Architecturally significant “Acucare” Building at 3900 Adeline Demolished

Published On August 11, 2014 | By Rob Arias | History & Archive, News & Commentary, Planning & Development

It was the end of an era last week in Emeryville’s Triangle & Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhoods as the brick warehouse at 3900 Adeline met its demise to a demolition unit to make room for another all-rental apartment project. It was also the end of an era for one of Emeryville’s worst kept secrets as the”Acucare Oriental Spa” that was the subject of a well-publicized federal raid also met its demise. This 2005 SF Gate article details the notorious sting-operation involving 400 federal and local law officers as part of “Operation Gilded Cage” and the arrest of a 37-year-old Pleasant Hill man for his alleged involvement in a Korean Sex trafficking ring (we are “the rottenest city on the Pacific Coast” after all!). Acucare subsequently reopened but it wasn’t clear if they cleaned up their act … or a blind eye was turned to their alleged involvement in “the world’s oldest profession”.

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Photo Courtesy: The Emeryville Tattler

Originally built as the Standard Beverages bottling plant in 1937 according to the Oakland Tribune Newspaper Archive below which describes it at as “one of the finest plants in the United States” turning out 156 bottles per minute of carbonated soft drinks. “Large plate glass windows and abundant flood-lighting make it easy for passers-by to watch the machinery in operation and inspect every detail of preparing the Nehi, Par-T-Pack, Rums Dry and Royal Crown beverages which this firm bottles and distributes in San Francisco and Alameda Counties”. Standard’s President John R. Souza whom founded the company 7 years prior was a Mason and had “connections to a major oil company”. The building was not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as “there are more significant examples of its [architectural] type/style” and only received a C3 rating by an Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey.

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The incoming mixed-use development that straddles the E’ville/Oakland border is being developed by Oakland-based Madison Park Financial Corporation which was founded by John Protopappas. The industrial masonry factory building with unique decorative pressed brick was deemed not salvageable by the developer despite being a company that “specializes in historic preservation & adaptive reuse”. Protopappas can be seen arguing in this city council video that without the concessions, he would not be able to procure financing to complete the project.

Preservation of even the corner portion of the architecturally significant site was deemed “financially unfeasible” by their studies and demolition of the site was considered “suitable”. Madison’s previous experience in the area consists of the Bakery Lofts and West Oakland’s Lampwork Lofts (in fact a nationally designated historic landmark interestingly enough). The new complex will consist of four smaller three-story buildings over an underground parking garage with 101 residential and live/work units and 1,000 square feet of retail space. Some of the brick from the demolished historical building will be repurposed into the new building according to Planning & Building Director Charles Bryant.

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The building’s demolition was originally approved by City Council back in January 2009 and subsequently revised, extended and re-approved in December 2012. After an initial stalemate at the December 4th 2012 meeting, the extension was resubmitted to council at the subsequent December 18th meeting after the addition of more “family-friendly” units (larger than one bedroom) and some children’s play equipment. “We can’t right all of the past imbalances in one project but I think you’re moving in the right direction” noted Councilmember Atkin who along with Councilmember West relented on their opposition of the project to join Councilmembers Davis & Brinkman to give the project a 4-1 approval (Jac Asher being the lone dissenting vote). “If we were starting from the ground, right now, it would be a different project” added Councilmember West “but I think these improvements are significant”. No one seemed to lament the loss of the historic brick architecture.

The approval of the second and final extension can be watched on the EPOA YouTube Channel (1:11:30):

And of course … my opinions:

So not only is yet another part of Emeryville’s history lost forever, the 100% rental/single-resident studio focused nature of the project (with a few multi-room units shoe-horned in) will further diminish the opportunities to recruit residents to vest in our community. For every all-rental unit we build, another opportunity is lost to chip away at the East Bay’s ridiculous .3% available housing stock on the market, (the second lowest percentage in the U.S. according to this data) and provide the dream of home-ownership to more people. As we’ve stated before, housing is the 800-pound gorilla in the city and it’s something Emeryville needs to figure out if it’s ever going to “grow up” as a city.

It’s the end of an era in the sense that we’ve lost yet another artifact of our past … but we’re also approaching the end of an era in Emeryville politics as the then City Manager, Council and Planning Commission that supported demolishing it will no longer be able to operate with the impunity that they once did. The “Developer Era” of Emeryville politics is quickly coming to a close as the level of engaged residents reaches a critical mass and demand the “sense of place” that is clearly lacking in our city. For those paying attention to Emeryville politics, there’s a paradigm shift happening. Not just a shift from lofts and studio’s to more family-friendly housing … but a shift from a development-centric city, to a more resident-centric city … if for any reason in that we’re simply running out of room in our 1.2 square mile chunk of the East Bay. We absolutely have to be more discerning of the projects we allow to happen moving forward. Every project needs to be scrutinized even further and we need to ask the question “Is this good for the next 100 years of Emeryville residents?”

Further Reading

3900 Adeline Crumbles: Profits Stronger Than Brick Walls | Emeryville Tattler
Madison Park to start loft project | SF Business times

About The Author

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who moved to Emeryville in 2003. A new parent in the community, he can often be seen walking his French Bulldog rescue "Fiona" around his Park Avenue District neighborhood, traversing the greenway on his bike or enjoying his favorite Emeryville small businesses. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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