HISTORY AND LOCATION
6911 Norfolk Road was built in partnership by Marin architect Fredric Devine and East Bay developer Harold Smith, from whom we purchased it new in 1989. It was by far the highest-quality house we considered.
We grew to love its location. In the morning, when most of Berkeley is shrouded in low fog, our elevation and eastern exposure often admit early sunlight. Later in the afternoon, especially in early fall when west-facing homeowners swelter, we welcome the shade. Occasionally a spectacular waterfall of Orinda fog streams over Grizzly Peak.
In 20 years of 10-minute commuting to U.C. Berkeley (5 miles via Grizzly Peak Blvd) or Rockridge BART (4 miles via CA 24), we have never encountered a traffic light and almost never a delay. Either by car or by BART, a trip to San Francisco is 20 minutes shorter than, for example, from the north Berkeley hills. For quick access to the Diablo Valley, we avoid the Caldecott Tunnel by using nearby Fish Ranch Road. We have enjoyed our proximity to the many cycling routes through the East Bay parks. Our private cul-de-sac offers isolation from the street and ample parking for guests.
Now retired, we walk several mornings per week to Peet’s Coffee opposite the Claremont Hotel. The 25-minute descent via Strathmoor, upper Alvarado, and Eucalyptus Lane affords Bay views and reveals old Berkeley charm, while the 45-minute 800-foot creek-side ascent via lower Alvarado, Vicente, and Grand View is our favorite exercise.
After the 1991 fire, we strove to recreate and augment what we love about this house and location. Our back yard no longer tolerates 100 eucalypti – it is replanted with native grasses – but elsewhere we restored the property’s verdancy with now-mature redwoods and hardwoods.
Designed by Rosemary Muller (FAIA, PE) and built by Edward Van (who became our next-door neighbor), the rebuilt structure stands on the original footprint (except for a southward extension), including 37 drilled piers. A fourth bedroom was added and the kitchen and master bedroom were extended. The living room’s floor was lowered and it was opened to the dining room, which gained a built-in buffet and cabinets. Framed-in balusters opened the main stair to the dining room and the upper-level family room, which acquired a coffered ceiling. These structural enhancements were facilitated by beautiful new ceiling beams and a new steel frame enclosing the garage door.
Other amenities were added, including many custom built-ins. The siding and decks are now clear redwood. Solid granite replaced granite tile, and marble tile invaded two bathroom floors. The kitchen acquired a gas grill, and the attic gained access, generous storage, and a whole-house fan. LAN and heavy-gauge speaker pre-wiring were included.
Exclusive of lot, architecture, and drilled piers, the 1992 reconstruction contract totaled $512K. According to the Boeckh construction cost index as applied by Allstate, in 2009 dollars this figure escalated to $921K, the presently insured value of the structure alone.