Berkeley Fire Site Survives 2nd Burn

by Steed Dropout
Jan. 19, 2016


Fire on the site. Photo by Ted Friedman

November 2011, Sequoia Apartments was destroyed by fire, a major blow to Berkeley’s once vital intersection at Telegraph/Haste. Yesterday, the New Sequoia—nearing completion by year’s end—dodged flames to its rear while reconstruction continued up front.

Reconstruction ongoing, in front, as fire found in rear. Photo by Ted Friedman

Sequoia Apartments was upstairs to two highly successful Southside hotspots: Raleigh’s pub, and Cafe Intermezzo, home of the mile-high-topped-with-sprouts salad, such a legend that four years after the sprout-house burned, Telegraph visitors were still asking about it.

Looks piddling but could have felled reconstruction. Photo by Ted Friedman

The piddling fire drew several fire trucks, paramedics, and some cops. This would be a non-story, and, indeed, it was not covered.

Media, like police, does not traffic in what ifs.

Workers turn spectators, later dismissed. Photo by Ted Friedman

But what if. What if the tiny fire had smoldered. What if the 24 hour security guard had not detected it. What if more than a year of construction burned to the ground?

The fragile fate of the intersection at Telegraph/Haste depends on the completion of the Sequoia. The hopes for a revival on lower Telegraph, or the 4th block, as it is so called are intertwined with the New Sequoia.

Mad Monk, at the Southwest corner is also nearing completion as a used books/vinyl store competing with nearby Moe’s and Amoeba.

Amoeba may have a joint-in-the-hole if its application to become a pot stop is approved.

Plans for developing the long-abandoned Berkeley Inn property at Telegraph/Haste seem stalled.

Ken Sarachan last year told me that the Inn site would make a good hippy graveyard. In fact, he offered me a plot.

30 year vacancy at Berkeley Inn. Photo by Ted Friedman

Because Sarachan is a showman-businessman, and perhaps because there is no longer any security at the Berkeley Inn site, the abandoned lot is always good for a few laughs. Ray Gibson who was overseeing the Woolsey house and the Berkeley in lot was dislodged when the relic was hauled across People’s Park to undergo renovation on Regent.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has seen decades of strife between the city and owner Ken Sarachan. Bates sounded skeptical, last year, of an announced deal between Sarachan with U.C. Berkeley to develop the Berkeley Inn site. “I’ll believe it when I see it,” Bates said at the time.

He hasn’t seen it.

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