Hippy Graveyard Too Big To Hide

by Steed Dropout
Feb. 19, 2015


Hippy Graveyard. Photo by Ted Friedman.

A recent news story that the Berkeley Inn site, an eyesore since it burned thirty years ago–was about to be developed–long after Heaven and Earth had tried…that story was born on Telegraph Avenue and almost stayed on the avenue.

When a diligent local reporter [not me] broke the story, the gossip-mill was shocked. Shocked to think all those rumors were true.

Development of the eye-sore site into student apartments will, reportedly, trickle-down from U.C. Berkeley builders.

Rumors of U.C. Berkeley eating the town are handed out on the South side like salted peanuts. Cal is now poised to dine on the Berkeley-Inn site. The myth is winning, as Cal, reportedly, will build student apartments on the site of a beatnik hotel that was destroyed by fire thirty years ago.

Ground-breaking could break soon, with 2017 a projected finish date.


Side-View of proposed development site. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Sarachan owns the Berkeley-Inn site, liens and all, as well as six other Telegraph properties, making him the major Telegraph property owner.

What is the Ken Sarachan factor? Many harsh things have been said and written about Ken Sarachan. Maybe that’s why he refuses to talk with the press.


I called Ken yesterday to ask about the rumor he’d sold the Berkeley Inn site to Cal. Ken called Berkeley Reporter, “the Voice of the South side,” last year. I might have said to him, “your voice needs you.”

Here’s what he told voice of the south side: The Berkeley In site would become “a hippy graveyard.”

Maybe I can be buried there, I responded.

Ken went on to call rumors of the Berkeley Inn site sale–“Cafe Med rumors.” There is a special ring in the Inferno for coffee house rumors. And a lower ring for rumors at the Caffe Mediterranum, which hosted Berkeley Inn beats in the ’50s.


This story could end here, if it weren’t for all those hippy bones that would be buried at the Berkeley Inn site, including mine–a fitting end for the “voice of the South side.” Any cryptologist worth his weight in crypts would tell you that if Sarachan is calling his nascent partnering with Cal a rumor, perhaps this is yet another Ken Sarachan stunt, act-of-defiance–or city of Berkeley flip-off.

Berkeley Mayor, Tom Bates, told a local reporter (not me) he wasn’t convinced the deal between Cal and Sarachan would go through. Bates said he would be delighted if it did, but that Sarachan “has been very difficult to work with, inconsistent.”

“Until he signs the deal I won’t believe it,” Bates told a local reporter.

Berkeley Reporter cornered Bates at a South side business meeting, today. Bates continued to stress his “delight” at the idea that the stalled (for 30 years) Berkeley Inn project would finally be moving forward, but confirmed that where Sarachan is involved with the city–the CAL/Ken project remains to be seen.


Cal dorm that ate People's Park. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Replacement is underway for an historic student apartment, destroyed by fire in 2011 across from Sarachan’s vacant Berkeley Inn lot. The fire left eight hundred students homeless.

When construction dust clears, Telegraph/Haste will be (Cal) Bear Territory.

At least one avenue merchant feels that this marks the death blow to local color, as Blue and Gold dominates Telegraph Ave.

Telegraph’s city councilman has called the empty, often tagged, lot a rat-hole. The rat’s went viral on You Tube. Rabbits came next.

Berkeley Reporter took the baths at Berkeley Inn, where he always met the occasional mouse. Perhaps Sarachan’s Hippy Graveyard™ idea is from the “Roach Motel” ad: “the roaches check in but they don’t check out.”

But that’s just the Ken Sarachan factor.

More photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/berkboy/

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