Home » Featured, Island News

Buena Vista home demolished

Submitted by on 1, March 2, 2011 – 12:03 am9 Comments
Photo by Mary Grace Basco.

A wrecking crew on Friday demolished this home at 2413 Buena Vista Avenue to make way for a parking lot for a planned retail development on the adjacent Cavanaugh Motors property on Park Street.

The City Council had approved the demolition in March 2009 with the request that the home’s owner, Bill Phua, seek out someone else to take the home and that he obtain a building permit for his retail project before taking down the home, as preservationists had requested.

Preservationists and neighbors had asked city leaders to save the 1890 Queen Anne cottage, which was on the city’s historic study list. But business leaders on Park Street said it was standing in the way of their efforts to revitalize Park Street north of Lincoln Avenue.

City officials confirmed the property owner pulled the permits needed to do the work and they said that while some were surprised by the demolition, no additional advance public notice was required.

Planning Services Manager Andrew Thomas said the building’s owner had tried for several years to find someone to take the home; he said someone in Napa had shown an interest in the house but found it would be too expensive to move. On the night the council approved the demolition, Phua said he had offered the home free on Craigslist, and city staff said they had also looked into moving the home to the old Island High School site on Eagle Avenue.

Thomas said efforts to find a taker for the timber were unsuccessful due to the lead paint used on the home.

The city requires a review by the Historical Advisory Board before demolishing a home built before 1942, but in this case the board demurred, saying they weren’t sure that deciding whether to remove a home for economic reasons was within their purview. The council voted 4-1 to allow the demolition, with Doug deHaan casting the lone “no” vote.

Phua’s Park Vista Plaza project was okayed six months after the demolition was approved, in October 2009, after two years of work with the city. He hopes to break ground on the restaurant, retail and office complex in April, said Barbara Price, a consultant working on the project.

The parking lot on Buena Vista will hold 17 of the 50 parking spaces for the project.


  • Minimum parking requirements strike again!

  • Lillian says:

    Actually, the owner tried to find a taker, offered the house for free and no takers.

    This house was an albatross to begin with. The maintenance costs alone would have cost probably the amount it would take to buy another house.

    I find the city and the owner did its best to save that house, and since NOBODY wanted it, demolition was right. It’s one thing to try and preserve history, it’s a whole other thing to have an empty and boarded up house sitting there for years.

    • Betty says:

      This man committed a crime. He let that house go so he could remove it and have his parking places. He had an architect from Stockton come into town and sold a bill of goods to the City Council. Someone from Stockton with no commitment to Alameda. He should be ashamed of himself.

  • Betty says:

    Mr. Phua let this home go down hill on purpose so he could have it destroyed.

    I will not enter any commercial stores etc that will occupy this site. I will also not enter the Marketplace since the owner of the Marketplace was too interested in her parking places rather then perserving Alameda’s history.

    I have no repect for either owner and therefore will not spend any money at eithers places of business or that of their tenants.

  • Mark Irons says:

    When it was before Council there were certain conditions for demolition which at the time included the owner inquire into hand demolition for maximum recycling of historic elements and keeping the material out of the land fill. I wonder if there were even any inquiries as to cost for that method. Hand demolition aside, the redwood siding on that thing was worth a fortune. Virgin growth of highest quality ever, gone to the dump.

    Any neglect by Phua may or may not have been strategic, but I don’t think deterioration which occurred had any real effect with regard to rehab. There are plenty of older homes like this one, even in that immediate neighborhood, which people are willing to sink money into. “Maintenace” cost wouldn’t have been any different that many other Victorian as well, lots of paint. Rehab of that building could have been fairly economical and fast. There is a comparable building on Oak just above Encinal two doors up from Kobe-ya which sold as a probate which is awaiting what will surely be a total make over, gutted plaster , all new plumbing and wiring, new basement unit.

    The Buena Vista house had been de-linked from the rest of the block in the 1970s when another small home directly to the east was allowed to be demolished for a parking lot, which left this house vulnerable. The previous demolition was a real crime. Mr. Phua bought this house from a woman whose family had lived there since the last century. Too bad somebody didn’t think to approach her first who would have rehabbed the building. Then it would have been interesting to see them solve the parking for this project.

    • dave says:


      I’m curious what makes that wood valuable. Does virgin-cut wood have a different appearance? Is it apprecably stronger than commercially available redwood today, or stronger than other siding materials? Other reasons?

      Sorry if these sound like silly questions, I don’t know building like you do and the thought of high value wood is intriguing.

      • Jon Spangler says:

        Dave, the redwood in that house came from old-growth, ancient redwoods that were hundreds if not thousands of years old. And you literally cannot find commercial timber like that any more because it is all gone. (Greedy lumber barons denuded the redwoods a century ago and more. It has all been clearcut and only partially replanted. The second- or third- or fourth-growth trees that have replaced the original old-growth forests are nothing at all like their pre-logging ancestors.)

        Older, mature trees provide much better lumber – their straighter, tighter grains make for stronger, more durable wood. Modern forestry economics dictate that trees are cut down when they are a few decades – not centuries – old now, and the resulting lumber of any species is weaker, has more knots,
        and has a much more open grain that, not being as dense, will not last as long.

  • Mark Irons says:


    When it comes down to the cost of hand salvaging the lumber the value of this material may be reduced, but unless you buy blanks of very expensive lumber and pay a lot to have it custom milled you can’t get redwood siding. But using redwood for siding in this day is a waste. Truitt and White Lumber in Berkeley no longer sells any kiln dried redwood products. If you want custom fabricated ornamental elements from a mill like Lapinski for restoring a Victorian they will use cedar which is softer and less rot resistant, or you have to use plaster or fiberglass castings which is a fine way to take pressure off the remaining redwood. I’m just explaining the intrinsic value. That siding had 200 annual growth rings for every ring in a fence board you can buy at HOME Depot! That stuff was literally older than Jesus.

    That building hadn’t been painted in years, but that redwood was of such high quality that the wood was not suffering that badly and it was one of the best materials ever for accepting a quality coat of oil primer and could have been fully restored.

    There is a guy in Berkeley who was making custom furniture out of hardwood made from hardwood salvaged from crates used to ship motorcycles from Asia. We cut down rain forests for shipping crates! On the level of Japanese wood working where wood is valued enough that each piece is oriented for it grain patterns, that siding would have provided material for dozens of tansu. In fine wood working circles old water tanks and bridge trestles made from redwood. I knew a guy who hired to hunt such redwood which was used to build George Lucas” ranch in Marin back in the late 1970s.

    The “value” as I am describing it is probably lost of most of us, but it is no less real. Seeing the pile of pulp in the photo in the Sun this a.m. was painful.

  • Betty says:

    He was instructed by the city council to recycle that house. He broke the law he should have charges brought against him.
    I hope he and his parking places are very happy, because my car will never be in one.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.