Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trying to Protect Cheney

The Bay Area's bizarre May rain has sent us out to Albany Village to make sure the Cheney Cottage is staying dry.

We replaced the tarps again last night. The site where the Cheney Cottage is sitting is flat, open and near the bay - so it's extremely windy. The plastic and tarps with which we have covered the two sections of the house have repeatedly come loose or torn in the wind.

So last night, again, we were back at the Gill Tract, putting a new tarp on the house. We covered the entire first floor with one tarp, screwed down and relatively tight against the second floor. Hopefully, this will remain in place until we get the permits and can move the house back to 62nd Street.

The second floor has been harder to cover. When Phil Joy moved the house, he screwed plastic pipes to the top of the house from one side to the other. These pipes were put there in case the house happened to hit a low hanging cable or telephone wire - the pipes let the wires glide over the house without getting snagged in the shingles and pulled down. But the pipes also make it very difficult to cover the house. Fortunately, the second floor also has the roof on it, so even if we don't get it perfectly covered, it's relatively waterproof.

But water has gotten in to both sections and caused damage. In the living room, there are marks of water intrusion through all the woodwork, particularly the coffered ceiling. The large redwood panel under the stairs has cracked from one side to the other. The stairs have gotten wet and have water marks on them, and the floors of the upper story are damaged by the water.

It's certainly been difficult to monitor a house that is not on our property, across town from us. The house is clearly being damaged by sitting out in the field, exposed to the elements, when it could just as easily have been moved to 62nd Street and made weathertight.

As always, I look to the City of Berkeley, that bastion of historic preservation, a city concerned about creating additional housing and eliminating blight, for their forward thinking bureaucratic processes that have made all this possible. When we're attempting to restore the house, and having to not only spend thousands of extra (and unavailable) dollars on the City's bureaucratic lunacy, but also on restoration that would not have had to happen had the City assisted with this process, I'm sure Tom and I will again be reminded of the joys of life in this burg.

The latest is that one of the people responsible for reviewing the plans is gone until June 7th. The City has given her responsibilities to someone else, yet that person seems unable to respond to requests for assistance. Tom called a week ago, after sending an email that got nowhere, and the guy called back with his email address. Tom sent another email, and three days later, has heard nothing. Clearly, we're on the fast track with the City staff.

Careful blog readers will remember that the City was originally going to work with us to ensure we could move the house by May 15th, that the permits would be available by then. Today is May 25th, and no permits are in sight. But the two permits (because the City wouldn't let us get one permit for both houses for the same parcel) are slowly grinding their way through the City's endless morass. We know that, in order to make this project viable, we have to get the Cheney Cottage rentable by mid August, when the students return. Now it looks like the City will continue to ignore our requests for help, and keep the entire process bogged down in bureaucratic mire.

When I started writing this blog, I had no plans to make it a place for bitching about the City and it's processes. What Tom and I love is historic preservation, and our small place in preserving some of the historic properties in Berkeley. But until the City gets off its collective backside and actively participates in saving these houses, the blog will remain a place that is mostly made up of rants such as the above.

I apologize to any reader who was hoping to read about historic preservation and our work on the houses. I hope to be back to that soon. But at this point in time, when that will happen is anyone's guess.

1 comment:

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