|Published October 27th, 2021|
|City council agrees that Charles Hill Circle home worthy of historic landmark|
|By Sora O’Doherty|
The denial by the planning commission to grant historic landmark status to a residence at 12 Charles Hill Circle was reversed by the city council on appeal on Oct. 19. The council members noted that it was a tough decision for a number of reasons, including the fact that the landmark status had originally been recommended by the Historic Landmarks Committee but was denied by the planning commission with only five members present at the time.
Homeowner and appellant Nathan Ogle, an architect, has owned the home since 2009. The single family residence on over three-quarters of an acre was designed by architect Paul Hamilton, who lived in the home and used it as his office for about a decade. The original landscaping was designed by renown landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, but little of the original landscaping survives.
The application has been vigorously opposed by the applicant’s neighbors on Charles Hill Circle, who have argued that the applicant seeks the designation in order to interfere with their properties. In fact, the applicant did oppose plans by his neighbor to remove a tree and widen a driveway, but Planning Director Drummond Buckley, who presented the staff report to the council, emphasized that that argument had been denied and that the historic landmark status would apply solely to the one house, 12 Charles Hill Circle.
There was also considerable doubt about the status of Paul Hamilton. The architect designed about five homes in Orinda and many others elsewhere. It was agreed that none of his homes have been granted historic landmark status thus far. The applicant claims that their home is a well-preserved example of the Second Bay Tradition in modern architecture.
In order to be granted historic landmark status, a property must be found to meet three of eight criteria. The planning commission found that 12 Charles Hill Circle met only one condition, criterion E, that the building contains elements of architectural design, detail and materials or craftsmanship which represent a significant architectural innovation. However the city council members agreed that the residence met three criteria, criterion E, as well as criteria A and D. A specifies that the character, interest or value is part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of Orinda, the state of California, the United States of America or Native Americans; D is that the building represents a distinctive example of an architectural period, style or movement or its identification as the work of an architect or master builder whose work has influenced the development of the city.
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