Lakeside Apartment Neighborhood Association


Part of Oakland's historical record that has been destroyed to make way for redevelopment dollars
The original historic Chinatown in Oakland is now the redevelopment site for much of the Forest City development. Many of the historic buildings in this neighborhood were sacrificed to make way for this Cleveland, Ohio based development and real estate investment firm.

Building on the Hotel Royal:
An Opportunity to Decide our Future

We'd like to address significant questions about the demolition of our historic buildings left unanswered by two articles recently appearing in the Oakland Tribune, "Hotel won't get Royal Treatment" (July 17, 2004) and "Old buildings can't always stop march of progress" (July 22 Op-Ed).

Why is the City of Oakland demolishing its 'old buildings' instead of reusing them? The Hotel Royal — a seven-story reinforced concrete building built 1912-1913 by the architect of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, William Woollett, and Engineer C.A.P. Turner, a pioneer of reinforced concrete construction in the US — was individually eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Being eligible for the National Register means a building is not only a California treasure, but a national treasure.

The City of Oakland's Cultural Heritage Survey studied the building and found "For its distinctive design at a prominent outer-downtown location, its noted architect and engineer, and its associations with development patterns of the 1910s and with a prominent East Bay family, the Hotel Royal is considered individually eligible for the National Register." Since we already knew the building was so important, we wonder

Hotel Royal prior to its demolition to make way for a major redevelopment project. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Heritage Alliance
Hotel Royal prior demolition to make way for the Forest City redevelopment project. Photo courtesy of the Oakland Heritage Alliance.

  • 1.How was permission granted for demolition without review by the City of Oakland's Landmark Preservation Advisory Board? and
  • 2.How did the County grant approval of the project without review by the Alameda County Historical Commission?

Oakland has seen several notable successful conversions to affordable housing. For example, the Drake Hotel, built in 1912 as the Alamo Hotel, opened as the C.L. Dellums Apartments at 14th and Martin Luther King, Jr.


Way back in February 1995. The Oakland Hotel, completed in 1912, opened as senior housing in the 1980s.

Reuse of historic buildings — Hotel Royal, Oakland Post, Will Rogers, Key Systems, Ninth Avenue Terminal on the Oakland Harbor, San Pablo between 19th and 20th, 16th and Wood Train Station, and others — would better serve public good through conversion to affordable apartments, live/work units, or visitor-serving facilities.

Adaptive reuse of historic resources not only preserves Oakland's unique history and architecture it is a primary contributor to livable neighborhoods and conserves natural resources. By giving developers incentives to convert older, economically distressed, or historically significant buildings, Oakland can create a win/win situation comparable to recent successes in other major cities. It's time for Oakland to learn from Los Angeles and adopt an adaptive reuse ordinance.

Reuse saves money, "It is estimated that adaptive reuse projects cost an average of 16 percent less than new construction …" according to Y. Gaffen in a California Real Estate Journal article of March 2004, "Adaptive Reuse of Older Buildings Can Turn Community Eyesores into Assets."

Donovan D. Rypkema of Place Economics, a real estate consulting firm, confirms its value. "There is a real estate fact of life that you cannot build new and rent cheap — it cannot be done unless there are very deep public subsidies or there is very low quality construction …. Today enlightened cities are reusing their older and historic buildings as the core strategy in addressing the housing crisis." (Forum Journal, Summer 2004)

Establishing a California historic preservation investment tax credit would encourage reuse of historic buildings. At Royal Mills, in Rhode Island, a $74 million rehabilitation is planned by Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse. They will create 280 housing units using tax credits: 20 percent federal historic rehabilitation and 30 percent state historic preservation investment (forum news, July/August 2004).

The destruction of the Hotel Royal highlights loopholes in the city and county ordinances we need to close. Its loss will be not in vain if it leads to an adaptive reuse ordinance and State historic preservation investment tax credits.

— Lakeside Apartment Neighborhood Association.
Republished from the original LANA website
Research by Anna Naruta & Cynthia Schartzer.
Article by Cynthia Schartzer