On May 8th, the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board met in Oakland City Hall and reviewed and took public comment on the Historical Resource Evaluation prepared by consultants to the developer.
The Meeting Agenda, HRE Document, and a video of the meeting are available online from the LPAB section of the Commissions and Boards page on the City of Oakland Website. To avoid problems in synchronizing audio with the video, download the video and watch it using a media viewer, such as Windows Media Viewer.
In the video, the portion relevant to the Claremont project starts at 3:47:00
The May 8 hearing was continued to the next meeting of the LPAB, which will be at 6pm on June 12th in the third floor City Council Chamber at Oakland City Hall.
One advantage of a continued hearing is that we now have the benefit of knowing the developer's underhanded strategy:
Fabricate a fictitious conjecture that the OHP (California Office of Historical Preservation) recommended anything less than the 12.1 acres listed by the National Register of Historic Places.
Repeat this fabrication throughout the developer-commissioned Historic Resource Evaluation (HRE) so that otherwise reasonable people (LSA, planning staff) start to believe it.
Use this fiction to turn the HRE into a relitigation of whether various areas on the property are "contributing" or "noncontributing" to the historical significance of the hotel, and
Leverage that discussion to co-opt the LPAB into deliberations that would invite reconsideration of the historic resource protections that the LPAB itself resolved to put in place in 2001.
Read the Transcript of the May 8th LPAB Hearing and
Watch the Video (start at 3:47:00) to see for yourself.
Let's set the record straight:
The notion that the OHP (California Office of Historic Preservation) intended to preserve anything less than the 12.1 acres that were ultimately found eligible for the NRHP and listed to the CRHR is pure fiction. This fiction originates from a misrepresentation, fabricated and advanced by Carey and Company in the HRE, about what the OHP advised the NRHP to protect.
Thankfully, the facts are also plainly apparent in the HRE:
The state historian (on page 90 of the HRE) notes that the “registration form proposes to nominate the full 19.4 acres under hotel ownership” as a historic place. The “smaller region” that the OHP refers to in its letter to the keeper are the full property minus what were once formal gardens -- the 12.1 acres that were ultimately nominated.
The change that removed the former formal gardens from nomination was made prior to submission of the application to the NRHP -- as noted in the first paragraph of the letter from OHP to the keeper: “The nomination is now revised and submitted for a determination of eligibility…” The historic area under the revised nomination is reflected in the map submitted with the application.
The nominated 12.1 acre portion – smaller than the originally proposed 19.4 acres, but including the south parking area – was deemed eligible by the keeper of the NRHP, exactly as recommended by OHP, and matches the area circumscribed by the yellow boundary on the maps in the HRE.
There was no “oversight” whatsoever.
Fortunately, though developer commissioning of historic resource evaluations makes our system vulnerable to such deceitful tactics, the LPAB's system of public hearings -- and a public that truly values the preservation of historic resources -- renders such brazen exploitation of the public process transparent.
Once we dispense with the fiction that there was any mistake in establishing the area protected by NRHP and CRHR, we are left with the only important question we ever needed to ask: What, if anything, has changed since these historic resource protections were put in place?
The south parking area was there in 2001 when the LPAB -- yes, this very same body -- passed Resolution 2001-01 nominating the entire Claremont Hotel property to the Planning Commission and City Council for landmark protection.
The south parking area was there in 2002 when the Oakland City Council passed Ordinance 12438 conveying landmark status on the hotel and the footprint of the porte cochere, specifically directing the LPAB to review any future project with an eye to preserve an "appropriate sense of open space around the hotel building".
The south parking area was there in 2003 when the entire 19.4-acre Claremont Hotel property was proposed for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places and a smaller 12.1-acre section, explicitly including the south parking area, was ultimately nominated, approved, and listed as eligible.
The south parking area was there in 2003 when, by dint of its eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, the 12.1 acre section including the south parking area was listed to the California Registry of Historical Resources and afforded CEQA protections.
The answer is clear: Absolutely Nothing.
The south parking area was recognized then as protecting a sense of open space around the hotel, and continues today as a necessary part of the expansive setting in which the hotel stands boldly and majestically apart from other structures in the area to express its unique architectural grandeur.
Staff member Weintraub is right -- this isn't about the suitability or non-suitability of a project that avaricious developers want to crowd into an area they'd like to strip of its historic resource protections.
This is about the integrity of the landmark preservation process itself.