dogwood at 1644 Telegraph Avenue Architect Leonard H. Thomas designed this three-story retail National Register building, constructed downtown between 1922 and 1923. Made of brick with a cast iron frame, it has been renovated several times.
When the owners of Bar Dogwood first considered using the building as a home for their business, the structure was in very poor shape. The interior had been partitioned into small rental spaces and the façade had been damaged by cars crashing into it from Telegraph Avenue.
Renovation began in November of 2009 with financial support from an Oakland redevelopment program façade improvement grant. Working with YHLA architects, the owner replaced the old aluminum frame windows, moved the entry door location, and repaired the existing black and green marble below the windows (true to form, during early construction a car jumped the sidewalk and destroyed a portion of the marble splash).
Other challenges included fitting a full bar and meat counter into the space without making it feel cramped, as well as giving the restaurant a presence on both Telegraph Avenue and 17th Street. With only 800 square feet to work with, the team carved out a space on the 17th Street side of the bar to locate the meat counter and eating area, making it very visible to foot traffic.
A large portion of the project materials are either reclaimed or recycled. This includes the wood floor (originally barn siding), the locally-harvested bar top, the reclaimed antique mirror behind the bar, as well as light fixtures and speakers made from old Victrola horns. Although driven by a strong sustainability ethic, this effort creates a warm and well-worn aesthetic.
Completed in February 2011, the bar’s atmosphere is a cross between Art Deco and rustic lodge, with Deco-inspired backbar mixing with taxidermy and historic photographs of Oakland.
Andy Carpentier, YHLA Architects, project architect
In-law Cottage at 4120 Gilbert Street The owners purchased this property with the intention of modernizing the 1917 “in-law” cottage for their mother. The top priority was to create a contemporary plan for the small, dark cottage and to make it seismically safe, energy efficient and accessible for a senior citizen. The second priority was to maintain its historic, Arts & Crafts character.
Zoning regulations and structural issues were most challenging: the building could not be moved, no more than 50 percent of it could be demolished, and the footprint could not be increased by more than 10 percent. To make matters worse, the foundation stood in a pool of water, most of the sub-framing was infested with beetles and termites, and the original stove was the only source of heat, among other problems. This 537-square-foot, un-insulated cottage had to be completely modernized in less than six months to fit the owners’ goals; alas, construction took place January 2006 through January 2007.
Besides the obvious necessities (such as a new foundation with sub-pump, insulation, double-glazed windows, and new exterior shingles), the existing floor, wall, and roof framing was left intact while new framing members were inserted between existing members to satisfy the 50% demolition limit. To improve the livability of the small cottage, the wall between the kitchen and living room was removed to create an open family-room type of space. A sunny, south-facing bay window expanded the kitchen while a “barrier-free” shower room was relocated to a sunny corner of the in-law. An “on-demand” water heater was mounted to an exterior wall to save floor area and a new hydronic heating system was installed to save energy costs which were skyrocketing in California at the time. The finishing touch was a great splurge – two new leaded glass windows in the living room!
Donald and Elizabeth Shaw, property owners (former)
Chris Kiefer, Kiefer Construction, project contractor
William Cain, S.E., project engineer
Green Gates at 232 Monte Vista Nestled in the glen that extends alongside Monte Vista Avenue between Harrison Street and Piedmont Avenue is a line of early 20th century brown shingle residences. In their midst stands a large stuccoed Mediterranean villa, complete with descending terraces, terra cotta medallions, tiled fountains, courtyards, and Spanish wood trim. The house has two fishponds and a surprising variety of sculptures and terra cotta pots. Neighbors walking down to Piedmont Avenue frequently peer through the gates for a glimpse.
When the current owner bought Green Gates in 1959, the rich architecture and grounds inspired a commitment to preservation that has been costly and time-consuming. In addition to on-going maintenance issues, numerous drainage problems, which were exacerbated by the construction of a large apartment building behind the property, have threatened the historic home. Many local contractors looked at Green Gates’ problems and said, “Just tear it down.”
Instead, the home has been lovingly preserved. Along with significant exterior work, the interior features remain intact. Original doors and framing, interior arches matching the curved windows, a magnificent living room fireplace, and dining room wallpaper with murals depicting a Mediterranean landscape are in excellent condition. These interior spaces merge seamlessly with landscaped courtyards. The library looks out on a fish pond with its own pergola, while a roofed grotto encloses a Madonna statue created in the Della Robbia-style – a type of glazed terra cotta work that flourished in 15th century Florence.
The son of Green Gates’ first owner majored in art history at UC Berkeley during the early 1920s. After graduation, he went to Italy and fell in love with Renaissance Italian art. He had the house and grounds remodeled into an Italian villa with gardens, and later became the first Director of the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Since then, the home has been decorated with imported furniture and the gardens have been filled with European relics. The current owner serves as dutiful steward to the home, faithfully caring for the Green Gates’ unique character.
5421 Brookdale Avenue, 3304 Coolidge Avenue, 5728 Brookdale Avenue, 4700 Brookdale Avenue, 3328 Stuart Street, and 3135 Madera Avenue
Mint Condition Homes acquires severely distressed residential properties – be they foreclosed, bank-owned or probate properties – and thoughtfully renovates them. They use green design methods and then offer the renovated home for sale in an affordable price range, creating much-needed stability for the neighborhood’s property values. Five out of six of these homes have had all new reinforced concrete foundations poured, and all have had electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems overhauled, roofs re-done or repaired, new dual-paned wood windows put in to replicate building era details, and vintage salvaged pieces as well as new green materials incorporated into their overall design. Notably, 4700 Brookdale Ave recently earned a Greenpoint Rating™ from Build It Green.
5421 Brookdale Ave.: This two-bedroom home had been used as an elder care facility, with the previous owners adding numerous unpermitted structures as one connected chain of rooms to house patients, staff, bath & laundry areas. The city of Oakland required the owners to remove these structures yet without the income generated from the eldercare, the home became a bank owned property. MCH removed all of the unpermitted structures and returned it to its former floorplan between February and May 2010.
3304 Coolidge Ave.: This property consisted of a main house with an expansive basement built into the hillside, and a second cottage unit on a corner lot. Previous owners had added a second, unpermitted bathroom in the main house and constructed an elaborate marijuana production facility in the basement which was ultimately raided by the police. MCH abated the structures in the basement, legalized the bathroom, legalized the back cottage and rehabbed the entire property between September 2009 and May 2010.
5728 Brookdale Ave.: Situated in the elbow of Brookdale Avenue, just before it meets Foothill Boulevard, this home had its basement legally converted into additional living space and bathroom but after inspections were completed, the previous owner proceeded to convert those living quarters into an in-law apartment without permits and performed alterations that were not to code. This house was acquired as a bank-owned property where MCH converted the lower level back into additional living space, renovated the kitchen, the bathroom and highlighted many original design details between June and August 2010.
3328 Stuart St.: Tucked just a few blocks from Highland Hospital, this bungalow contained an unpermitted third bedroom and faulty kitchen upgrades. With the chimney falling away from the house and a new foundation visibly needed, MCH acquired this bank-owned property and returned it to its former two-bedroom layout between June and August 2010.
4700 Brookdale Ave.: This three-bedroom, one-bath home was bank-owned and required a compliance plan with the city of Oakland to abate a deteriorated backyard porch. In addition to the usual project scope of our work (new foundation, heating system, updated electrical service, new plumbing, and more), MCH went through the Greenpoint Rating certification and earned a 49 out of 50 in their Building Elements program. Work took place between July and September 2010.
3135 Madera Ave.: This home had an unpermitted third bedroom built off the kitchen. MCH was able to grandfather a portion of the addition and removed the rest, creating instead a pleasant office room with salvaged French doors leading onto a balcony. As with the others, new foundation, heating, electrical, plumbing, extensive roof repairs, the works! Work took place between September and November 2010.
Mint Condition Homes, LLC; Accepting Award: Mila Zelkha, president
3781 Leighton Street This 850 square-foot Bungalow was built by Charles MacGregor in 1906. Sanborn maps declare that he owned the land the year the street was built. The owners purchased the home from Harold Eilers, who lived in the house for 58 years. The renovation began in February 2005 and was finished in July 2007. The owners wanted to reach back in time to honor the historical background of the house and its materials, while looking forward by improving the beauty of the street and neighborhood, and to incorporate ecological features that promise a healthier Earth community.
They had to contend with a bathroom ceiling open to attic, drafty doors and windows, broken floor furnace, and a Medusa-like fuse box. They removed numerous features to improve the property, such as aluminum siding and wall-to-wall shag carpet. They retained and incorporated the clinker-brick fireplace and an outbuilding that may have dated to 1907, among with many other charming original facets.
The biggest challenge of this project was creating an aesthetic that allowed the small house to feel like one large, integrated whole. With one plane of flooring throughout the house, with no thresholds between any rooms, allows one to experience an easy visual and psychic flow no matter where one looks. The honey-colored oak floors gently harmonize with the darker stained “fruitwood” picture rails and window and door frames. A painted pinkish-red terra cotta wall highlights the blues in the gorgeous clinker-brick fireplace at the center of the living room.
As part of this overall aesthetic, it was important to get the flow right between the front-door-living-room-kitchen-bathroom. This took a fair bit of negotiation. The owners ended up turning the old, narrow living-room-to-kitchen doorway into a pass-through which “quieted” the energy of the living room; it was no longer a thoroughfare. They accomplished this by moving two walls a few feet.
High quality craftsmanship and natural materials were chosen to help ensure that this house happily survives another century. The embarrassedly stark contrast between this gem-of-a-house and the 1960s “Soviet block” stucco five-plex apartment building next door is an architectural history lesson at-a-glance.
Allysyn Kiplinger, property owner and project designer
Debra Collins, permaculture water drainage consultant
Seismic Upgrade and Renovation of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church
The Parish of St. Leo the Great has been a Piedmont Avenue landmark for 100 years. On Jan. 1, 1911, it began serving the needs of the Catholic population in the newly-incorporated city of Piedmont and the area of northern Oakland adjacent to it.
Since then, its parishioners scrimped and saved to build an impressive array of buildings on the campus. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, however, shook them into a greater awareness of how precious, fragile and necessary those buildings were. The decision to tear down damaged churches in two neighboring parishes (St. Francis de Sales and Sacred Heart) led them to develop a master plan for addressing repairs. The St. Leo’s Preservation Fund was held in trust by the Diocese and used only to cover capital – not normal operating – expenses of the parish. They completed seismic retrofitting of the school, wood frame structures, rectory/office and parish hall/gym.
In 2001, the church was the last building to be renovated. That building, erected in 1926, is a beautiful, spacious, Mission-style structure with Romanesque features, a prominent bell tower, soaring vaulted worship space and peaceful adjoining garden.
Parishioners can once again feel safe worshipping. The earthquake retrofitting plans minimized the effect on the church’s appearance and preserved it architectural integrity while addressing the danger of the massive bell tower collapsing in a future earthquake. By updating the heating, electrical and plumbing systems, the large elderly population is no longer uncomfortable attending services in the winter. Renovations to the roof, which leaked after 70 years, and stained glass, which was chipping and failing in many places, preserved these important features and protected the church interior from the elements. Repairs to our gardens and garden walkways once again made this area safe for our elderly and children, a few of whom had been injured there. This made the area even more attractive as an area of quiet reflection and periodic musical offerings to the neighborhood, particularly since this is the only park-like open space remaining on Piedmont Avenue.
Parish of St. Leo the Great; Accepting award: Grace Bacchi and Stu MacIntyre
Protection of the Public Interest and Defense of Landmarks Arthur Levy has played a critical role in two major Oakland development and OHA preservation projects in recent years. He is a longtime consumer affairs and class action attorney, Oakland resident, and OHA member. Beginning in 2004, he helped lead a major effort to preserve the entire 16th Street Southern Pacific Station, including its baggage wing and the elevated track remaining from its time as an intermodal hub where the Key System met the continental railroad. He has a longstanding interest in the history of transit in the East Bay, and has collected information and photographs to help produce a clear picture of that force in our history. Working with OHA and a coalition of housing, community, labor, and rail preservation groups, the successful effort saw the City Council and property owners agree to preserve all parts of the historic structure, a 1912 landmark in West Oakland. Now that its existence is no longer in jeopardy, reuse plans for the structure and the area around it are moving ahead. Frightening moments included a 2006 Planning Commission approval to demolish parts of the structure, later reversed by the City Council; complex negotiations with many parties to the development agreements; and a critical review of environmental documents and project development agreements.
A second major effort has been litigation and advocacy for preservation of the historic Ninth Avenue Terminal, and more broadly, the appropriate development of the Oak to Ninth project along the waterfront. He started work on this project in 2005 and has followed it ever since, working with great tenacity. He enabled OHA to appeal flawed environmental findings to Alameda County Superior Court, with partial success followed by the city's renewed approval of a revised EIR. After the Superior Court judge allowed the project to move forward, he appealed again in Appellate Court, where he presented the OHA case on March 10, 2011. His persistence and legal acumen put OHA on a much more solid footing than would have been possible otherwise, and allowed us to keep the issue of the potential demolition of this important historic resource in the public eye. Enabling an underfunded nonprofit to stand up to a bevy of highly compensated development attorneys has required an enormous contribution of his time and resources.
Levy has advocated for other historic structures, such as San Francisco's Harding Theater, and is remaining vigilant as the train station and the Ninth Avenue project move forward. His son Daniel Levy, now a graduating college senior, received a PIP award in the past for his signage project on the old rail trail near Lake Temescal, marking a rare son/father PIP dynasty.
Award: Advocacy and Leadership
City Zoning Updates Christopher Buckley, an urban planner and preservation expert who retired from the City of Oakland after a 25-year career in the planning department, assisted OHA in participating in the CBD and citywide zoning update. The project started in 2008 and as of March 2011 is at the City Council for final approval on the citywide update. The CBD update passed in 2009.
Buckley wrote iteration after iteration of detailed comments on zoning text, prepared block-by-block and in some cases parcel-by-parcel draft maps for presentation to city staff and policymakers, took photographs of many representative street frontage and typical buildings, helped the city to update its map of Areas of Secondary Importance spread over the city, attended countless meetings of technical advisory committees, Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, city-sponsored community meetings, neighborhood group meetings, zoning update committee meetings, planning commission meetings, city council committee and full council meetings, and met with city staff, city councilmembers and planning commissioners to go over details and ideas. He proposed a fresh look at lot setback guidelines, advocated for reduced heights in areas with sensitive historic resources, and helped OHA achieve a level of specificity in its comments that would otherwise have been impossible to command. Whew!
These enormous numbers of hours contributed to the city's long-range development standards were repeatedly acknowledged by city policymakers, and by community members who consulted him for advice and recommendations. He managed to do all this in addition to his many other retirement undertakings, which included helping OHA on project-specific advocacy and design comments, working on street tree planting projects, advising the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, and keeping up his own historic Victorian home.
Advocacy and Leadership
Walking Tour Leaders These veterans of our walking tours program have yearly donated their time and expertise to help Oaklanders learn more about their neighborhoods. Incredible amounts of research fuel their tours, and each year they renew their excitement to walk the same paths. Many thanks to these volunteers who provide the backbone of our summer walking tours program.
Special Award Award Recipient: