A part of southeast Berkeley was up in protest 75 years ago over a proposal by the Vedanta Society of San Francisco to build a church on the southeast corner of Piedmont Avenue and Dwight Way.

The Planning Commission reported to the City Council, June 9, 1938, that "zoning is not involved in the present controversy."

A commission meeting that night had "overflowed into the corridors" with supporters and opponents. The issue had already bounced back and forth from commission, to council, and back to the commission again.

Project architect Henry Gutterson told the commission that the building would be "low and residential in character, surrounded by trees" and that "there is nothing indicating Hinduism or India in the building plans."

Supporters also emphasized that Vedanta Society worshipers included "many business and professional men and women" and "it is absolutely untrue that only Hindus will attend the church."

A petition signed by more than 400 Berkeley residents was presented that stated "if this building is denied it will mean that churches are to be excluded from Berkeley."

Opponents said the site was the wrong place because of traffic -- "there is no more deadly corner in Berkeley" -- and presented a petition of 320 nearby residents against the church project. An attorney speaking for opponents said the residents "have gone there (to the Piedmont district) as a place for homes -- not churches, stores, or undertaking parlors."


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"Any church will depreciate values" a neighbor testified.

New Deal funds

On June 2, 1938, the Gazette carried a story reporting that "a four year program of rehabilitating Berkeley schools" had been completed at a total cost of $1,578,116.

"Total cost to the (school) board, however, was only $854,846, the remaining $723,270 being provided by the Federal government through the Public Works Administration and Works Progress Administration."

The article noted that Berkeley had secured fully 30 percent of all the federal dollars provided for educational buildings up through the end of March 1938, in 50 "Northern California" counties.

The schools rehabilitated included Burbank (now the west campus site), Columbus (now Rosa Parks), Cragmont, Garfield (now Martin Luther King Jr.), Hillside (since sold), Jefferson, John Muir, Lincoln (now Malcolm X), Longfellow, Thousand Oaks, University Elementary (since sold), Washington, Willard, and parts of Berkeley High School.

(Some of those buildings rehabilitated or constructed in the 1930s have since been demolished.)

Campbell death

On June 14, 1938, noted astronomer and former UC President William Wallace Campbell jumped to his death from an apartment building window in San Francisco. He left notes for his family saying that he did not want to live on "as an incompetent person." He was nearly blind, and had suffered a major stroke in 1937.

Local shows

Berkeley was planning a "First Annual Amateur Photographic Contest and Photography Show" at the UA Theatre from June 23 to 26, 1938.

On June 2, Mayor Edward Ament had issued a proclamation declaring the week of June 5 as Camera Week in Berkeley.

"In order that the beauty and variety of our city may be better understood and appreciated by those of us who live here, as well as by visitors to the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939, whom we hope to make our guests, I invite the photographers of the entire Bay region to come to Berkeley, to discover and interpret as only an artist can, new and significant aspects of familiar scenes."

Another "first" in June 1938, was "Berkeley's first city-wide model airplane contest," sponsored by the Berkeley Recreation Department on June 11.

The two locales were the athletic field at Berkeley High School and the Berkeley Armory on Addison Street (still standing).