Two major landmarks from Oakland's past have recently undergone restoration and rehabilitation and are ready for their next chapters.

Both buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are located in West Oakland. The complexes provide new housing options: one offers market rate rentals and the other has low-income affordable units.

The former Mazda Lamp Works Factory (built in 1919) on Campbell Street (between 16th and 18th streets) is now Lampwork Lofts. The four-story masonry structure has been converted into 92 units of market rate rental housing, with studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom options available. Madison Park Financial Corporation, the developers of the project, went through the landmark certification process with the National Park Service to take advantage of the Federal Historic Tax Credits to help finance the rehabilitation.

The California Hotel, built in 1920s on San Pablo Avenue near 37th Street, enjoyed a heyday during the post-World War II era when jazz and blues greats such as Billie Holiday, James Brown, Mahalia Jackson, and Sly Stone performed in its ornate ballroom. African-Americans could come, meet, stay, and not be turned away because of racial restrictions, according to the landmark's history file. The hotel was one of the first racially-integrated full service hotels in the Bay Area. In addition to the ballroom, there was a 24-hour restaurant, a lounge, barber shop and hair salon.


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The East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, or EBALDC, which acquired the aging landmark in 2012, has completed the renovations and there are now 137 studio, one and two bedroom apartments for low-income families and people in need of supportive housing. There are on-site health care and supportive services for residents and behind the hotel is a 9,000 square foot organic garden where residents help grow vegetables and raise chickens.

As a nonprofit affordable housing developer since the mid-1970s, EBALDC has rehabilitated other properties throughout Oakland as well as along the San Pablo Avenue corridor; several of their past projects have been with older buildings.

The hotel, designed by noted local architect Clay Burrell (1880-1958) stands six stories on a corner lot facing north toward nearby Emeryville; its Spanish Mission inspired twin towers of brick and terra cotta and its famous 10-foot high roof top sign was visible from miles in all directions. In the pre-freeway era it was considered to be the gateway to downtown Oakland for motorists coming from the north. In the 1960s, Interstate 580 was built next to it, a fact that contributed to its decline and ultimate closure, according to history files.

Meanwhile, the Mazda Lamp Works facility was for many decades a major Oakland employer -- manufacturing and distributing light bulbs for the General Electric Conglomerate. Today, we use the term light bulbs; back then "lampworks" was the preferred term. Today, we associate the word "Mazda" for the automobile brand, but in Persian mythology, the goddess of light is so known, according to the landmark's history file. Like the California Hotel, the lofts building is faced with red brick. The north facing portion of the complex did suffer damage in the 1989 earthquake, but it has since been repaired and seismically retrofitted. Large windows throughout offer views of downtown, the bay and the East Bay hills.

Tours of the Lampwork Lofts complex are currently being offered. For more information, go to www.lampworkloftsoakland.com.

More information about the newly refurbished California Hotel is available at www.ebaldc.org.