What's Happening

What's Going On:

Owner Fairmont Hotels and financier Richard Blum (husband of Diane Feinstein) want to build a 43-unit condominium complex in what is now the south parking lot of the landmark Claremont Hotel in Oakland.

Fairmont Hotels and Blum partnered with Signature Development (which is involved in many billions of dollars’ worth of downtown and Oakland waterfront development) to develop the project.

Signature Development commissioned Carey & Co. (a large and prominent SF firm, part of TreanorHL, a national firm) to perform the Historic Resource Evaluation (HRE), a key document that the Oakland Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board relies on in making its recommendations to the Oakland Planning Commission on the proposed project.

In building the central premise of the document – that there is a “clouded understanding” of the historic resource – Carey & Co. deliberately misrepresent the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP), claiming that the OHP did not intend for the South Parking Area (where Signature proposes to build the condo project) to be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

This claim is exposed as patently false by reference to the August 2, 2002 minutes of the California Historical Resources Commission which details OHP’s unambiguous intent to include the South Parking Area in the historic resource, a document that was materially omitted from the references of the HRE.

Oakland City Planning hired LSA associates (a 200-person statewide firm) to perform a peer review of Carey & Co.’s evaluation.  Rather than confirming the veracity of Carey & Co.’s claims or identifying and including omitted references, LSA instead advances Carey & Co.’s false assertion, parroting that “the OHP intended to exclude” the South Parking Area from the historic resource.  Based on this misrepresentation, LSA goes on to propose a “Historic District” which boundary explicitly excludes the South Parking Area (page 200 of HRE).

The minutes of the California Historic Resources Commission expose the deliberate, systematic, and brazen attempt by Signature and Carey & Co. to mislead the Oakland Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board (LPAB) with the intent of stripping the South Parking Area of environmental and historical resource protections.  Carey et al. say so explicitly on page 2 of the document:  “This HRE was prepared to clarify and establish…the extant historical resource(s)…for the purposes of CEQA; which may serve to uphold, rectify, and/or supersede the findings of previous evaluations and designations.”

How do we know that the omission was deliberate?  The August 2, 2002 meeting of the CHRC is explicitly referenced in the letter from the OHP to the Keeper of the NRHP as the venue in which the nomination to the NRHP was approved.  This letter was included in the references submitted with the HRE and referenced in the text.  So the minutes of that meeting are a known material reference, particularly in light of the fact that Carey & Co. is calling into question the intentions of the OHP.  Failing to acknowledge a material reference that is known to exist, particularly when it contradicts the premise of your argument is, by definition, deliberate.

Most recent plans submitted by Signature Development.


What is important here and why we should care:

The Claremont Hotel is widely recognized – both formally and in the hearts of the community --  as a unique and irreplaceable Oakland treasure.  The integrity of the historical resource – formally established by the California Office of Historical Preservation – is under attack by developers who are willing to misrepresent the public record and mislead public agencies in their pursuit of short‑term profit, to the irreversible detriment of this century‑old landmark.

We should also care, as citizens interested in the cultural history of our city, about developer commissioning of historic resource evaluations in general, and the conflict of interest which this creates.  Developers who stand to make millions cannot be expected to render a dispassionate evaluation of historic resources on the same parcel they wish to develop.  Developer commissioning of historic resource evaluations, as a document for city planning to rely on, leads directly to situations such as this where selective and even deliberately misleading interpretation of a resource’s established historic significance betrays the public trust and undermines both the process and goals of historic preservation in general.