Top of Marin Stewardship

with a concern for open space...

Top of Marin Stewardship

with a concern for open space...

UPDATE: ZAYTUNA COLLEGE has purchased the Seminary Campus

We would like to welcome the students, faculty and staff to our neighborhood.

In our win-win proposition to the former owners, we stated:
“What we want to articulate is a goal of maintaining a level of activity,
beauty and accessibility that is comparable to what we have today.
It should be possible for CLU to find a buyer with plans for the site
that are compatible with that vision.
What we would like from CLU is for them to share that vision and for
them to give us some guarantee that they will not violate it.”

President Kimball of California Lutheran University came to share that vision.
CLU chose a buyer, Zaytuna College, that would preserve the site as a campus.
They assured the Lutherans and the neighbors that they would maintain the
level of activity, beauty and accessibility comparable to what we have today.

On October 5, we received this message from their president, Hamza Yusuf Hanson:
“In a show of gratitude for the neighbors who worked to ensure that the PLTS would be preserved
as a campus, which in turn helped Zaytuna College to obtain the property, Zaytuna College faculty,
students and staff would like to invite you to a tea in Sawyer Hall, this Sunday October 8 at 4 PM.”

The reception was very gracious; about 75 neighbors attended, and we had friendly discussions with
Catherine Hamza, Operations Manager, and Hamza Yusuf Hanson, President.

So we were shocked and saddened to find that without notice or any communication, on February 23, the college
built a fence blocking access from the Creston Road entry.

Conversations with Catherine Hamza were not successful: she showed no willingness to work with us,
simply referring to private property rights and dismissing our legitimate concerns,
which include safety and historical right-of-way.  She stated that she plans to block all three access paths
with fences and timed locking gates.,
We went to our city council representative, Susan Wengraf, who spoke with Catherine and requested a community meeting.
No meeting has been scheduled. The way these plans to build a wall have moved forward is deeply flawed,
and amounts to a dismissal of our original vision for continued access , which was agreed to by the former owners
at a community meeting in August 2016, with their land use attorney present, and we thought also agreed to by the new owners.

Most recently, two of us met with President Yusuf in an impromptu and quick meeting, on March 2.
He assured us that he will ensure a peaceful and amicable solution.
He wants the neighbors to understand that his good will towards us has not changed and will continue.
He does not want any sentiments of dishonesty or betrayal to be harbored from either side.
Therefore, he promised to restore unconditional pedestrian access at the Creston Road entry,
and said that he favors a guard, and does not favor the building of more walls, gates and locks.

We appreciate his desire to work with us and resolve the current situation with good will.
The problem as we see it is that his message has not been conveyed to the Operations Manager
or the Security Team,  who show no signs of restoring access at Creston Road, and seem to be going
ahead with their plan to fence off all access with timed locks, fences, and gates prior to any community meeting.
They have stated that these gates have already been ordered.

Please email Mardi at eemaaj@aol.com if you would like your views to be forwarded
to Council member Susan Wengraf, or to Zaytuna College.
You may also email Susan directly at swengraf@cityofberkeley.info
You may email Zaytuna College at chamze@zaytuna.edu for Operations
or hyusuf@zaytuna.edu for their president
We hope you will support our request for continued community access.
We believe it is another win-win proposition:
Neighbors help the college by enhancing safety through their presence,
and the college helps the neighbors by preserving emergency entry and exit for safety, and assuring
access that has been established for well over half a century.

Mardi Sicular-Mertens for TOMS

Want to get Involved?

All welcome to our meetings to discuss our concerns about the sale of the property on top of Marin Ave:

Next meeting is not yet set… Call 510-520-4468 for details…
Please come and share your ideas, your vision, your strategy for our neighborhood preservation.

Our Mission Statement:

We are neighbors of the Zaytuna College campus advocating a transparent public process as their campus is adapted for their use.  We seek to preserve the site’s historic and cultural value, public access to open space, wildlife habitat and natural beauty.

Our TOMS Vision:

Our goal is to reach out to Zaytuna College and establish a collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship. Our hope is that the Zaytuna Campus will remain an asset and resource for the City of Berkeley. We hope the college will preserve the site’s cultural and natural resources, the historic buildings and their landscape features, and that its pathways will continue to be available for the use and enjoyment of our citizens.

PREVIOUS UPDATE: Landmark Commission Meeting

Many neighbors, at least 50, from Park Hills, Creston Road and surrounding neighborhoods attended the May 4 Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting.  Many neighbors spoke eloquently in favor of the landmark application.

The commission voted 7-0 to place the whole property, all six parcels, on a list of potential initiations. This is a status between our desire to have it proclaimed a landmark, and the California Lutheran University’s claim that it is exempt from landmarking, since they are religiously affiliated and claim hardship. This is the best outcome we could achieve given the circumstances.

We have met with our city councilperson Susan Wengraf, with the owner’s representative and realtor Rod Gilbert, and with the president of California Lutheran University, Chris Kimball, when he reached out to us. To President Kimball, we articulated our goal of maintaining a level of activity, beauty and accessibility that is comparable to what we have today, while giving CLU a good profit on the property. President Kimball has said he agrees with our goals in principle, and that his first choice would be to sell to a non-profit, although we have no written guarantees.

Two non-profit groups, the Self-Realization Fellowship, and the Berkeley Waldorf School, have expressed interest in the property. Next week our group will meet with Mayor Jesse Arreguin. We wrote and submitted a 162 page document to the commission, including 60 pages of text detailing the architectural features, history of the architects and families associated with the buildings, the architectural merit, and cultural value, educational value, and historical value of the buildings, views and sites, and a hundred pages of color photos of the buildings and grounds, and historical photos and newspaper articles dating back into the 1800’s (the marriage of the Dobbins, who later built the northernmost mansion.).  This was a labor of love.

You can see it on our website, or on the city website, under the address 2770 Marin. Professional estimates to create this document were all in excess of $15,000.  We did it ourselves, at no cost, save the cost of creating 20 color copies for the commission, city staff, and for CLU. We also created the signs on Marin, and flyers which were distributed throughout the hills. We have raised about $1500, which has covered these costs, but would gladly accept donations for future outreach costs. Thank you for your interest in this issue which affects all of us,

Mardi Sicular-Mertens for TOMS

See the Landmark Application (click here)

To contact any of the Leads in our group:

Our Vision Lead: Mardi Sicular-Mertens   eemaaj@aol.com 510-520-4468

Treasurer and Fundraising Lead: Staeppan Snyder  staeppan@icloud.com

Outreach Temp Lead: Mardi Sicular-Mertens   eemaaj@aol.com

Website Design:  David Karp  accessvideo@hotmail.com