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New report finds historical significance in Contra Costa Florist building in El Cerrito

The significance of a small, 83-year-old building on San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito has been validated by new Historic Resource Evaluation report commissioned for the Tradeway Project site that was released Oct. 26.
The report by Knapp & VerPlanck Preservation Architects evaluates the history of the site and states that “It is our judgment that the former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex at 10848 San Pablo Avenue has historical significance as a property that appears eligible for listing in the California Register (of Historic Places) under Criterion 1.
Criterion 1 covers the category of historic events: “Resources that are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of local or regional history, or the cultural heritage of California or the United States.”
The event in this case is the building’s “association with the Japanese floriculture industry in western Contra Costa County and the settlement of Japanese Americans in this region.”
“The former Contra Costa Florist Shop/Mabuchi House complex appears eligible for listing in the California Register under Criterion 1 for its association with the well-documented community of Japanese American nursery owners and others associated with the cut flower industry in western Contra Costa County during the first half of the twentieth century” the report states, noting later that “10848 San Pablo also appears eligible under Criterion 1 for its association with Japanese immigration and settlement in western Contra Costa County, especially for its association with internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.”
That conclusion is in line with what El Cerrito Historical Society has contended since plans to build a multi-use project featuring affordable senior housing were agreed on by the city and Eden Housing. At a workshop early in October, the society was dismayed when the developer seemed to express surprise about any historical aspects at the project site.
The new report, which directly contradicts a 2008 report by another consultant firm for the Redevelopment Agency that determined the site had no resources of historic value.
Developer Eden Housing maintains that the florist building is out-of-code and would require some investment, and has said that retaining it would reduce the number of residential units the project could contain.
The new report states that “The proposed project would demolish all buildings on the project site and replace them with a mixed-use affordable housing project for seniors with commercial or office space on the first floor level. As a potential California Register-eligible property, the former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex appears to be a historical resource as defined in Section 15064.5(a) of the CEQA Guidelines. Unless mitigated the proposed project would likely have a significant adverse effect on the environment.”
“It is just a first step but a very important first step,” noted historical society board member Tom Panas. “It means that if the plan is to change the building in any significant way a full environmental impact report is required. Also, any significant changes to the building will have to be fully mitigated.”
Full EIRs, of course, are expensive and time consuming and could entail additional mitigations.
The new report can be read by clicking the link below.

Historic Resouce Evaluation

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Chris Treadway