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					HISTORIC RESOURCE EVALUATION
                   Final

  10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue
           El Cerrito, CA




                Prepared by



          San Francisco, California
             October 26, 2011
Historic Resource Evaluation                                        10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA



I. Executive Summary ...................................................................................................... 1
II. Introduction .................................................................................................................. 3
A. Purpose ....................................................................................................................................... 3
B. Definition of Geographical Area.................................................................................................. 5
C. Project Personnel........................................................................................................................ 6
III. Methodology ............................................................................................................... 7
IV. Summary of Historic Status ....................................................................................... 8
A. National Register of Historic Places ........................................................................................... 8
B. California Register of Historical Resources ................................................................................ 8
C. California Historical Resources Information System................................................................... 9
V. Description ................................................................................................................ 10
A. General Site Description ........................................................................................................... 10
B. 10848 San Pablo Avenue.......................................................................................................... 10
C. 10860 San Pablo Avenue ......................................................................................................... 21
VI. Historical Context .................................................................................................... 29
A. Concise History of El Cerrito ..................................................................................................... 29
B. Project Site History.................................................................................................................... 31
C. Construction and Social History: 10848 San Pablo Avenue .................................................... 34
D .Construction and Social History: 10860 San Pablo Avenue .................................................... 48
E .Japanese-American Nursery Industry in El Cerrito and Richmond.......................................... 52
F .Storybook Style.......................................................................................................................... 63
VII. Determination of Eligibility ..................................................................................... 66
A. California Register of Historical Resources .............................................................................. 66
B. National Register of Historic Places…………………………… ………………………………….73
VIII. Evaluation of Project Impacts under CEQA ........................................................ 76
A. Project Description.................................................................................................................... 76
B. Status of the Project Site as a Historic Resource…………………………………………………..76
C. Determination of Significant Adverse Change under CEQA ................................................... 78
D. Analysis of Project-specific Impacts under CEQA……………………………...…………………78
IX. Conclusion ................................................................................................................ 79
X. Bibliography .............................................................................................................. 80

Appendix
A. CHRIS Report




October 26, 2011
Historic Resource Evaluation               10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


I.   Executive Summary

This Historic Resource Evaluation evaluated two properties in El Cerrito: 10848 and
10860 San Pablo Avenue. The property at 10848 San Pablo Avenue contains the former
Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex. The commercial portion of building was
constructed ca. 1928 as the sales office of the Valley of the Moon Quarry. The building
was expanded ca. 1930. In 1935 the property was purchased by Hikojiro and Tomi
Mabuchi, Japanese American immigrants and nursery owners. The Mabuchis brought a
Craftsman-era dwelling to the site and placed it atop a one-story podium attached to
the rear of the commercial structure. From 1935 until 1965 (except for the period of
1942-45 when the family was interned at Topaz Relocation Center), the Mabuchis ran a
successful retail nursery and florist shop at this location. The business was part of a
once-thriving area of Japanese American nurseries and affiliated cut flower businesses
clustered along the Richmond and El Cerrito line. Very little of this industry still exists in
western Contra Costa County, formerly an important center of the cut flower industry in
the Bay Area. The remaining building at 10848 San Pablo Avenue appears eligible for
listing in the California Register under Criterion 1 (Events) for its association with the
Japanese floriculture industry in western Contra Costa County and the settlement of
Japanese Americans in this region. The property appears eligible at the local level with
a period of significance of 1935-1965.


The adjoining former Tradeway complex at 10860 San Pablo Avenue consists of four
linked structures, the oldest of which was built as the Ferris Fuel & Feed store ca. 1930.
Purchased by Fred Conwill in 1936, the property’s new owner established a
combination furniture and building supply store that sold odd lots, building supplies,
showroom samples, and damaged goods that he salvaged from fires, floods, and even
train wrecks. Between 1943 and 1953, Fred Conwill added three large warehouse
additions to the complex. In 1959, the 1953 wing at the northwest corner of the site was
converted into a showroom and given a new storefront. In 1972, the storefront of the ca.
1930 building was remodeled. Although a very long-lived and well-known business, the
former Tradeway complex does not appear eligible for listing in the California Register
under any of the criteria.



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Historic Resource Evaluation             10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA




The proposed project would demolish all buildings on the project site and replace them
with a mixed-use affordable housing project for seniors with commercial or office space
on the first floor level. As a potential California Register-eligible property, the former
Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex appears to be a historical resource as
defined in Section 15064.5(a) of the CEQA Guidelines. Unless mitigated the proposed
project would likely have a significant adverse effect on the environment.




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Historic Resource Evaluation             10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


II. Introduction




                               Figure 1. Project site, looking north
                         Source: Bing.com; annotated by KVP Architects

A. Purpose
Knapp & VerPlanck Preservation Architects (KVP) prepared this Historic Resource
Evaluation (HRE) at the request of Eden Housing and the El Cerrito Redevelopment
Agency to analyze the potential impacts of the proposed redevelopment of two parcels
on the east side of San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito, California. The proposed project
would entail the demolition of all buildings and structures on the two parcels, which are
located at 10848 and 10860 San Pablo Avenue (hereafter referred to as the project site)
and their redevelopment with a multi-unit affordable housing project for senior citizens.
The smaller lot that comprises the southernmost section of the project site is located at
10848 San Pablo Avenue (Figure 1). It presently contains a small, one-story wood-
frame commercial building constructed ca. 1927, as well as a two-story, wood-frame
dwelling attached to the rear of the commercial structure. At one time this property
housed a retail nursery and flower shop belonging to the Mabuchi family. The larger lot


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Historic Resource Evaluation               10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


to the north, which is addressed 10860 San Pablo Avenue, contains a sprawling
complex of mid-century and earlier warehouse and commercial structures that for most
of its history recently housed a discount furniture store.


Since 1965 the two properties have been under common ownership – belonging to the
Conwill family. In 2009, the family sold the property to the El Cerrito Redevelopment
Agency, which plans to clear the site to construct the proposed affordable housing
project. In 2008, PBS&J prepared a historic resource evaluation that determined that
the project site contained no historical resources. This finding is contested by the El
Cerrito Historical Society, which maintains that 10848 San Pablo Avenue may have
historical and cultural significance as the location of one of the last properties in El
Cerrito associated with the once-important Japanese-American nursery and cut-flower
industry in western Contra Costa County.


Before analyzing the proposed project, this report provides a thorough historical
context for the project site, the historic nursery and cut flower industry of western
Contra Costa County, as well as the contributions of Japanese Americans like the
Mabuchi family to this industry. This detailed context, which was prepared with the
guidance of historian and planner Donna Graves, is essential to remedy the lack of
cultural context in the original 2008 PBS&J report. This HRE reuses some information
from the 2008 report, including basic and alteration construction chronology and the
names and approximate dates of the original and subsequent owners and occupants of
both properties. We have augmented this research wherever necessary. This HRE
contains a more substantial description of the project site and its buildings,
concentrating on the former flower shop and dwelling at 10848 San Pablo Avenue.


This HRE contains an entirely new determination of eligibility that takes into account the
enhanced cultural research. It concludes with a classification of the properties under
the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines Section 15064.5 (a) and an
evaluation of the proposed project’s potential impacts under CEQA Guidelines.




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Historic Resource Evaluation                               10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


B. Definition of Geographical Area
The project site consists of two legal parcels on the east side of San Pablo Avenue
between Manila Avenue and Schmidt Lane in El Cerrito’s Midtown neighborhood. The
two parcels measure 200’ square (Figure 2). The project site is located just south of El
Cerrito City Hall, within a mixed-use commercial district located between the El Cerrito
Plaza and El Cerrito del Norte BART stations. San Pablo Avenue (SR 123) is one of the
oldest and most important arteries in the East Bay, paralleling Interstate 80 from
Oakland to Richmond and beyond. The project site is located within the northwestern
corner of El Cerrito; Richmond’s “Richmond Annex” neighborhood is located directly
across San Pablo Avenue to the west.


10848 San Pablo Avenue measures 50’ x 200’ and is the southernmost of the two
parcels. It comprises four 25’ x 100’ lots. Aside from the former Contra Costa
Florist/Mabuchi House complex, the parcel is vacant, consisting of a large paved
parking lot extending northeast to Kearny Street. 10860 San Pablo Avenue is the larger
of the two parcels, measuring 150’ x 200’. It comprises 12 25’ x 100’ lots.1 In contrast to
its neighbor to the south, this lot is almost entirely occupied by buildings. Both lots are
level. Land uses adjoining the project site include El Cerrito City Hall to the north and a
mixed-use apartment and retail complex called Village at Town Center to the south.
Located to the east of the project site is the California Department of Motor Vehicles
(DMV) El Cerrito Field Office, on the east side of Kearney Street. The west side of San
Pablo Avenue, which is located in the Richmond Annex neighborhood of Richmond, is
dominated by a mixture of commercial and residential uses.




1   The lots originate from the North Berkeley Terrace Subdivision, which was laid out in small 25’ x 100’ urban house lots.


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Historic Resource Evaluation               10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA




                               Figure 2. Location of project site
          Source: Contra Costa County Assessor’s Office; annotated by KVP Architects


C. Project Personnel
This report was prepared by Christopher VerPlanck, principal of Knapp & VerPlanck
Preservation Architects in San Francisco. Mr. VerPlanck meets the Secretary of the
Interior’s Professional Qualification Standards for Architectural History and History, with
over 15 years of experience documenting and evaluating resources throughout the
western United States. He holds an M.Arch.H. in Architectural History and a Certificate
in Preservation from the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, as
well as a B.A. in History from Bates College. Donna Graves, a public arts and cultural
planner, historian, and writer, assisted Mr. VerPlanck with this report. Ms. Graves, who
is project director for Preserving California’s Japantowns, is a well-known authority on
Japanese Americans in California. She holds an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA and
an M.A. in American Civilization from Brown University.




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Historic Resource Evaluation                            10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


III. Methodology

Christopher VerPlanck visited the project site twice – once on June 8 with Hilde Myall
and Sean Moss of the City of El Cerrito, and Katie Lamont and Benjamin Brandin of
Eden Housing. During this visit Mr. VerPlanck surveyed and photographed the exterior
and the interior of the former Contra Costa Florist shop at 10848 San Pablo Avenue. He
returned to the site on June 15 to survey and photograph the rest of the site with Hilde
Myall and Donna Graves, including the former Mabuchi House at 10848 San Pablo and
the former Tradeway furniture store at 10860 San Pablo Avenue. The resulting
photographs and field data were used to prepare the description section in Chapter V.


Mr. VerPlanck conducted a limited amount of research to augment the 2008 PBS&J
report. Sean Moss of the El Cerrito Planning Division provided historic Sanborn maps
for the site as well as the complete permit record for both properties. On June 20, 2011
Mr. VerPlanck met with Tom Panas of the El Cerrito Historical Society to review that
institution’s collections. Mr. Panas provided historic photographs of the Mabuchi
property and family members, additional Sanborn maps and other historic maps, as
well as a copy of the Draft El Cerrito Historic Context Statement.2


Mr. VerPlanck met with Donna Graves on June 15 to discuss possible research
strategies for preparing the sections on Japanese Americans in El Cerrito and the
Japanese American nursery and flower trade in western Contra Costa County during
the early twentieth century. Ms. Graves loaned Mr. VerPlanck several books,
pamphlets, and journal articles on the history of Japanese Americans, and directed him
to on-line resources. These are all listed in the Bibliography of this HRE. Ms. Graves
reviewed drafts and answered questions throughout the course of this study.


KVP did not request a records search from the Northwest Information Center (NWIC) of
the California Historical Resource Information System (CHRIS) because this was done
three years ago as part of the PBS&J report. The NWIC report is attached as Appendix
A of this report.

2
 KVP reviewed Version 18 of this Draft document, which to be clear, is not an official City document and nor has it been
adopted by any City agency or commission.


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Historic Resource Evaluation                             10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


IV. Summary of Historic Status

This section examines the various national, state, and local historical ratings and
designations assigned to the project site and to any potential resources within a quarter
mile of the project site.


A. National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places (National Register) is the nation’s
comprehensive inventory of historic resources. The National Register is administered by
the National Park Service and includes buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts
that possess historic, architectural, engineering, archaeological, or cultural significance
at the national, state, or local level. Typically, any resource over fifty years of age may
be eligible for listing in the National Register if it meets any one of the four eligibility
criteria and if it retains historic integrity. A resource can be considered significant on a
national, state, or local level to American history, architecture, archaeology,
engineering, and culture.


None of the buildings on the project site are listed in the National Register. Indeed,
there are no properties in El Cerrito that are listed in the National Register.


B. California Register of Historical Resources
The California Register of Historical Resources (California Register) is an inventory of
significant architectural, archaeological, and historical resources in the State of
California. Resources can be listed in the California Register through a number of
methods. State Historical Landmarks and National Register-eligible properties are
automatically listed in the California Register.3 Properties can also be nominated to the
California Register by local governments, private organizations, or citizens. This
includes properties identified in historical resource surveys with Status Codes of “1” to
“5,” and resources designated as local landmarks through city or county ordinances.




3
  National Register-eligible properties include properties that have been listed on the National Register and properties
that have formally been determined eligible for listing.


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Historic Resource Evaluation                             10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


The evaluation criteria used by the California Register are closely based on those
developed by the National Park Service for the National Register.


None of the buildings on the project site are listed in the California Register. In addition,
there are no properties listed in the California Register located within a quarter-mile of
the property.


C. California Historical Resources Information System
Properties listed or under review by the State of California Office of Historic Preservation
are assigned a California Historical Resource Status Code (Status Code) of “1” to “7,”
establishing their historical significance in relation to the National Register or California
Register. Properties with a Status Code of “1” or “2” have been determined eligible for
listing in the California Register or the National Register, or are already listed in one or
both of the registers. Properties assigned Status Codes of “3” or “4” appear to be
eligible for listing in either register, but normally require more research to support this
conclusion. Properties with a Status Code of “5” have typically been determined to be
locally significant or to have contextual importance. Properties with a Status Code of “6”
are not eligible for listing in either register. Finally, a Status Code of “7” means that the
resource has not been evaluated for the National Register or the California Register, or
needs reevaluation.


In the fall of 2008 Amber Grady of PBS&J requested a records search by the NWIC at
Sonoma State University, one of the regional repositories maintained by the California
Historical Resources Information System. NWIC staff replied in a letter dated October 8,
2008 that the project site “had no record of a cultural resource study.” Furthermore, a
review of state and federal registers revealed “no historic properties within the
proposed project area, nor within a ¼ mile radius of the proposed project area.”4




4
    Jillian E. Guldenbrein, Letter to Amber Grady, October 8, 2008, NWIC File No. 08-0443.


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Historic Resource Evaluation             10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA




V. Description

A. General Site Description
As mentioned previously, the project site is level and consists of two adjoining
properties. 10848 San Pablo Avenue is largely undeveloped aside from the former
Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex at the western edge of the property. The
commercial section of the building was constructed ca. 1928 and expanded ca. 1930;
the house was brought to the site in 1935, raised atop a one-story podium, and
attached to the rear of the store. The rest of the lot – which at one time was the Mabuchi
family’s nursery – is now an asphalt parking lot used by the City of El Cerrito to store
equipment. 10860 San Pablo Avenue is the larger of the two lots. It is entirely occupied
by construction, including four major structures built over the last seven decades to
accommodate Tradeway Furniture store. The core of the four-building complex is an old
feed mill constructed in the 1930s.


B. 10848 San Pablo Avenue
The property at 10848 San Pablo Avenue is located roughly at the middle of the block,
along the east side of San Pablo Avenue, between Manila Avenue and Schmidt Lane.
The 50’ x 200’ lot extends through the block to Kearny Street. Historically used as a
retail nursery, the property now only contains one building including two structures
facing San Pablo Avenue: the former flower shop, which abuts the sidewalk, and an
attached two-story dwelling to the rear. The following sections describe the two
structures separately, beginning with the store.




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Historic Resource Evaluation                 10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


Former Contra Costa Flower Shop




                 Figure 3. Primary (west) façade of the former Contra Costa Florist
                                      Source: KVP Architects


The former florist shop is a one-story, wood-frame commercial building containing
approximately 870 square feet of space (Figure 3). The building is set back a few feet
from the property line; historically this space was used to display goods outside the
shop. The foundation is concrete, consisting of concrete slab and stem walls. The
diminutive structure is clad in flagstone, ledgestone, and brick veneer and partly in
stucco. It is composed of two wings; the original section at the north is capped by a
steeply pitched gable roof oriented with its primary axis running east-west. This section
was built ca. 1928 as a sales office for the Valley of the Moon Quarry. The rest of the
building was constructed ca. 1930, probably by the Valley of the Moon Quarry. It
largely matches the original wing in regard to materials and proportions although clad
only in flagstone.




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Historic Resource Evaluation              10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA




The primary façade is four bays wide and symmetrical, consisting of larger gabled
pavilions at the corners and two smaller gables at the center. The left bay is the original
                                         portion of the building. It is clad in two types of
                                         stone veneer; the field is clad in a beige-colored
                                         rustic ledgestone, while the corners, the apex of
                                         the gable, and the window are trimmed in a
                                         random reddish-colored flagstone. The stone is
                                         mortared to unreinforced brick laid between the
                                         wood studs. Centered within this bay is a single
                                         wood-sash window divided into eight lights. The
                                         gable    is   defined    by   a   molded      wood
                                         bargeboard. The other three bays are part of
                                         the addition; they are clad in a random
                                         flagstone that resembles the trim on the north
                                         wing. The other three gables are defined by a
  Figure 4. North façade of the former
              flower shop
                                         molded wood bargeboard that matches the
        Source: KVP Architects           original. Originally the roof was clad in slate laid
in a decorative hexagonal-shaped pattern. The roof is presently clad in asphalt
shingles.


Historically these three gables were punctuated by paired wood doors that could be
opened to allow light and air into the interior of the building. In 1991, these doors were
removed and replaced with contemporary anodized aluminum door and window
systems. Presently, the primary entrance to the building is located one bay in from the
north; it contains a pair of glazed anodized aluminum doors sheltered beneath a
canvas awning. The other two bays feature anodized aluminum sliding windows with
contemporary wood-frame and stucco bulkheads inserted below. Otherwise the original
door openings in the front façade have not been altered.


The north façade is clad in flagstone veneer (Figure 4). This windowless elevation
faces a paved walkway leading to the rear of the parcel. The walkway is protected


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Historic Resource Evaluation                 10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


behind a chain-link security gate attached to the north wall of the former flower shop,
where a masonry arch once stood. The north façade abuts the brick first floor level of
the former Mabuchi dwelling.


The east façade of the former flower shop is
largely concealed by the adjoining Mabuchi
House; only a small portion is exposed at
the south end of the building (Figure 5).
This area is stuccoed and features one
boarded over window. In this area the
fascia trim is missing, exposing the rafter
tails.


The south façade of the former flower shop
is   mostly   concealed   behind      a   fence
separating    the   project    site   from   the
adjoining property to the south. It is clad in        Figure 5. East façade of the former
                                                                  flower shop
brick and flagstone and punctuated by                       Source: KVP Architects
three window openings containing non-
original aluminum windows.


The interior of the former Contra Costa Florist was heavily remodeled in 1990-91 when
the building was converted into the headquarters of the El Cerrito Chamber of
Commerce. The original configuration of the interior is unknown but it appears to have
consisted of an office (and possibly a bathroom) within the north wing and an open
sales and display area in the south wing. The store and the house were originally
connected via an opening from the shop into the kitchen of the house; this opening has
been closed in. A greenhouse was also attached to the southeast corner of the shop.




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Historic Resource Evaluation                   10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA




                                                                The interior of the former
                                                                florist shop presently consists
                                                                of a central reception area
                                                                measuring roughly 20’ square
                                                                with a storage area and toilet
                                                                room to the north and an
                                                                office to the south. The floor is
                                                                an exposed concrete slab.
                                                                The walls are mostly gypsum
                                                                board covered in a skim coat
  Figure 6. Interior of the former flower shop, looking north   of plaster, although sections
                    Source: KVP Architects
                                                                of the walls are clad in
flagstone masonry that likely survives from the building’s earliest day as a sales office
for the Valley of the Moon Quarry (Figure 6).


Mabuchi Residence
The Mabuchi Residence is attached to the rear of the former Contra Costa Florist.
According to the building permit records, the dwelling was originally a single-story
cottage that the Mabuchis purchased and moved to the site in 1935, using the services
of a contractor named Herbert Jameson. Jameson likely jacked the cottage up and
placed it atop the existing brick and wood-frame podium, which Mr. Mabuchi, a
carpenter, may have built. Alternatively, Mr. Jameson could have built it; the original
permit is unclear. The podium was built out with a living room, dining room, and kitchen.
It seems likely that Mabuchi then converted the former three-room cottage (now on the
second floor) into three bedrooms, a bathroom, and storage. The upper floor is
accessed by a central dogleg stair that leads up from the kitchen on the first floor.




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Historic Resource Evaluation               10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA




                                                              The exterior of the Mabuchi
                                                              Residence is largely devoid
                                                              of ornament and it does not
                                                              have      a     primary    public
                                                              façade.        Nevertheless,     a
                                                              portion of its west façade is
                                                              visible       from   San    Pablo
                                                              Avenue         because      it   is
                                                              several feet higher than the
                                                              attached             commercial
                                                              structure       (Figure    7).   In
          Figure 7. West façade of the Mabuchi House
                     Source: KVP Architects                   terms of its design, the
                                                              Mabuchi          Residence       is
vernacular with some Craftsman detailing – in particular the exposed rafter ends along
the eaves of the east and west façades and the knee braces at the north and south
façades. The exterior was probably originally clad in either wood siding or shingles and
was likely reclad in stucco by the Mabuchis. Both the exterior and the interior feature
                                          salvaged materials that obviously pre-date the
                                          dwelling. In addition, there are some Japanese-
                                          inspired decorative features that clearly mark
                                          this as the home of a Japanese immigrant
                                          family.


                                          The podium itself sits atop a masonry perimeter
                                          foundation that incorporates brick and stone
                                          that was probably left over from the Valley of the
                                          Moon Quarry. The foundation projects out from
                                          the walls of the podium along the east and
                                          south façades, forming a narrow porch. The
                                          west wall of the podium is concealed by the
 Figure 8. North wall of Mabuchi House
        Source: KVP Architects


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Historic Resource Evaluation             10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


commercial structure. The north wall is made of red brick laid in a running bond (Figure
8). A door penetrates the brick wall at the west end. The brick wall extends several feet
beyond the rear (east) wall of the dwelling, likely forming a portion of the porch
structure. A square brick buttress-like element is located at the east end of the first
floor; its purpose is unknown, although it may have been part of a gate accessing the
rear of the property.


In contrast to the north wall, the east and south walls of the podium are wood-framed
and finished in stucco matching the upper floor (Figure 9). These walls are set in 2’
from the outer edge of the concrete foundation described above. The east and west
walls of the podium feature a decorative appliqué of battered flagstone that slopes
inward toward the windows. The pattern flares upward at the corners of windows and
doors and also at the outer edges of the wall. This detail recalls the battered stone
foundation of many famous Japanese castles, including Matsumoto Castle and Nagoya
Castle (Figure 10). This detail appears to have been a nod to the Japanese heritage of
its builder, who probably made use of stone veneer left over on the site from the Valley
of the Moon Quarry.


Fenestration on the first floor level of the east façade consists of a double-hung wood
window in the left bay and a large sliding wood door assembly consisting of four
separate leaves with a paneled lower section and a divided light upper section. The
sliding doors resemble a traditional Japanese shoji screen, with glass substituted for
rice paper. The first-floor level of the south façade features a pair of boarded up
windows flanking a single-panel wood door, which is the principal entrance to the
dwelling.


The exterior walls of the second floor level are all stuccoed and feature a variety of
window types, including double-hung wood sash windows with a one-over-one profile,
and paired multi-light casements. The exterior has no ornamental details aside from the
Craftsman knee braces.




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Historic Resource Evaluation                   10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA




                     Figure 9. South and east façades of the Mabuchi House
                                        Source: PBS & J


                                                           The interior of the Mabuchi House
                                                           contains eight rooms - four on
                                                           each floor level. The first floor
                                                           contains a living room, dining
                                                           room,   kitchen,   as   well   as   a
                                                           separate storage room for the
                                                           flower shop accessed from the
                                                           walkway at the northern edge of

          Figure 10. Detail of Nagoya Castle               the property. The second floor
             Source: Wikimedia Commons
                                                           consists of three bedrooms, a
bathroom, and storage. A central dogleg stair provides access between floors. The
interior was reconfigured by the Mabuchi family after they brought the cottage to the
site. What had been likely a four-room cottage consisting of a living room, kitchen,
bedroom, and bathroom was converted into a sleeping area consisting of three
bedrooms and a split toilet room and bathroom. The first floor became the location of
the new kitchen, living room, and dining room. The interior is finished in gypsum board,



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Historic Resource Evaluation              10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


plywood, and various other 1930s-era materials. Some of the materials on the second
floor appear to have been salvaged from older properties, including the Victorian-era
four-panel doors and some of the baseboards and other moldings, which have been
trimmed to fit the space.




                        Figure 11. Dining room of the Mabuchi House
                                   Source: KVP Architects


The living room and the dining room on the first floor have carpeted floors and the walls
and ceilings are finished in mid-century grass-textured wallpaper (Figure 11). The
dining room features several built-in cabinets and display cases made of redwood.
1930s-era suspended light fixtures hang from the ceiling of each room. The living room
and the dining room are divided by shoji screens with divided lights backed with
translucent rice paper. The kitchen is relatively large and was formerly connected to the
flower shop. It features a linoleum floor and gypsum board walls (with beadboard
wainscoting) and the ceiling also made of gypsum board. The kitchen contains a mid-
century oven, cabinets, and a large built-in sideboard (Figure 12).


The dogleg stair that provides access between floors is wood with wide baseboards.
There is a storage platform above the stair at the top. The stair provides access to a
central hall at the second floor level that provides direct access to each of the three

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bedrooms and the bathroom. The floor of the hall is covered in vintage linoleum. The
bedrooms have 3 ½” hardwood flooring – some with carpeting or linoleum rugs at the
center. The linoleum rug in the southwest bedroom has newspaper under it dating from
1941. The bedrooms all feature lightweight stud and gypsum board partition walls with
simple 7” wood baseboards (some of which appear to have been salvaged) and 5”
wood door and window casings (Figure 13). As mentioned above, some of the doors
are older Victorian-era four-panel doors that were likely salvaged from another property
(Figure 14). The rest of the doors are standard 1910s or 1920s-era five-panel doors
that may be original to the house. The southern bedrooms share a closet between them
whereas the bedroom in the northeast corner has a built-in wardrobe. The bedrooms
have standard 1930s-era flush-mounted light fixtures. The bathroom consists of a
separate water closet and bathtub in rooms that could be linked or closed off. The
bathroom contains a vintage clawfoot tub and 1930s-era fixtures (Figure 15).




                               Figure 12. Mabuchi House kitchen
                                    Source: KVP Architects


The interior of the Mabuchi House is a bit of a time capsule. Finished in 1930s-era (and
older salvaged) materials, the interior probably underwent few (if any) changes since
1965 when the Mabuchis sold the property to the Conwill family, who used it for
general-purpose storage.


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                        Figure 13. Mabuchi House, southeast bedroom
                                    Source: KVP Architects




     Figure 14. Mabuchi House, northeast              Figure 15. Mabuchi House bathroom
                  bedroom                                    Source: KVP Architects
            Source: KVP Architects




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C. 10860 San Pablo Avenue
The property at 10860 San Pablo Avenue is located within the northerly half of the
block, along the east side of San Pablo Avenue. The 150’ x 200’ lot extends through the
block to Kearny Street. Historically used as a feed store and then a building
materials/discount furniture store, the property now contains four structures comprising
one building that occupies nearly the entire footprint of the parcel, leaving space only
for a narrow car-width alley along the north side and a pedestrian passage along the
south side of the property. Although physically separate structures, the building is
internally unified and has always functioned as one building.


Overall Description
The building at 10860 San Pablo Avenue is a mostly two-story, steel and wood-frame,
and concrete masonry unity (CMU) building composed of four sections. The oldest
section is the southwest section, which is a one-story, wood-frame structure evidently
originally built as a feed store ca. 1930. This structure acquired a one-story-and-
mezzanine addition (also wood-frame) that faces Kearny Street. This was built by Fred
Conwill in December 1943. In 1950, Conwill constructed a two-story, steel-frame
warehouse at the northeast corner of the property, and in 1953 he built the final
component of the building – a two-story, steel-frame and concrete-block warehouse
(converted into a showroom in 1959). In addition to different structural systems, the
building is clad in different materials, and features several different roof types.


West Façade
The west façade of 10860 San Pablo Avenue is the primary façade of the building
because it faces San Pablo Avenue and is the location of the primary retail and office
entrances to the building. It is divided into two sections: the two-story, 1953 steel-frame
and CMU section to the left; and the one-story, ca. 1930 wood-frame section to the right
(Figure 16). The façade is utilitarian with some vernacular “modernist” features
common to commercial buildings of the late 1940s and early 1950s.




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                   Figure 16. Primary (west) façade of 10860 San Pablo Avenue
                                      Source: KVP Architects


The left portion of the primary facade features an aluminum frame and plate glass
storefront system installed in 1959 (Figure 17). The storefront is divided into 14
individual aluminum and glass storefronts flanking a pair of large sliding aluminum and
glass doors. Each of the storefronts and the doors is surmounted by narrow transoms.
The outer storefronts are canted inward to improve visibility and increase the amount of
display space. The entire storefront is sheltered beneath a flat canopy with the name of
the former business painted on its fascia: “TRADEWAY FURNITURE WAREHOUSE
OUTLET.” The canopy appears cantilevered but it is supported by concrete columns.
The sides of the canopy spell out “TRADEWAY” on both sides. The second floor level
features 12 large aluminum windows arranged as a continuous a band. The fascia
above the window is clad in what appears to be asbestos tile, with metal flashing
above. The entire façade is bookended by CMU walls stuccoed and painted white.




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                      Figure 17. North section of primary (west) façade
                                  Source: KVP Architects


The south section of the primary façade was heavily remodeled in 1972 (Figure 18). It
consists of a central recessed entry flanked by two large aluminum storefront windows.
Above this is a stuccoed parapet embellished only by paired 2” x 10” boards attached
at regular intervals. There is a large sign attached to these boards above the entrance
and a painted sign at the southwest corner of the building. This treatment wraps around
one bay to the south façade.


South Façade
The western half of the south façade, which is the original ca. 1930 feed store, is
finished in stucco and is largely windowless. The eastern half is clad in what appears to
be sheet metal and asbestos and is entirely windowless.




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                      Figure 18. South section of primary (west) façade
                                   Source: KVP Architects


East Façade
The east façade of 10860 San Pablo Avenue faces Kearny Street (Figure 19). The left
(south) section is part of the 1943 addition. It is a gable-roofed volume clad in tar paper
and/or asbestos over wood cladding. It is windowless, although there is evidence of a
large vehicular door at the center, which has been largely infilled, although there with is
a man door near the center. The right (north) section is part of the 1950 addition; it is
clad in corrugated steel and features a sawtooth roof. The first floor features a sliding
metal vehicular door (sheltered beneath a cantilevered canopy) at the left and several
infilled windows at the right. The second floor level features four multi-light steel
windows. Portions of the south facing sawtooth roof facades are visible from Kearny
Street. These are clad in sheet metal and articulated by bands of multi-light steel
industrial windows.




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                                    Figure 19. East façade
                                    Source: KVP Architects



North Façade
The north façade is divided into two sections. The left (east) section is part of the 1950
addition (Figure 20). It is clad in corrugated metal siding and divided into five bays – all
containing multi-light steel windows at the first and second floor levels, except for the
middle bay which contains a man door at the first-floor level. The right (west) section is
part of the 1953 addition (Figure 21). It is painted CMU and also five bays. This section
is asymmetrically fenestrated, featuring four steel multi-light windows at the second-
floor level and an alternating arrangement of paired steel man doors and aluminum
windows at the first-floor level.




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Historic Resource Evaluation                10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA




                                Figure 20. East section of north façade
                                        Source: KVP Architects




                               Figure 21. West section of north façade
                                       Source: KVP Architects




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Interior
The interior of 10860 San Pablo Avenue is cavernous and features several different floor
levels and circulation networks due to the number and the size of the additions. The
original section is the southwestern corner of the building. Constructed ca. 1930, this
section is wood-frame and one-story. Most recently it was devoted to offices, display
rooms and storage (Figure 22). The 1943 addition to the east of the ca. 1930 section
was built was a warehouse and it appears to have always been used for this purpose.
Similar to the ca. 1930 section, it is of wood-frame construction but it also has a
mezzanine level. The 1950 section at the northeast corner of the site was always used
as storage and repair work. This section is steel-frame and steel-clad but with a wood
and steel-frame mezzanine level and sawtooth roof (Figure 23). The 1953 section at the
northwest corner was originally built as a warehouse but later converted to retail use. It
is steel-frame with CMU walls and has a concrete second floor (Figure 24).




                 Figure 22. Interior of southwest section – retail area (ca. 1930)
                                      Source: KVP Architects




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                   Figure 23. Interior of northeast section - mezzanine (1950)
                                      Source: KVP Architects




                    Figure 24. Interior of northwest section – retail area (1953)
                                       Source: KVP Architects




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VI. Historical Context

A. Concise History of El Cerrito
The project site is located in El Cerrito, a city of 23,549 people located in western
Contra Costa County. The suburban city is nearly surrounded by Richmond to the north,
east, and west; and Albany and Kensington to the south.


Early History
Long a rural redoubt that was part of Don Victor Castro’s Rancho San Pablo, what is
now El Cerrito began to grow after the 1906 Earthquake, when an influx of refugees
burned out of San Francisco moved to the area and began buying houses and small
farms. Around this time a village called Rust (named for William R. Rust, a former
postmaster) began to grow up around what is now the intersection of San Pablo and
Central Avenues. Rust was one of several villages in what is now present-day El Cerrito,
which at various times also included the settlements of Gallagher, Stege Junction, Gills,
McAvoys, Schmidtville, and others. Many of these settlements were nothing more than
a handful of houses and commercial buildings located around crossroads or rail
junctions. In 1916, the residents of Rust decided to change the name of their settlement
to “El Cerrito,” in honor of the nearby hill rising from the coastal plain (now called
Albany Hill).5


El Cerrito Incorporates
In 1917, the residents of the rural area north of the Contra Costa/Alameda County line
began agitating for change. With a growing population came a demand for services,
including paved streets, utilities, schools, and other infrastructure investments that were
difficult to coax out of the county authorities. Although some wanted the area to be
annexed to the City of Richmond, others felt that the collection of rural villages could
become a viable city of its own. As momentum built in favor of incorporation, advocates
initially envisioned a city encompassing all of the present-day city limits of El




5
 El Cerrito Historical Society, Draft Historic Context Statement: City of El Cerrito (unpublished manuscript located at the
El Cerrito Historical Society, 2011), 18.


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Cerrito as well as the
present-day            Richmond
Annex,             and           the
unincorporated community
of      Kensington.        Various
property owners, including
influential quarry owners
and      ranchers,       opposed
incorporation,           believing
that city bureaucracy and
higher taxes would disrupt
their                businesses.
Landowners in what is
now        Kensington           also
requested to be excluded.
Richmond           viewed        the
Richmond Annex (an older
subdivision         name        long
                                               Figure 25. Portion of 1894 Partition Map showing original 1917
predating annexation) as                                           boundaries of El Cerrito
lying within its path of                                    Source: El Cerrito Historical Society

expansion and successfully influenced property owners in the area to oppose
incorporation within El Cerrito. With these areas excluded, an election was held on
August 16, 1917 in which residents could vote on whether to incorporate. The tally was
158 voters approving and 131 opposed. El Cerrito was incorporated four days later, on
August 20, 1917.6 The original boundaries are depicted in Figure 25.




6El Cerrito Historical Society, Draft Historic Context Statement: City of El Cerrito (unpublished manuscript located at the
El Cerrito Historical Society, 2011), 21.


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Early Subdivisions
El Cerrito grew quite slowly after incorporation and residential development did not
really take off until the late 1930s. Nonetheless, land subdivision had begun decades
earlier, mostly after the courts finally resolved the decades-old questions over
landownership within the boundaries of Rancho San Pablo in 1894. The earliest
subdivision in El Cerrito was the Schmidt & Fink Tract, which was bounded by San
Pablo Avenue to the west, Schmidt Lane to the north, Navellier Street to the east, and
Moeser Lane to the south.7 This tract, which was located just south of the project site,
was subdivided into generous 46’ x 125’ lots – too small for a farm but big enough to
build a cottage, plant a garden, and raise a few animals. Such semi-rural tracts were
popular on the fringes of the urbanized Bay Area during the early twentieth century.


By the 1920s most subdivisions in El Cerrito were laid out as 25’ x 100’ urban house
lots. Nevertheless, even in these denser subdivisions, people purchased multiple lots to
form a generous parcel, perpetuating El Cerrito’s semi-rural character. In the years
before widespread automobile ownership, buyers of these lots relied on local transit,
including the East Shore & Suburban Railway, which ran from the Alameda/Contra
Costa County line along San Pablo Avenue, and then down MacDonald Avenue into
downtown Richmond.


B. Project Site History
The project site is part of an early subdivision called North Berkeley Terrace. This area,
bounded by San Pablo Avenue, Blake Street, Navellier Street, and Schmidt Lane, was
originally part of Rancho San Pablo. According to the 1894 Partition map it was then
part of the Galvin Estate – a major landholding in what would become El Cerrito. The
Galvins were descendents of the Castro family, the original owners of Rancho San
Pablo.




7El Cerrito Historical Society, Draft Historic Context Statement: City of El Cerrito (unpublished manuscript located at the
El Cerrito Historical Society, 2011), 25.


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Boulevard Gardens Land Company Tract No. 2
On November 11, 1907, the tract outlined above was subdivided by George Schmidt
(president) and George W. Williams (secretary) of the Boulevard Gardens Land
Company. They initially subdivided the gently rolling tract of pastureland into large 100’
x 100’ lots suitable for residential and small-scale agriculture. This tract was initially
called “Boulevard Gardens & Land Company Tract No. 2.”8 Based on the timing of the
subdivision, it was probably marketed to the refugees of the San Francisco Earthquake
living in what is now El Cerrito.


North Berkeley Terrace Subdivision
The subdivision apparently did not sell very well, so a year later, in 1908, the tract was
resubdivided into smaller 25’ x 100’ house lots and renamed the North Berkeley Terrace
Subdivision.9 This tract was located in a section of El Cerrito called “Schmidtville,” in
honor of its subdivider, George Schmidt. This part of the future city of El Cerrito was
served by both the East Shore & Suburban Railway, which ran along San Pablo
Avenue, as well as the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe (Santa Fe), which operated a
heavy rail line parallel to San Pablo, about a block-and-a-half east of San Pablo. The
Santa Fe operated a stop at Blake Street called “Schmidt.” The use of this term for the
area east of San Pablo and north of Schmidt Lane appears to have died out around the
time that El Cerrito incorporated in 1917.10


1926 Sanborn Maps
The 1926 Sanborn maps provide the earliest glimpse of land uses in this part of the
young city of El Cerrito (Figure 26). The map shows very little development aside from
El Cerrito City Hall, which at that time was located at the northeast corner of San Pablo
and Manila Avenues (the present location of the Public Safety Building). The only




8
  Mervin Belfills, “The Community’s Past 3,” El Cerrito Historical Society:
http://www.elcerritowire.com/history/pages/communityspast3.htm
9
  Ibid.
10 El Cerrito Historical Society, Draft Historic Context Statement: City of El Cerrito (unpublished manuscript located at the

El Cerrito Historical Society, 2011), 16.


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development on the subject block were a one-story cottage and a vacant one-story,
wood-frame warehouse at the northeast corner of the block.




          Figure 26. 1926 Sanborn Map (Map no. 9) showing project site outlined in blue
                Source: San Francisco Public Library; annotated by KVP Architects


In contrast to El Cerrito, the neighboring Richmond Annex district of Richmond (the
area on the west side of San Pablo Avenue that was annexed by Richmond in 1926)
was quickly developing with single-family dwellings and businesses. Looking south
along San Pablo Avenue, the area south of Schmidt Lane (the Schmidt & Fink
Subdivision) was more developed, but only marginally so – mostly with small
farmsteads operating on 100’ x 100’ lots.




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1930 Sanborn Maps
The 1930 Sanborn maps for Richmond cover a portion of El Cerrito, including the
project site. The map covering the subject block indicates that only limited
development had taken place since 1926. Unfortunately the middle portion of the block
is overexposed in the microfilm version available through the San Francisco Public
Library. All that can be determined about the project site is that there was a one-story,
wood-frame warehouse located on the southwestern corner of the Tradeway site at
10860 San Pablo Avenue. It is impossible to make out any building footprint on the site
of what is now 10848 San Pablo Avenue.


C. Construction and Social History: 10848 San Pablo Avenue
Valley of the Moon Quarry
The early construction history for 10848 San Pablo Avenue is murky due to the lack of
early building permit records. The PBS&J report references an unattributed and
undated manuscript prepared for the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce in 1991. This
document says that the stone-faced commercial building was constructed in 1925 by
Sylvain Cabrol as a store for his Valley of the Moon Quarry. This statement appears to
be in error because no structures appear on the 1926 Sanborn maps. According to an
article printed in a 1949 California State Mining Bureau publication, the Valley of the
Moon Quarry had been in continuous operation since 1928, which suggests that the
quarry office in El Cerrito was probably built in that year.11 Early photographs on file at
the El Cerrito Historical Society depict a one-story “Storybook” style office building clad
in flagstone and capped by a steeply pitched slate-covered roof (Figures 27 and 28).
The signs on the office read: “Valley of the Moon Quarry, S. Cabrol.”




11
   California State Mining Bureau, Geology and Mineral Deposits of an Area North of San Francisco Bay: Vacaville,
Antioch, Mount Vaca, Carquinez, Mare Island, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Point Reyes Quadrangles, Bulletin
149 (San Francisco: 1949), 112-3.



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                       Figure 27. Valley of the Moon Quarry, ca. 1928
                            Source: El Cerrito Historical Society




                     Figure 28. Valley of the Moon Quarry, ca. 1928
                          Source: El Cerrito Historical Society




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Although El Cerrito had been long known for its quarries, the Valley of the Moon Quarry
did not deal in locally quarried stone, which was primarily crushed gravel and
aggregate. Rather, it sold slate, flagstone, ledgestone and other decorative stone –
much of it quarried at its property on Trinity Road, just north of Glen Ellen, in Sonoma
County’s Valley of the Moon. The Valley of the Moon Quarry was reputedly the Bay
Area’s largest producers of flagstone. The type of stone quarried by the company was
a blue-gray rhyolite, which easily split into layers one or two inches thick.12


The Valley of the Moon Quarry built its sales office in El Cerrito to be close to its primary
Bay Area markets, as well as to be near other quarries. Their quaint “Storybook” style
office was entirely clad in flagstone and ledgestone wall cladding and decorative slate
roofing. The Storybook style was ideal for a quarry sales office. Resembling a rustic
cottage from a story by the Brothers Grimm, the building’s exterior could be used to
display most of the company’s products. At this time the Storybook style was in vogue
in the East Bay cities of Oakland, Berkeley, and Kensington, though mostly for
residential structures. The decision to use this style for a commercial retail building on
busy San Pablo Avenue was an attention-getting measure likely to lure customers with
its unusual “programmatic” architecture. Neither the architect nor the builder are
known.


Around 1930, the Valley of the Moon Quarry enlarged its one-room sales office to
occupy the majority of the lot’s 50’ frontage. This addition probably did not happen
much later than 1930 because the Stock Market Crash of November 1929 soon put an
end to a nearly decade-long building boom, likely the quarry’s main source of business.
The El Cerrito Historical Society has a photograph of the building, probably taken
around 1935 when the Mabuchi family purchased the property, that shows the fully
expanded building (Figure 29). It is not known what modifications that the Mabuchis
may have made to the commercial structure.




12
  California State Mining Bureau, Geology and Mineral Deposits of an Area North of San Francisco Bay: Vacaville,
Antioch, Mount Vaca, Carquinez, Mare Island, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Point Reyes Quadrangles, Bulletin
149 (San Francisco: 1949), 112-3.


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                   Figure 29. 10848 San Pablo Avenue/Contra Costa Florist, after 1935
                                  Source: El Cerrito Historical Society


Mabuchi Family
Contra Costa Florist was operated by Hikojiro and Tomi Mabuchi, and eventually their
three daughters: Michiko, Akiko, and Clara. Hikojiro Mabuchi was born in Mie
Prefecture Japan in 1888. He had immigrated to the United States in 1907 when he was
19.13 Hikojiro was an accomplished carpenter who held many occupations, including
working as a carpenter on the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San
Francisco, fishing in Alaska, and operating a noodle shop in Utah.14 A draft registration
card from 1917 indicates that Mabuchi lived in Tracy and was employed as a farm
laborer on Union Island.15 At some point (probably around 1919) he relocated to El
Cerrito permanently to build greenhouses for the growing number of Japanese
American-owned nurseries in the area.


Hikojiro’s wife, Tomi (Nabeta) Mabuchi, was born in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan in
1897. She immigrated to the United States in 1915 when she was 18. She initially


13
   United States Department of Commerce – Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930, El
Cerrito Township.
14
   Clara Mabuchi, “The Way We Were” Family Histories (unpublished manuscript belonging to Donna Graves, 1996), 21.
15
   Ancestry.com; World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 Record for Hikojiro Mabuchi.


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settled in Redwood City to live with her father and brother. For a short time she worked
in San Pedro in a ketchup factory.16 Around 1916 she married Hikojiro, who was still
working his way around the west. Tomi opened a fruit stand on San Pablo Avenue, near
Hill Street around 1919. After Hikojiro joined her in El Cerrito they began having a
family. Their first daughter, Michiko, was born in 1919. Akiko, their second daughter,
was born in 1922. Their youngest daughter, Clara, was born around 1929.17 A
photograph of the family (before Clara was born) shows Hikojiro, Tomi, Michiko, and
Akiko around 1926 (Figure 30).




           Figure 30. Mabuchi Family, ca. 1926 (from left to right: Akiko, Tomi, Michiko,
                                      and Hikojiro Mabuchi
                              Source: El Cerrito Historical Society


After Andrew Williams Supermarket opened in El Cerrito, the fruit stand was no longer
profitable and the Mabuchis opened the first Contra Costa Florist on the east side of
San Pablo Avenue, just south of Hill Street.18 This business, which first appears in the
Richmond city directories in 1934, is illustrated in an undated historic photograph,
probably taken in the mid-1930s (Figure 31). Historic photographs depict a
greenhouse facing San Pablo Avenue, with a higher, one-story, wood-frame store



16
   Clara Mabuchi, “The Way We Were” Family Histories (unpublished manuscript belonging to Donna Graves, 1996), 21.
17
   United States Department of Commerce – Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United States: 1930, El
Cerrito Township.
18
   Clara Mabuchi, “The Way We Were” Family Histories (unpublished manuscript belonging to Donna Graves, 1996), 21.


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behind. This structure clearly appears on the 1930 Sanborn maps. No dwellings appear
on the lot. It is not known whether the Mabuchis lived on site; the 1930 Census records
do not provide an address for the family’s residence.




                    Figure 31. Original Contra Costa Florist, ca, 1934
                           Source: El Cerrito Historical Society


The Mabuchis were part of a community of Japanese and Japanese American nursery
operators and florists in western Contra Costa County – mostly operating within a belt of
land located in northern El Cerrito and eastern Richmond bordered by the Santa Fe
(now BART) tracks to the north, San Pablo Avenue to the east, Potrero Avenue to the
south, and 45th Street to the west. Taking advantage of an ideal climate and proximity to
urban markets, these Japanese American nursery operators, florists, and owners of
allied industries made western Contra Costa County one of the most important
commercial flower-growing regions in the Bay Area, which was itself a center of the
American cut flower industry.


The Mabuchis Purchase the Valley of the Moon Quarry Office
In 1935, the Mabuchis acquired the recently closed Valley of the Moon Quarry property.
On January 21, 1935, Hikojiro Mabuchi applied for a permit to move a house to the
property. The permit also included work to “repair” the shop. There are few details on
the permit application, but the work included building a new first story “podium” for the
house and reconfiguring the rear wall of the commercial building to allow access



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between the house and the shop, as well as to a greenhouse attached to the house and
the shop. The contractor was Herbert Jameson and work cost $1,500.19


It is not known if the Mabuchis actually owned the property “on paper.” Both Hikojiro
and Tomi were Japanese nationals and under the 1913 and 1920 Alien Land Laws they
would have been prohibited from buying property in California. It is possible that the
purchase was made using their American-born children as proxies or that a dummy
corporation was established to get around these unconstitutional restrictions. The Alien
Land Laws were not overturned in California until 1952.


Additional structures not included in the early permit record (all were probably built by
Mabuchi) included the greenhouse addition, as well as a freestanding greenhouse and
a lath house at the rear of the property, where the Mabuchis probably raised stock for
the store. Mabuchi installed a Japanese-style garden at the center of the property that
included a pond, where the family raised turtles and goldfish for sale in the shop. What
they didn’t grow themselves, the Mabuchis purchased directly from a variety of
sources, including the California Flower Market and nearby nurseries in Richmond and
El Cerrito.20 A photograph taken in April 1942 shows what the rear part of the property
looked like (Figure 32).


The only other alteration made to the property before World War II occurred in
November 1938 when an “H. Mabushi” applied for a permit to build a garage costing
$100 at the rear of the property, facing Kearny Street.21




19
   City of El Cerrito, “Property Cards for 10848 (formerly 1226) San Pablo Avenue” (Record on file at the El Cerrito
Planning Department).
20
   El Cerrito Historical Society, Draft Historic Context Statement: City of El Cerrito (unpublished manuscript located at the
El Cerrito Historical Society, 2011), 55.
21
   City of El Cerrito, “Property Card for 10848 (formerly 1226) San Pablo Avenue” (Record on file at the El Cerrito
Planning Department).


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                     Figure 32. Gardens at rear of Contra Costa Florist, April 1942
       Note at the rear of the image the greenhouse at center left and lath house at center right
                                  Source: El Cerrito Historical Society


World War II and Japanese American Internment
Although Japanese Americans had long faced prejudice and discriminatory legislation
in the United States, they excelled in certain areas of the economy of the Western U.S.,
in particular horticulture, farming, and nursery trades.22 The Japanese attacks on Pearl
Harbor and other American bases in the Pacific on December 7, 1941 tore apart these
hard-won gains and severely disrupted the life of all Nikkei. Immediately following the
attacks, civic leaders, clergy, schoolteachers and others were picked up and
questioned by the FBI in sweeps conducted across the Japantowns and farming
regions of the West Coast. In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed
Executive Order 9066, which paved the way for the forced removal and incarceration of
“enemy aliens.” Although this category also included Germans and Italians, the
Executive Order did not apply to their American-born children. In contrast, restrictions



22
  The 1908 “Gentlemen’s Agreement” had severely restricted Japanese immigrants to the mainland United States and
the 1913 Alien Land Law had forbidden Japanese immigrants from purchasing property in the United States as “aliens
ineligible for citizen ship.” Nevertheless, many Japanese-born residents of the United States were able to still form
families because wives and dependents were still, in some cases, allowed to immigrate. In the case of the Alien Land
Law, many Japanese-born residents either gained citizenship before the law passed or transferred their property to
American-born family members, in particular to American-born children (Nisei).


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against, and the ultimate incarceration of, Japanese Americans did not include just
foreign-born residents, but rather “all persons of Japanese ancestry.”23


After Pearl Harbor, Hikojiro and Tomi Mabuchi were initially forced to leave El Cerrito
because they were non-citizen aliens living within a “Prohibited Area” defined on the
basis of its proximity to the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond. Initially, they lived with
friends in Berkeley, which was outside the Prohibited Area. The three daughters then
aged 22 (Michiko), 16 (Akiko), and 12 (Clara) tried to run the business as best as they
could but their customer base shrank as many boycotted businesses run by Japanese
Americans.24 Akiko Mabuchi remembered the atmosphere of suspicion and hatred:


         They started slowly not coming…There could have been new customers
         that would come to the door, see it was a flower shop and stop. And
         we’d go out and wait on them and they’d call us Japs and leave. It
         happened quite often during the period while we were still running the
         shop. It was an awful feeling because we were not to blame. Here we
         were being blamed for something that we didn’t start. Nobody wanted to
         buy anything from us.

         El Cerrito was mainly an Italian community. People who were once our
         friends began to shy away from us. I guess they worried that they may
         be next. It was a difficult and lonely time.25


In spring 1942, signs began appearing on lamp posts and telephone poles in El Cerrito
stating that “all persons of Japanese ancestry…both alien and non-alien” were to be
evacuated from the area. A poignant photograph taken in April 1942 shows the three
sisters in front of the shop before they were sent off (Figure 33). In April 1942 the entire
Mabuchi family, as well as the rest of El Cerrito and Richmond’s Japanese American
population, was sent to Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, one of 18 assembly areas
created to house Japanese Americans prior to the completion of more permanent
“Relocation Centers” constructed outside the Exclusion Zone (which comprised most of
California, western Oregon and Washington, and southern Arizona). At Tanforan, the


23
   Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor, Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo
Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 34.
24
   Emily Yellin, Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front during World War II (New York: Free Press,
2004), 266.
25
   Ibid.


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Mabuchi family was assigned a number (Family 13454) and initially housed in stables at
the former horse track prior to being sent off to Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah in
October 1942.26 Akiko described the experience:


         There were bugs and straw all
         around and we could see our
         neighbors through the cracks in the
         stall and hear conversations in the
         next stall. We slept on straw
         mattresses. My father made a big
         mistake when he tried to wash the
         floor. The dung beneath the boards
         smelled to high heaven. The latrines
         were a culture shock. There were
         two rows of toilets facing each other
         with no doors. When one flushed,
         they all flushed. There was no
         privacy in the showers either. At first
         we walked across the racetrack to
         the grandstand for our meals. It was
         canned beans and canned wieners,
         and more beans and wieners. Later
         mess halls were built and staffed by
         our own cooks and food got better.
         For diversion, we mainly hung out in
         front of the barracks and talked to
         pass the time way, or played cards.
                                                                 Figure 33. Clara, Michiko, and Akiko
         We had nothing to do.27                                         Mabuchi, April 1942
                                                                 Source: El Cerrito Historical Society
Many Japanese Americans across the
West were forced to sell or abandon their property while they were interned. If they did
not lose their property outright, they often returned after the war to find that their
property had been looted, vandalized, or illegally confiscated. The Mabuchi family was
fortunate that their next-door neighbor, Fred Conwill (owner of Tradeway Furniture
Company) agreed to look after their property for the duration of the war in exchange for
being able to store furniture there.28



26
   Emily Yellin, Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front during World War II (New York: Free Press,
2004), 269.
27
   Ibid.
28
   Emily Yellin, Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front during World War II (New York: Free Press,
2004), 267.


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Return to El Cerrito
The Mabuchis spent the next two-and-a-half years in
the Topaz War Relocation Center. Upon being
released in 1945, Akiko Mabuchi was given $25 and a
one-way bus ticket to Chicago where she joined her
fiancé, whom she had met in the camp. The rest of the
Mabuchi family – Hikojiro, Tomi, Michiko, and Clara
made their way back to El Cerrito where they began
the process of rebuilding their lives and their
business.29        Unfortunately,          Hikojiro’s       health      had
deteriorated at Topaz, where he suffered several
small strokes. Health care at the camp was minimal,
and by the time he got back to El Cerrito he was quite                               Figure 34. Clara Mabuchi, April
                                                                                                  1942
ill. Hikojiro Mabuchi died on February 19, 1946 at the                                 Source: El Cerrito Historical
                                                                                                 Society
age of 58.30


Contra Costa Florist: 1946-1964
With the death of Hikojiro Mabuchi there was no one to take care of the gardens, the
greenhouse, and the lath house, and consequently this part of the business was
gradually dropped. Clara Mabuchi was a talented flower arranger and she, with the
help of her sister Michiko (now married to George Yoshimoto) and mother Tomi, began
concentrating on the florist portion of the business. They soon established a reputation
for both quality and value (Figure 34). They provided flower arrangements, corsages,
and many other products to residents of El Cerrito and nearby Richmond for nearly two
decades. During this time, the former nursery at the back of the property began to run
wild. Michiko’s children referred to the back of the property as “The Jungle” and they
took sticks out back to ward off spiders and the leaves of overgrown plants in the lath
house.31 The property as it appeared around this time is shown on the 1950 Sanborn
maps (Figure 35). The map shows the combined store, dwelling, and greenhouse at

29
   Ibid., 276
30
   California Death Index, 1940-1997.
31
   El Cerrito Historical Society, Draft Historic Context Statement: City of El Cerrito (unpublished manuscript located at the
El Cerrito Historical Society, 2011), 56.


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the west end of the lot and the greenhouse and the garage at the east end of the lot.
The lath house, which was located just south of the greenhouse, does not appear on
the map.




           Figure 35. 1950 Sanborn Map (Map no. 309) showing project site outlined in blue
                  Source: San Francisco Public Library; annotated by KVP Architects



After the Mabuchi daughters took over the business they did not make many changes
to the property. According to the permit record Clara Mabuchi and Michiko Yoshimoto
applied for a permit in 1950 to extend the existing garage at the rear of the property by
14’. The cost of the work was $100. The permit application indicates that both sisters
continued to reside at 1226 San Pablo Avenue (now 10848 San Pablo). Over the next
14 years, Contra Costa Florist took out several permits to address plumbing, heating,
                                                                                                                           32
and electrical issues but apparently did not make any other changes to the property.
Michiko and her husband George Yoshimoto lived in the house behind the store.



32
  City of El Cerrito, “Property Cards for 10848 (formerly 1226) San Pablo Avenue” (Record on file at the El Cerrito
Planning Department).


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                       Figure 36. Ca.1965 Sanborn Map showing project site
                   Source: City of El Cerrito Community Development Department


Joe Conwill Buys 10848 San Pablo Avenue
In 1965 the Mabuchi family sold their property (the property’s address changed from
1226 to 10848 San Pablo in the mid-1950s) to Joe Conwill, the son of Fred Conwill –
founder of Tradeway Furniture and the man who had taken care of the Mabuchis’
property during World War II. Joe Conwill used the property to store furniture,
appliances, and equipment, as indicated on a ca. 1965 Sanborn map (Figure 36).
Changes he made to the property between 1965 and 1990 include the removal of the
two greenhouses, whatever was left of the lath house, and the remnants of the
Japanese-style garden at the center of the lot.


El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce Leases 10848 San Pablo Avenue
In 1990, the Rotary Club of El Cerrito, looking for a community service project,
approached Joe Conwill about remodeling the former Contra Costa Florist structure for
use as the headquarters of the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce. Conwill agreed to the
proposal and the Rotary Club appointed Marvin Collins, owner of Marvin Collins


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Historic Resource Evaluation                             10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


Construction, as project manager. Over the next several months he obtained the
necessary permits to remodel the interior and exterior for the Chamber of Commerce.
When the project began the former florist shop had undergone few, if any, exterior
changes since the 1930s aside from the removal of the slate roof. The work, which cost
around $10,000, included replacing the exterior doors on the street façade with
anodized aluminum window units and the insertion of an anodized aluminum door in
the second bay in from the left. The interior was also remodeled, although some original
stone detailing was left in place. The work was completed during the fall of 1990 and
the Certificate of Occupancy was issued on January 31, 1991.33


The Chamber of Commerce moved into 10848 San Pablo Avenue in early 1991.
Additional permitted work was completed between 1990 and 2009, when the El Cerrito
Redevelopment Agency acquired the property, included the following:


         Construction of a fence along the east and south property lines in 1990.
         Installation of ADA-compliant bathroom fixtures in 2006.
         Interior of office building remodeled, refurnished, and repainted in 2006.
         Additional ADA upgrades within the building in 2006.34

Even after the former florist shop was remodeled for use as the headquarters of the El
Cerrito Chamber of Commerce, the Mabuchi House continued to remain in use for
overflow storage for Joe Conwill’s Tradeway store next door. It has not been changed
since 1965. In 2009, Joe Conwill sold 10848 San Pablo, along with the former Tradeway
property at 10860 San Pablo, to the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency.




33
   City of El Cerrito, “Property Cards for 10848 (formerly 1226) San Pablo Avenue” (Record on file at the El Cerrito
Planning Department).
34
   Ibid.


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D. Construction and Social History: 10860 San Pablo Avenue
This section provides a very concise history of the property at 10860 San Pablo Avenue
– the former Tradeway complex.


Ferris Fuel and Feed
The earliest section of
the Tradeway complex
is    located       at      the
southwestern corner of
the       property.         As
described above, it is a
one-story,      wood-frame
structure.     Originally     it
had a brick façade but
this was either removed
or covered over with
stucco     and     wood      in
1972. This structure was
built by the Ferris Fuel
                                            Figure 37. 1930 Sanborn Map showing Ferris Fuel & Feed
and Feed Company as                                   Source: San Francisco Public Library
                                                          Annotated by KVP Architects
a feed store. It was
constructed between 1926 and 1930. It does not appear on the 1926 Sanborn map
(Refer to Figure 26) but it does appear on the 1930 Sanborn map (Figure 37). The
business was presumably located here because it was convenient to the Santa Fe line
a block-and-a-half east.35




35
  Personal communication between Amber Grady and Tom Panas, President El Cerrito Historical Society, October 20,
2008.


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Tradeway
Tradeway was established in 1936 by Fred Conwill as an odd-lots store that initially
dealt in building supplies, furnishings, and appliances salvaged from train wrecks or
flooded or fire-damaged stores. The complex that exists today was constructed in four
major campaigns, including the original ca. 1930 former Ferris Fuel and Feed, as well
as additions constructed in 1943, 1950, and 1953. Tradeway survived for 70 years in El
Cerrito and throughout that time the business continued to concentrate on selling
showroom samples, damaged, and odd-lot furnishings, carpeting, paints and building
supplies, and household wares. After World War II the business also sold surplus
military supplies. The business closed in 2008.


Tradeway was apparently successful, given that it continued to expand throughout the
1940s and 1950s. In December 1943, Fred Conwill constructed a one-story-and-
mezzanine, wood-frame warehouse addition – measuring 49’ x 84’ and costing $4,000 –
at the rear of the original structure (facing Kearny Street).36 This structure was used by
Conwill to house back stock, freeing up room in the ca. 1930 building for sales and
display.


The 1950 Sanborn maps show these two structures in place, as well as an auto camp
on the lots to the north, which Conwill also owned (Refer to Figure 35). The auto camp
probably dated to World War II when many owners of vacant lots rented out space to
shipyard workers to park their trailers. Others bought trailers or built inexpensive frame
structures to shelter both people and their vehicles. Auto camps were once common all
over Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, and other areas within easy commuting distance
of the Kaiser shipyards in Richmond.


A letter dating from April 9, 1948 in the City of El Cerrito Planning Department’s files for
the property indicate that residential neighbors had complained about the “junky”


36
  City of El Cerrito, “Property Cards for 10860 (formerly 1230) San Pablo Avenue” (Record on file at the El Cerrito
Planning Department).



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appearance of Fred Conwill’s storage yard next to his Tradeway store, as well as the
auto camp. In his letter to the El Cerrito City Council, Mr. Conwill defended his business
and its appearance:


          I cooperated in every way with my new neighbors, furnishing them with
          lumber, paints and labor to build fences so that my yard would not be an
          eyesore to them. As it is now, the residentials [sic] cannot even see what
          is in my yard unless they climb the fence. Upon the recent request of the
          City Council, I have accelerated the cleaning up of the yard and the
          houses. Within the last thirty days I have spent approximately fourteen
          hundred dollars for tearing out rabbit hutches and chicken houses, etc.
          and hauling them to the dumps.37

In the rest of the letter Mr. Conwill explained the steps he had taken to reduce the
amount of surplus building materials in his storage yard but he also explained that he
needed to keep a certain amount on hand in order to remain in business. He concluded
his letter with a statement as to why his business was a net positive contribution to El
Cerrito and that its removal would do nothing for the neighborhood.38


Conwill’s letter to the El Cerrito City Council in 1948 in part explains his decision two
years later to replace the auto camp with a large two-story, steel-frame warehouse at
the northeast corner of the property facing Kearny Street. Between October and
December 1950, Fred Conwill applied for two permits – the first for the concrete
foundation and the second for the structure itself – for a warehouse costing $33,000.
This warehouse featured a concrete floor and a steel frame supporting a partial
mezzanine where furniture repair work was carried out. In contrast to the dark interiors
of the two older structures, the steel-frame sawtooth roof of the new warehouse allowed
in abundant natural light. The contractor was F. G. Peterson.39


Three years later, in May 1953, Fred Conwill decided to develop the final open lot on his
property and he took out a permit to build a steel-frame and CMU warehouse
measuring 86’ x 98’. This addition, which filled in the southwest corner of the parcel,

37
   Letter from Fred Conwill to the El Cerrito City Council, April 9, 1948 (Record on file at the El Cerrito Planning
Department).
38
   Ibid.
39
   City of El Cerrito, “Property Cards for 10860 (formerly 1230) San Pablo Avenue” (Record on file at the El Cerrito
Planning Department).


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cost $58,996. Conwill does not seem to have used this building for display or retail
purposes until 1959 when this portion of the building was remodeled with its own
storefront.40


Additions and Alterations to Tradeway Since 1953
Following the completion of the final warehouse in 1953, the Tradeway site assumed its
current configuration. However, in the 55 years between 1953 and the closure of the
business in 2008, Fred Conwill, and later his son Joe, continued to apply for dozens of
permits to repair and make alterations to the sprawling complex, including the following
more substantial alterations:


        New, double-faced neon sign ($200) – 02/01/1957
        New aluminum frame and “crystal glass” storefronts on north building facing
         San Pablo ($1,094) – 02/24/1959
        Remodel storefronts and façade on south building facing San Pablo ($15,000),
         architect Leon Rimov & Associates – 01/11/1972

The rest of the permit applications were for routine maintenance and infrastructure
improvements, including plumbing, heating, mechanical, electrical, and re-roofing.


In 1997, Joe Conwill submitted a proposal to extend the store 10’ outward into the
sidewalk area and to remodel the entire façade to give it a consistent and uniform
appearance. Although approved by the El Cerrito Design Review Committee, the
project apparently went nowhere aside from repainting the building in its current color
scheme.41




40
   City of El Cerrito, “Property Cards for 10860 (formerly 1230) San Pablo Avenue” (Record on file at the El Cerrito
Planning Department).
41
   City of El Cerrito, Department of Community Development, Design Review Staff Report, May 8, 1997 (Record on file at
the El Cerrito Planning Department).


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E.          Japanese American Nursery Industry in El Cerrito and Richmond
Background
The year 1869 was the first documented arrival of Japanese immigrants into the United
States. By 1870, there were only 55 Japanese in the United States, with 33 living in
California. Most were employed in agricultural labor, with 22 alone working on the
Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm in El Dorado County. The numbers of Japanese in
California and the United States grew very slowly during the rest of the nineteenth
century; in 1880 there were only 148 Japanese living in the United States, with 86 of
them in California. Their numbers only began to grow after the Japanese government
liberalized emigration laws. By 1890, there were 2,038 Japanese in the United States,
with 1,114 living in California.42


With Chinese essentially forbidden to immigrate to the United States after the passage
of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, there was a shortage of agricultural and
household labor in California. Japanese quickly filled the void and their numbers grew
dramatically in the years bracketing 1900, with around 24,000 recorded in the country
(including Hawaii – annexed by the United States in 1898) in that year’s decennial
census.43 As the primary West Coast port and the economic capital of the West, San
Francisco at first attracted the majority of Japanese immigrants and it became home to
the mainland’s first Nihonmachi (“Japantown”). San Francisco’s Japantown would
remain the largest in the nation until the 1906 Earthquake, after which time the epicenter
of Japanese America shifted south to Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.44


Similar to the Chinese before them, Japanese Americans proved capable of
successfully competing against the dominant European-American population on their
own terms, particularly in horticulture and agriculture. This, combined with general
unease in mainstream white society about large numbers of foreigners who did not look
like them, fostered widespread prejudice. Newspapers, such as the San Francisco


42
   Isami Arifuku Waugh, Alex Yamamoto, and Raymond Okamura, “A History of Japanese in California,” in Five Views: An
Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California (Sacramento: Office of Historic Preservation, 1988).
43
   “Asian Americans,” Encyclopedia of American Education: http://american-education.org/160-asian-americans.html
44
     Tim Kelley, “San Francisco Japantown Historic Context Statement,” in Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor,
Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report
prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 32.


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Historic Resource Evaluation                             10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


Chronicle, workingmen’s clubs and trade unions, and populist politicians such as San
Francisco Mayor (later California Senator) James Phelan, inveighed against the “threat”
posed by the “Yellow Peril.” In San Francisco, the School Department voted to
segregate Japanese students in an “Oriental” School in 1906. This provoked the
Japanese government, leading to an international dispute that was partly resolved by
the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” of 1908 which limited immigration of Japanese laborers
to the United States.45


The Gentlemen’s Agreement had an interesting byproduct probably not intended by its
authors. Prior to 1908, the vast majority of Japanese immigrants had been single male
laborers who would often work in the United States for a definite period of time and then
return to Japan. Interestingly, the law did not forbid the immigration of the wives or
children of Japanese laborers. After 1908, Japanese women began to arrive in large
numbers and families began to take shape in Japantowns throughout California, the
West Coast, and wherever else Japanese immigrant communities had taken root. As
the Issei (immigrant generation) gave birth to the Nisei (first generation), Japantowns
began to take on a more permanent cast. Japanese-language newspapers, churches
and temples, as well as other cultural, civic, and business institutions began to take root
in America’s small but increasingly successful Japanese American community.46


Despite the gradual Americanization of Japanese Americans and their dispersal
outside of urban Japantowns, anti-Japanese forces continued to advocate for their
exclusion from full participation in American life. In 1913, anti-Japanese politicians in
California were successful in passing the Alien Land Act, which forbade “aliens
ineligible for citizenship” from owning land in California. This category of ineligible
aliens also included Chinese, Indian, and Korean-born immigrants but it was primarily
directed against Japanese.47 All of this anxiety might seem strange given that the entire
recorded Japanese American population in the United States was still less than 75,000,


45
     Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans (New York: Penguin Books, 1989), 201-
3.
46
   Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor, Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo
Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 32.
47
   “Tells Japan’s Side of California Case,” New York Times (June 30, 1913).


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(and most of this population was in Hawaii), but it did not stop with the Alien Land Act,
which was amended by a 1920 state ballot measure that further tightened restrictions
on property ownership. In 1924, the U.S. Immigration Act categorically ended all
Japanese immigration for four decades.


Japanese American –owned Nurseries in the Bay Area: 1888-1980
Commercial nurseries in California began not long after the Gold Rush. Many
newcomers recognized the possibilities inherent in California’s varied soils and
temperate climates. Early centers of the industry included Sacramento, San Jose, and
the East Bay village of Niles (now part of Fremont). Eventually professional associations,
including the State Horticultural Society and the California Association of Nurserymen,
were formed to exchange information and promote their industry.48


Whereas non-Japanese nursery operators (principally European American of various
backgrounds) tended to grow ornamental plants and fruit trees, their Japanese
counterparts usually focused on crops that did not require a lot of land and that
matured within a tighter timeframe. This was largely due to the fact that after 1913,
Japanese immigrants could not buy land. The space issue often resulted from
Japanese immigrants renting smaller plots of land close to big cities like San Francisco
or Los Angeles. In addition to row crops like strawberries (Figure 38), Japanese
nursery operators concentrated on the cultivation and sale of cut flowers. In addition to
commanding higher prices, these areas were not in competition with white
horticulturalists, thereby reducing opposition to their presence within farming regions of
the Bay Area.49




48
   Gordon Van Laan, A Penny a Tree: The History of the Nursery Industry in California, 1850-1976, in Donna Graves,
Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor, Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo Nurseries, Richmond,
CA (unpublished report prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 34.
49
   Gary Kawaguchi, Ethnicity, Resistance, and Cooperation: An Historical Analysis of Cooperation in the California Flower
Market (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California), 2-3.


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                Figure 38. Japanese harvesting strawberries somewhere in California
                   Source: http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/immigration/japanese-
                                             california.jpg


Japanese floriculture in the Bay Area got its start with the arrival of the four Domoto
brothers in San Francisco in 1884. In 1885, the brothers leased a plot of land in
Oakland and established the first commercial flower-growing enterprise in the Bay
Area. By 1904, their operation was the largest flower-growing operation on the West
Coast. The Domoto brothers depended on Japanese immigrant labor, mostly
countrymen from their home prefecture of Wakayama. Many of their employees, upon
“graduating” from what they called “Domoto College,” established their own flower-
growing operations. In addition to Richmond and El Cerrito, Japanese-owned nurseries
also appeared in the East Bay cities of Alameda and Washington Township (now
Fremont), and sporadically along the San Francisco Peninsula from Santa Clara to San
Mateo.50


The San Francisco Bay Area was a good place in which to do business. San
Franciscans and their suburban neighbors loved cut flowers and the region’s temperate
year-round climate fueled an interest in exotic flora and décor, both of which Japanese
nurseries could supply. The 1906 Earthquake did not diminish the interest in cut flowers
in the Bay Area and most of the nurseries were spared destruction. The earthquake did


50
   Gary Kawaguchi, Living with Flowers: The California Flower Market History (San Francisco: California Flower Market,
1993), 18.


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Historic Resource Evaluation                            10848 & 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito, CA


destroy the San Francisco’s flower market, and in 1906, 42 Japanese nursery operators
formed the California Flower Growers Association (later incorporated as the California
Flower Market in 1912).51 This association was geared toward wholesale business and
not retail flower-selling. Others involved in the cut-flower industry included Chinese and
Italians. In 1909, Japanese, Chinese, and Italian nursery operators established the San
Francisco Flower Terminal, which was a market place for Bay Area nursery operators to
sell their flowers to retailers. The florist industry was already well-established in
California and mainly run by whites, reducing its attractiveness to Japanese
immigrants.52


By the 1920s and 1930s, many Japanese-owned nurseries were being passed down to
their American-born Nisei children. The immigrant Issei generation placed a high value
on keeping their businesses intact and within their own families, particularly because
their children had grown up working in the nurseries and were therefore well-groomed
to take over. Furthermore, many American-born Japanese, even if well-educated,
continued to be excluded from many professions. The assumption of Nisei control over
the cut flower industry, as well as the California Flower Market, intensified after Pearl
Harbor. After all persons of Japanese ancestry were relocated to internment camps, the
California Flower Market was temporarily administered by the Italian-American San
Francisco Flower Growers Association, ensuring the survival of the organization during
the war.53


Not all Japanese American nursery operators were so lucky. Many either had to quickly
sell their properties at a loss before being interned or they lost their property because
they couldn’t make the mortgage or property tax payments while they were interned.
Nonetheless, some, such as the Mabuchis, were fortunate in having non-Japanese
neighbors take care of their properties during the war.54 After they were released from


51
   Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor, Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo
Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 36.
52
   Gary Kawaguchi, Ethnicity, Resistance, and Cooperation: An Historical Analysis of Cooperation in the California Flower
Market (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California), 9.
53
   Gary Kawaguchi, Living with Flowers: The California Flower Market History (San Francisco: California Flower Market,
1993), 56-8.
54
   Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor, Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo
Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 37.


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the camps, Japanese American nursery operators had to rebuild their businesses, often
from scratch – particularly for those unlucky enough to have lost their land.


After World War II, many Japanese American-owned nurseries prospered like they
never had before, mostly because of the expansion of airfreight, which allowed Bay
Area-grown flowers to be sold across the country. The postwar period also ushered in
many challenges, including chronic labor shortages, growing competition from
overseas (particularly South America), and the growing propensity for the largely
college-educated Sansei (third generation) to seek professional work outside the family
business. By the 1970s, rising fuel and labor costs – combined with escalating land
values in the Bay Area – caused many long-time nursery operators to sell their land to
developers to “grow condos.” Others relocated to the periphery of the Bay Area,
including Half Moon Bay, Gilroy, Watsonville, and Salinas.55


Japanese American Nursery Operators and Florists in El Cerrito/Richmond: 1900-
1965
Japanese nursery operators appeared in what is now Richmond/El Cerrito around 1905
after the Nabeta brothers established a nursery in the community of Stege. The
Nabetas had learned their nursery skills working for the Domotos after arriving in
California in 1892.56 The Nabetas, along with Isaburo Adachi’s El Cerrito Nursery
(established in 1905), are credited with forming the nucleus of Japanese American
flower-growing zone that developed around where Richmond, El Cerrito, and San Pablo
now converge (Figure 39). Nursery operators were attracted to this area because of its
favorable climate, which was not too hot (due to the prevailing breezes coming through
the Golden Gate) or too cold because of the influence of warmer inland temperatures.
In addition, the land was generally level, inexpensive, and had a high water table to
ensure good wells. The land was also close to public transport, allowing workers to
commute to the nurseries from nearby cities.57


55
   Gary Kawaguchi, Living with Flowers: The California Flower Market History (San Francisco: California Flower Market,
1993), 82-3.
56
   Gary Kawaguchi, Ethnicity, Resistance, and Cooperation: An Historical Analysis of Cooperation in the California Flower
Market (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California), 55.
57
   Peter M. Banks and Robert I. Orlins, Investigation of Cultural Resources within the Richmond Harbor Redevelopment
Project 11-A, Richmond, Contra Costa County, California (March 1981), 5.9-5.12.


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                                Figure 39. Nabeta Nursery, 1928
                               Source: El Cerrito Historical Society


Within the next two decades following the arrival of the Nabetas and the Adachis (after
1900), came the Honda, Hoshi, Mabuchi, Maida, Mayeda, Ninomiya, Oshima, Oishi,
Sakai, and Sugihara families. The linear district of nurseries formed by these families
ultimately encompassed over a dozen businesses, extending east from 45th Street in
Richmond to San Pablo Avenue in El Cerrito, and from the Santa Fe (now BART) tracks
to Potrero Street (in El Cerrito) on the south (Figure 40). Other nursery-related
businesses such as florists, equipment and fertilizer dealers, and others who had
business dealings with the nurseries were located along San Pablo Avenue, including
Contra Costa Florist, although it did not open until around 1934.


From the early 1890s until World War II at least, Japanese nursery operators in El
Cerrito and Richmond followed a similar path as their counterparts in other parts of the
Bay Area, cultivating smaller, inexpensive plots on the outskirts of the urbanized Bay
Area. A central part of the formula included the cultivation of high-value cut flowers –
often carnations, roses, and chrysanthemums – using unpaid family members to do

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much of the work.58 Other workers were either recruited directly from Japan (particularly
Wakayama Prefecture, where many of the pioneer immigrants were from) or from
existing Japanese communities in San Francisco, Oakland, or Richmond.




                  Figure 40. Japanese nurseries in El Cerrito and Richmond ca. 1930
                                 Source: El Cerrito Historical Society


Typically the male head-of-household would oversee the nursery’s day-to-day
operations and handle sales, often traveling to San Francisco to sell the nursery’s
products at the Flower Market. Meanwhile, the wives often worked with the employees
to cultivate the flowers, which grew on raised beds on top of low wood platforms. The
cultivation of carnations and other flowers was labor-intensive, requiring the


58
 Gary Kawaguchi, Ethnicity, Resistance, and Cooperation: An Historical Analysis of Cooperation in the California Flower
Market (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California), 55.


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construction of complicated string grids to support the top-heavy stems when in bloom.
Before the establishment of steam-powered sterilization systems, the soil in the beds
had to be manually hauled outside once a year to be spread out in daylight to kill fungi
and bacteria.59


In terms of their layout, Japanese nurseries in Richmond and El Cerrito were similar to
non-Japanese nurseries in most respects; all had greenhouses, water tank houses,
windmills, boiler rooms, and at least one dwelling to accommodate both the owner and
his family. A few had bunkhouses for laborers but most nursery workers apparently
commuted to their jobs. The architecture of these nursery structures was usually
indistinguishable from their non-Japanese neighbors, as evidenced by the Honda
Nursery at 52nd Street and Potrero Avenue in Richmond (Figure 41). Where Japanese
nursery operators and other immigrants expressed their own aesthetic sensibilities was
typically in the landscaping. Plants popular in Japan, including camellias, willows, or
bonsai trees, would often be planted around the house. Sometimes an entire Japanese
garden would be built, such as with the Mabuchi family. In addition, some Japanese
nursery operators would add traditional Japanese touches to the interior of their homes,
where there would most likely be a furo, or soaking tub60, or even rooms decorated with
Japanese features, such as the living room of the Mabuchi House, with its shoji screen
enclosures.




59
  Interviews with William Sakai and Tom Oishi, in Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor, Historic Architecture
Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report prepared for Eden Housing,
2004), 40.
60
  Interview with Tom Oishi by Donna Graves and David Washburn, in Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor,
Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report
prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 40.


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                                         Figure 41. Honda House, 1935
                                       Source: El Cerrito Historical Society


Although white American contractors were often hired to build the houses and some of
the ancillary buildings, Japanese nursery operators often hired their countrymen to
build the greenhouses. Hikojiro Mabuchi was known by many in the area as a skilled
carpenter and he was frequently hired by his neighbors to construct their
greenhouses.61 In 1935, he also built his own greenhouses and may have also built the
first story of his own house, remodeled its interior, and made several changes to the
former Valley of the Moon Quarry office building to convert it into a retail florist shop.62




61
  Donna Graves and David Washburn, in Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor, Historic Architecture
Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report prepared for Eden Housing,
2004), 41.
62
   The original 1935 permit for the Mabuchi property is only for the house moving, which was completed by a contractor
named Herbert Jameson. The permit is not for the construction of the podium or any interior remodeling. The ad-hoc
quality of the remodeling, including the incorporation of Japanese-themed features and materials, strongly suggests that
it was Mr. Mabuchi who did the work.


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Despite the imposition of increasingly discriminatory landownership laws, El Cerrito and
Richmond’s Japanese nursery owners saw their businesses and their community thrive
during the 1910s and 1920s, as evidenced by the establishment of various cultural and
educational institutions, including a Japanese school (Nihon Gakuen) at 47th Street and
Wall Avenue in Richmond, and a predominantly Japanese Free Methodist church near
47th Street and Cutting Boulevard in Richmond. Although prejudice against Japanese
was still rampant, many remember warm relations with their Italian, Portuguese, and
American-born neighbors.63


The bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 put an end to the prosperous pre-war
Japanese nursery industry. As members of several local families were rounded up by
the FBI, family members began destroying Japanese personal items that could be
misconstrued as making their owners “pro-Japanese.” Similar to the fate of the
Mabuchis described above, all persons deemed “enemy aliens,” were excluded from
the Prohibited Area around Richmond. This meant that all Issei, who were legally barred
from becoming citizens, were forced to move away from their homes and businesses.
They had to decide whether their children stay to run their businesses and attend
school or accompany them. In the spring of 1942, the area’s entire Nikkei population
was sent off to Tanforan Assembly Center, and eventually to the internment camps in
the interior west and beyond. Two-thirds of the Nikkei who were forcibly removed and
incarcerated were U.S. citizens. Most of Richmond and El Cerrito’s Japanese residents
were sent to Topaz in Utah. During the war some of El Cerrito and Richmond’s nursery
owners were able to find non-Japanese to lease or take care of their property. Others
had to sell at fire-sale prices, and still others lost their property to the bank while
incarcerated.64


When they returned from the camps in 1945, many Nikkei families found their nurseries
in disrepair or worse, looted or vandalized. The Richmond/El Cerrito area they had
known before the war was largely unrecognizable, with tens-of-thousands of shipyard

63
     Interview with Tom Oishi by Donna Graves and David Washburn, in Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor,
Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report
prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 41.
64
  Ibid.


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workers having been brought in to work at the Kaiser yards. Defense housing
developments filled acres of what had formerly been fields, farms, and pasture. Despite
the hardship and expense of rebuilding, several Japanese-American nursery families
revived their businesses after the war, including the Adachis, the Fukushimas, Fujis,
Hondas, Maidas, Mayedas, Nabetas, Ninomiyas, Oishis, Sakais, and the Sugiharas.
Although the Mabuchi family also returned to their business, Hikojiro soon passed away
and the nursery part of the business was abandoned in the 1950s. In a cruel twist, most
of the nurseries that had recovered after the war were destroyed within a few short
years as the East Shore Freeway (now I-80) cut through the nursery area in 1948. By
the mid-1960s, only a handful of the nurseries still survived: the Adachi, Oishi, Oshima,
and Sakai nurseries.65


F. Storybook Style
The “Storybook,” or as it was technically called the “Provincial Revivalist” style, was a
very brief yet exuberant chapter in American architectural history. Other names for the
                                                                                style include “Fairy Tale” or
                                                                                “Hansel and Gretel” style.
                                                                                Born in the 1910s with the
                                                                                advent          of       full-length
                                                                                Hollywood motion pictures
                                                                                featuring elaborate stage
                                                                                sets, the style flourished in
                                                                                the boom years of 1920s –
                                                                                particularly in California –
                                                                                and then gradually withered
         Figure 42. Spadena, “Witch’s” House, Beverly Hills
                                                                                away during the Depression
                  Source: Collection of the Author
                                                                                years of the 1930s. The two
epicenters of the style were greater Los Angeles and the urbanized East Bay.
Architects specializing in the style included Harry Oliver, W.R. Yelland, W.W. Dixon, and
Carr Jones. Entire subdivisions were built in the style, including Stonehenge and

65 Donna Graves, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor, Historic Architecture Evaluation: The Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo

Nurseries, Richmond, CA (unpublished report prepared for Eden Housing, 2004), 44.


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Stoneleigh villages in Alameda, Little Hollywood in San Francisco, Thornburg Village in
Berkeley, and Idora Park in Oakland. The best-known example of the style is the
Spadena House (also known as the “Witch’s House”), designed by Harry Oliver and
built in Beverly Hills in 1921 (Figure 42). Other more restrained versions of the style
include the apartment building in Berkeley known variously as Thornburg, or Normandy,
Village. Designed by W.R. Yelland, the complex was constructed in 1927 (Figure 43).
Like many more developed examples of the style, it clearly references late mediaeval
Norman vernacular architecture.66


                                                                                 The Storybook style derives
                                                                                 from several older sources,
                                                                                 including          the           English
                                                                                 Picturesque movement of the
                                                                                 nineteenth          century,           the
                                                                                 English and American Arts
                                                                                 and Crafts Movement of the
                                                                                 early twentieth century, and
                                                                                 the     more       recent        Period
                                                                                 Revival styles popular on the
                                                                                 East Coast during the 1910s
               Figure 43. Normandy Village, Berkeley
         Source: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association                     and      1920s.       These        more
                                                                                 mainstream           styles        were
filtered through the work of Hollywood set designers during the 1910s and 1920s who
exaggerated traditional styles for dramatic effect, especially in the era of silent films.
Some of these set designers were architects, like Harry Oliver, who applied what they
learned in Hollywood’s movie industry to their architecture work.


Pulling in part on traditional rural English, German, and Norman vernacular architecture,
characteristics of the Storybook style include steeply pitched gable roofs, decorative
half-timbering or stone cladding, picturesque shingle patterns, and decorative over-


66
     Arrol Gellner, Storybook Style: America’s Whimsical Homes of the Twenties (New York: Viking Studio, 2001).


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scaled features, including turrets, balconies, porches, etcetera. Windows are often
multi-light or incorporate leaded diamond-shaped panes and sometimes feature
irregularly shaped headers or sills to suggest age.


Landscaping was important for domestic properties, with many Storybook houses
featuring stone retaining walls and wrought iron entry gates with masonry arches like
Normandy Village. Commercial buildings designed in the style are much rarer.


The whimsical Storybook style took a hiatus during the Depression, when most
construction activity stopped, and again during the Second World War, when
pragmatism ruled the day. The style made a brief reappearance during the 1950s when
some developers of suburban ranch houses began to recycle various characteristics of
the style, including entire subdivisions in Orange County, San Jose, and elsewhere in
California.




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VII. Determination of Eligibility

A. California Register of Historical Resources

The California Register of Historical Resources (California Register) is an inventory of
significant architectural, archaeological, and historical resources in the State of
California. Resources can be listed in the California Register through a number of
methods. State Historical Landmarks (Number 770 and above) and National Register-
eligible properties are automatically listed in the California Register.67 Properties can
also be nominated to the California Register by local governments, private
organizations, or citizens. This includes properties identified in historical resource
surveys with Status Codes of “1” to “5” and resources designated as local landmarks
through city or county ordinances. The evaluation criteria used by the California
Register for determining eligibility are closely based on those developed by the
National Park Service for the National Register of Historic Places.


In order for a property to be eligible for listing in the California Register, it must be found
significant under one or more of the following criteria:


         Criterion 1 (Events): Resources that are associated with events that
          have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of local or
          regional history, or the cultural heritage of California or the United States.
         Criterion 2 (Persons): Resources that are associated with the lives of
          persons important to local, California, or national history.
         Criterion 3 (Architecture): Resources that embody the distinctive
          characteristics of a type, period, region, or method of construction, or
          represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values.
         Criterion 4 (Information Potential): Resources or sites that have yielded
          or have the potential to yield information important to the prehistory or
          history of the local area, California, or the nation.


KVP has evaluated the significance of all buildings on the project site. Because the two
properties that comprise the project site have different contexts, they are evaluated


67
  National Register-eligible properties include properties that have been listed on the National Register and properties
that have formally been found eligible for listing.


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separately. For 10848 San Pablo, the former Contra Costa Florist shop and the Mabuchi
Building are evaluated together because they are attached and because they
traditionally functioned as a single building. Similarly the four sections of the former
Tradeway facility at 10860 San Pablo Avenue are evaluated as a single building.


10848 San Pablo Avenue
Based on the research and analysis contained within this report, it appears that 10848
San Pablo Avenue is eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources
under Criterion 1 (Events).


Criterion 1 (Events):
The former Contra Costa Florist Shop/Mabuchi House complex appears eligible for
listing in the California Register under Criterion 1 for its association with the well-
documented community of Japanese American nursery owners and others associated
with the cut flower industry in western Contra Costa County during the first half of the
twentieth century. The period of significance is 1935-1965. For the first decade of its
existence, the property represented an unusual hybrid of a nursery and a retail florist
shop. According to research on Japanese American floriculturalists, early in the
twentieth century most Japanese American floriculturalists stayed away from the retail
florist trade because of language issues and widespread racial prejudice. This began
to change by the late 1920s and early 1930s as the English-speaking and fully
Americanized Nisei generation branched out into the retail florist industry.


As Japanese-speaking immigrants with origins in the horticultural regions of Japan, one
would have expected that Hikojiro and Tomi Mabuchi would have moved into the
commercial flower-growing industry when they arrived in El Cerrito in the late ‘Teens.
Why they did not is unknown, but as relative latecomers to the area they would have
had to compete against already established nurseries for land and business. Indeed,
for the first decade or so that they lived in El Cerrito the Mabuchis largely stayed away
from the floricultural industry, although as a carpenter, Hikojiro Mabuchi was hired by
other nursery owners to build greenhouses for their nurseries. From 1919 until around
1932, Tomi Mabuchi operated a fruit stand until the first supermarket in El Cerrito killed


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their business. In need of a new livelihood, the Mabuchis moved into the floricultural
industry, opening a combined nursery and florist shop at San Pablo Avenue and Hill
Street ca. 1933. Two years later they moved their business to the subject property.


The Mabuchis’ new business, Contra Costa Florist (both at their original location and
their permanent home at 10848 San Pablo Avenue) was more than a retail flower shop;
it was a miniature version of a full-fledged commercial nursery. Similar to the larger
commercial nurseries of Richmond and El Cerrito, the Mabuchi nursery occupied a
parcel on the fringes of an urban area and used family members to cultivate and
harvest the cut flowers. The nursery component of the family’s business was small, but
because the Mabuchis were likely only growing stock for their own shop, the property
contained several components associated with a larger commercial nursery, including
two greenhouses, a lath house, and a Japanese garden located at the center of the
property.


Hikojiro Mabuchi died in 1946, not long after returning from Topaz to El Cerrito. His wife
Tomi and his two daughters Clara and Michiko kept the business going for two more
decades, but they gradually let the nursery part go in the 1950s because they were not
as experienced in this sector of the business as Hikojiro had been. In addition, they had
good sources of cut flowers from local nurseries. Contra Costa Florist remained in
business until 1965, lasting longer than many of the remaining Japanese nurseries in
the area, several of which had been displaced by freeway construction. Although it was
not the only Japanese-owned nursery in the area, by all accounts Contra Costa Florist
was well-known for supplying high-quality cut flowers for weddings, funerals, high
school dances and proms, and birthdays and holidays. In 1965 the Mabuchi family sold
the property to Joe Conwill, owner of Tradeway.


Nearly all of the former Japanese American nurseries of Richmond and El Cerrito
disappeared after World War II, victims of federal wartime policies, urban expansion,
and freeway construction. Aside from a handful of houses associated with the nursery
operators, almost nothing of this once well-known industry survives in either Richmond
or El Cerrito. The one notable exception to this is the ongoing preservation of several


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greenhouses and associated structures on the Oishi/Sakai properties now undergoing
redevelopment in Richmond.


10848 San Pablo also appears eligible under Criterion 1 for its association with
Japanese immigration and settlement in western Contra Costa County, especially for its
association with internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The period of
significance for this context is 1941-1945. As recounted above, all people of Japanese
ancestry, including American citizens, were incarcerated for the duration of the war. In
contrast to many local nursery owners, who either lost their land for failure to pay
property taxes or their mortgages while they were interned (or came back to find their
properties vandalized), the Mabuchis’ next-door neighbor, Fred Conwill, took care of
their property. Conwill made sure that no one vandalized the property and he paid the
taxes and maintained the buildings from 1942 until 1945. The Mabuchi family was one
of the first Japanese family to return to El Cerrito after the war and because of Conwill’s
actions they were able to quickly restart their business.68


Criterion 2 (Persons):
The former Contra Costa Florist /Mabuchi House complex appears ineligible for listing
in the California Register under Criterion 2. The Mabuchi family, who owned and
occupied this property for three decades, was well-known in El Cerrito as proprietors of
a successful florist shop that provided quality flowers at a good price. They were also
well-liked and respected members of the Japanese American community. The family
was caught up in the important events of their era and their story is becoming better
known over time. However, it would be an exaggeration to say that their activities at the
time were enough to constitute a “significant contribution” to local, California, or national
history. Rather, their importance to the history of El Cerrito is their association with
important historic events.




68
     “First Japs to Return Here Soon,” Richmond Times Dispatch (n.d.).


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Criterion 3 (Architecture):
If it retained a higher level of integrity, the Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex
would appear eligible for listing in the California Register under Criterion 3 as a good
example of a commercial building designed in the rare Storybook style. As discussed
above, the “Storybook,” or “Provincial Revivalist” style flowered briefly in California
during the 1920s, particularly in greater Los Angeles and the urbanized portions of the
East Bay – specifically Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and Albany/Kensington. The
building has several character-defining features of the style, including the varied stone
and brick cladding, steep gable roof and dormers, and picturesque massing. As a
commercial building whose original purpose was to sell decorative stone veneer, the
building is actually a relatively modest example of the style – acting principally as a
showcase of the Valley of the Moon’s wares – but it is nonetheless an example of the
style. Unfortunately, the cumulative level of alterations, including the removal of the
original decorative slate roof and the removal of most of the original fenestration has
impaired the building’s integrity.


The Mabuchi House behind the former Contra Costa Florist building is a modest
vernacular dwelling that was moved to the site, expanded, and customized for use by
the Mabuchi family. The house has been largely unchanged since 1935 and it retains
several uniquely “Japanese” architectural features ranging from the battered stone
ornament around the foundation level of the exterior to the shoji screens separating the
dining room and living room, and the shoji screen-like sliding doors that originally
provided access between the dining room and the rear garden. This part of the building
does not appear eligible for listing in the California Register under Criterion 3 because it
is not a good example of a type, period, or method of construction. It is also not
designed by a master architect and it does not display high artistic values.


Criterion 4 (Information Potential):
The analysis of former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex for eligibility under
California Register Criterion 4 (Information Potential) is beyond the scope of this report.




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10860 San Pablo Avenue
Based on the research and analysis contained within this report, it appears that 10860
San Pablo Avenue is ineligible for listing in the California Register of Historical
Resources under any of the criteria.


Criterion 1 (Events):
Extensive archival research has failed to reveal any association of this property with any
important historical events in local, California or American history. Although a long-time
and well-known El Cerrito business, this fact alone is usually insufficient to justify listing.


Criterion 2 (Persons):
The former Tradeway facility at 10860 San Pablo Avenue does not appear eligible for
listing in the California Register under Criterion 2. Again, although the Conwills were
respected business owners of a long-lived and well-known business in El Cerrito, this
fact is insufficient to make a finding of eligibility under Criterion 2.


Criterion 3 (Design/Construction):
The former Tradeway facility at 10860 San Pablo Avenue is a sprawling complex
consisting of four major sections built ca. 1930, 1943, 1950, and 1953. The complex
has been periodically modified and altered over time, including a major façade remodel
in 1972. None of the components of the complex (nor the complex as a whole) appear
to embody the “distinctive characteristics of a type, period, region, method of
construction.” Furthermore, it does not possess high artistic values and none of it was
designed by a prominent architect or builder.


Criterion 4 (Information Potential):
The analysis of former Tradeway complex for eligibility under California Register
Criterion 4 (Information Potential) is beyond the scope of this report.


Integrity
The process of determining integrity is similar for both the California Register and the
National Register. The same seven variables or aspects that define integrity—location,


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design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association—are used to evaluate
a resource’s eligibility for listing in the California Register and the National Register.
According to the National Register Bulletin: How to Apply the National Register Criteria
for Evaluation, these seven characteristics are defined as follows:

         Location is the place where the historic property was constructed.
         Design is the combination of elements that create the form, plans,
          space, structure and style of the property.
         Setting addresses the physical environment of the historic property
          inclusive of the landscape and spatial relationships of the building/s.
         Materials refer to the physical elements that were combined or
          deposited during a particular period of time and in a particular pattern of
          configuration to form the historic property.
         Workmanship is the physical evidence of the crafts of a particular
          culture or people during any given period in history.
         Feeling is the property’s expression of the aesthetic or historic sense of
          a particular period of time.
         Association is the direct link between an important historic event or
          person and a historic property.

There is a critical distinction between the two registers, however, and that is the degree
of integrity that a property can retain and still be considered eligible for listing.
According to the California Office of Historic Preservation:


          It is possible that historical resources may not retain sufficient integrity to
          meet the criteria for listing in the National Register, but they may still be
          eligible for listing in the California Register. A resource that has lost its
          historic character or appearance may still have sufficient integrity for the
          California Register if it maintains the potential to yield significant or
          historical information or specific data.69

The former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex has suffered from alterations
that affect not only its setting but also its design, materials, and workmanship. After Joe
Conwill purchased the property from the Mabuchis in 1965, he removed the untended
Japanese garden, the lath house, and the greenhouses from the property. He then



69
   California Office of Historic Preservation, Technical Assistance Series No. 6, California Register and National Register:
A Comparison (Sacramento: California Office of State Publishing, November 2004).



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paved the rear of the parcel. Sometime before 1986 the original decorative slate roof
was removed and replaced with asphalt shingles, though it is not known when this
happened. In 1990-91, the former Contra Costa Florist building was remodeled as part
of its conversion into an office building for the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce. This
work resulted in the removal of the building’s original fenestration (with the exception of
the small 8-light window on the north wing) and its replacement with incompatible
anodized aluminum systems. Aside from these two major changes, the exterior of the
former store has remained unchanged. The interior of the former florist’s shop was also
remodeled in 1990-91, although several masonry areas remain intact. The exterior and
the interior of the Mabuchi House have undergone few alterations since 1935.


Cumulatively these alterations have resulted in a loss of integrity of the site as a whole,
and to a lesser extent, the building itself. The loss of the nursery and garden at the rear
of the property diminishes the ability of the property to fully convey its historical
significance as a nursery. Nonetheless, the retail florist business was the mainstay of
the business and the commercial building remains and it is recognizable from the
period of significance. However, the replacement of the decorative slate roof with
asphalt shingles and the original glazed wood doors and windows with incompatible
counterparts has cumulatively impaired the building’s integrity for eligibility under
Criterion 3 as an example of Storybook Style architecture.


In summary, the Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex appears eligible for
listing in the California Register under Criterion 1 (Events) with the period of significance
of 1935-1965. Under this criterion it retains the following aspects of integrity: location,
materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. It does not retain integrity of design or
setting.


B. National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s comprehensive inventory of
historic resources. The National Register is administered by the National Park Service
and includes buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts that possess historic,
architectural, engineering, archaeological, or cultural significance at the national, state,


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or local level. Typically, resources over fifty years of age are eligible for listing in the
National Register if they meet any one of the four criteria of significance and if they
sufficiently retain historic integrity. However, resources under fifty years of age can be
determined eligible if it can be demonstrated that they are of “exceptional importance,”
or if they are contributors to a potential historic district. National Register criteria are
defined in depth in National Register Bulletin Number 15: How to Apply the National
Register Criteria for Evaluation. There are four basic criteria under which a structure,
site, building, district, or object can be considered eligible for listing in the National
Register. These criteria are:

        Criterion A (Event): Properties associated with events that have made a
        significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history;

        Criterion B (Person): Properties associated with the lives of persons
        significant in our past;

        Criterion C (Design/Construction): Properties that embody the
        distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or
        that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values,
        or that represent a significant distinguishable entity whose components
        lack individual distinction; and

        Criterion D (Information Potential): Properties that have yielded, or may
        be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.
A resource can be considered significant on a national, state, or local level to American
history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture.


18048 San Pablo Avenue
Under the analysis below it does not appear that 10848 San Pablo Avenue is eligible for
listing in the National Register under any of the eligibility criteria. Although the National
Register is very similar to the California Register the two registers are different in several
different respects, the most important of which are the so-called “50-year Rule” and the
application of integrity standards. In layman’s terms the California Register is more
lenient than the National Register in these areas and sometimes a property that
appears eligible for listing in the California Register may not be eligible for listing in the
National Register a) because it is not old enough, b) it has been moved, or c) because
it no longer retains integrity.


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As discussed above, the Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House only appears eligible
under California Register Criterion 1 (Events). It does not appear eligible under
California Register Criteria 2, 3, or 4. A property that appears ineligible for listing in the
California Register under these criteria would not be eligible for listing under the
analogous National Register criteria (in this case, B, C, or D). This leaves only National
Register Criterion A (Events) open for consideration.


Criterion A (Events):
If it retained sufficient integrity, 10848 San Pablo would appear eligible for listing in the
National Register under Criterion A (Events) for its association with the context of the
Japanese American horticultural industry of Richmond and El Cerrito (with a period of
significance of 1935-1965), and for its association with the context of Japanese
immigration and settlement in western Contra Costa County, and for its association with
the context of the internment of people of Japanese ancestry during the Second World
War.


In contrast to the looser California Register integrity standards, National Register
integrity guidelines state that “historic properties either retain integrity or they do not.” In
order to be listed in the National Register under any of the criteria, a property should
have undergone comparatively few alterations since the end of the period of
significance. In contrast, under California Register integrity standards a property just
needs to be recognizable from its period of significance. In the author’s judgment,
although recognizable, 10848 San Pablo Avenue has undergone too many alterations
to be determined eligible for listing in the National Register.


18060 San Pablo Avenue
Because 10860 San Pablo Avenue appears ineligible for listing in the California
Register under any criteria, it does not appear eligible for listing in the National Register
under the comparable criteria.




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VIII.   Evaluation of Project Impacts under CEQA

A. Project Description
The El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency intends to convey the subject property to Eden
Housing and Eden Housing plans to demolish all buildings and structures on the site
and build a new four-story, concrete and wood-frame, mixed-use commercial and
apartment complex containing 64 residential units dedicated to senior housing, as well
as 4,650 square feet of commercial space containing a health clinic and neighborhood-
serving retail or office space. The complex would be laid out in an L-shaped
arrangement with the larger, mixed-use building facing San Pablo Avenue and the rear
residential building extending to Kearny Street. The building would be clad in a mixture
of stucco, wood, and metal and the principal facades would be articulated in an
alternating arrangement of projecting volumes and recessed balconies. The completed
project would have an entry plaza located at the northwest corner of the site, and
interior landscaped courtyard, and surface parking for 36 automobiles.


B. Status of the Project Site as a Historic Resource
The former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex at 10848 San Pablo Avenue
appears to qualify as a historical resource under the California Environmental Quality
Act (CEQA). A property may qualify as a historical resource if it falls within one of four
categories listed in CEQA Guidelines Section 15064.5(a):

        1) A resource listed in, or determined to be eligible by the State
           Historical Resources Commission, for listing in the California Register
           of Historical Resources (Pub. Res. Code SS5024.1, Title 14 CCR,
           Section 4850 et seq.).
        2) A resource included in a local register of historical resources, as
           defined in Section 5020.1(k) of the Public Resources Code or
           identified as significant in an historical resource survey meeting the
           requirements of section 5024.1 (g) of the Public Resources Code,
           shall be presumed to be historically or culturally significant. Public
           agencies must treat any such resource as significant unless the
           preponderance of evidence demonstrates that it is not historically or
           culturally significant.
        3) Any object, building, structure, site, area, place, record, or
           manuscript which a lead agency determines to be historically

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           significant or significant in the architectural, engineering, scientific,
           economic, agricultural, educational, social, political, military, or
           cultural annals of California may be considered to be an historical
           resource, provided the lead agency’s determination is supported by
           substantial evidence in light of the whole record. Generally, a
           resource shall be considered by the lead agency to be “historically
           significant” if the resource meets the criteria for listing on the
           California Register of Historical Resources (Pub. Res. Code
           SS5024.1, Title 14 CCR, Section 4852).
       4) The fact that a resource is not listed in, or determined to be eligible
          for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources, not
          included in a local register of historical resources (pursuant to
          section 5020.1(k) of the Pub. Resources Code), or identified in an
          historical resources survey (meeting the criteria in section 5024.1(g)
          of the Pub. Resources Code) does not preclude a lead agency from
          determining that the resource may be an historical resource as
          defined in Pub. Resources Code sections 5020.1(j) or 5024.1.


Under these definitions, the former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex does
not appear to qualify outright as a historic resource. However, as stated in CEQA
Guidelines Section 15064.5(a)(4), the fact that a property is not listed or determined
eligible for listing in the California Register, or identified in a historic resource survey,
does not mean that it is not a historical resource. El Cerrito does not have a historic
preservation program and consequently there is no local register of historic resources.
To the author’s knowledge, aside from volunteer efforts, no systematic survey of El
Cerrito has ever been conducted. Unless a property is part of a development site under
review for CEQA purposes, or if someone decides to nominate a property to the
National or California Register, it is unlikely that a historic property in El Cerrito would
ever have any formal status.


It is our judgment that the former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex at
10848 San Pablo Avenue has historical significance as a property that appears eligible
for listing in the California Register under Criterion 1.




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C. Determination of Significant Adverse Change under CEQA
According to CEQA, a “project with an effect that may cause a substantial adverse
change in the significance of an historic resource is a project that may have a
significant effect on the environment.”70 Substantial adverse change is defined as:
“physical demolition, destruction, relocation, or alteration of the resource or its
immediate surroundings such that the significance of an historic resource would be
materially impaired.”71 The significance of a historic resource is materially impaired
when a project “demolishes or materially alters in an adverse manner those physical
characteristics of an historical resource that convey its historical significance” and that
justify or account for its inclusion in, or eligibility for inclusion in, the California
Register.72


D. Analysis of Project-specific Impacts under CEQA
As mentioned above, the proposed project would demolish every building on the site,
including the potentially California Register-eligible Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House
complex at 10848 San Pablo Avenue. Demolition of a potential historic resource would
cause a significant adverse change in the significance of this resource. Unless
mitigated to a less-than-significant impact, the proposed project would have a
significant effect on the environment.




70
   CEQA Guidelines subsection 15064.5(b).
71
   CEQA Guidelines subsection 15064.5(b) (1).
72
   CEQA Guidelines subsection 15064.5(b) (2).


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IX. Conclusion

This Historic Resource Evaluation concludes that of the two properties evaluated as
part of this project (10848 and 10860 San Pablo Avenue), 10848 San Pablo contains a
building that may be eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources.
The property contains the former Contra Costa Florist building and the attached
Mabuchi House, which for the purpose of this evaluation is considered to be a single
building. The building appears eligible for listing in the California Register under
Criterion 1 (Events) for its association with the once-flourishing Japanese American cut
flower industry in El Cerrito and nearby Richmond. It also appears significant as a
property associated with the context of Japanese American immigration and settlement
in western Contra Costa County. The former Tradeway complex next door at 10860 San
Pablo Avenue does not appear eligible for listing in the California Register under any
criteria.


Eden Housing and the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency proposed to demolish all
buildings on the project site and replace them with a mixed-use building consisting of
commercial space on the ground floor and 64 affordable housing units for seniors on
the upper floors. As potential California Register-eligible resources, the demolition of
the former Contra Costa Florist/Mabuchi House complex would likely have a significant
adverse effect on the environment.




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X. Bibliography

A. Books, Periodicals, and Reports
Banks, Peter M. and Robert I. Orlins. Investigation of Cultural Resources within the
   Richmond Harbor Redevelopment Project 11-A, Richmond, Contra Costa County,
   California. Berkeley: March 1981.

Belfills, Mervin. “The Community’s Past 3,” El Cerrito Historical               Society:
    http://www.elcerritowire.com/history/pages/communityspast3.htm

California State Mining Bureau. Geology and Mineral Deposits of an Area North of San
   Francisco Bay: Vacaville, Antioch, Mount Vaca, Carquinez, Mare Island, Sonoma,
   Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Point Reyes Quadrangles, Bulletin 149. San Francisco:
   1949.

El Cerrito Historical Society. Draft Historic Context Statement: City of El Cerrito. El
   Cerrito, CA: unpublished manuscript, 2011.

_________. Images of America: El Cerrito. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2005.

_________. Remembering our Local Japanese Heritage: the El Cerrito and Richmond
   Flower Growers. El Cerrito: 2006.

Gellner, Arrol. Storybook Style: America’s Whimsical Homes of the Twenties. New York:
   Viking Studio, 2001.

Graves, Donna, Ward Hill, and Woodruff Minor. Historic Architecture Evaluation: The
   Oishi, Sakai, and Maida-Endo Nurseries, Richmond, CA. Berkeley: unpublished
   report prepared for Eden Housing, 2004.

Kawaguchi, Gary. Ethnicity, Resistance, and Cooperation: An Historical Analysis of
   Cooperation in the California Flower Market. Berkeley: Ph.D. Dissertation, University
   of California.

__________. Living with Flowers: The California Flower Market History. San Francisco:
   California Flower Market, 1993.

National Japanese American Historical Society. “The Flower Industry.” Nikkei Heritage,
   Vol. XIII, No. 3 (Summer 2001).

PBS & J. Historical Resources Evaluation: 10848 and 10860 San Pablo Avenue, El
   Cerrito, California. Sacramento: October 2008.

Siegel, Shizue. In Good Conscience: Supporting Japanese Americans during the
   Internment. San Mateo, CA: AACP, Inc., 2006.




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Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. New
   York: Penguin Books, 1989.

U.S. Department of the Interior. National Park Service. Japanese Americans in World
   War II – A National Historic Landmark Theme Study. Washington, D.C.: 2005.

Waugh, Isami Arifuku; Alex Yamamoto, and Raymond Okamura. “A History of Japanese
  in California.” In Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California.
  Sacramento: Office of Historic Preservation, 1988.

Yellin, Emily. Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front during
    World War II. New York: Free Press, 2004.

B. Government Records and Bulletins
California Death Index, 1940-1997.

California Office of Historic Preservation. Technical Assistance Series No. 6, California
    Register and National Register: A Comparison. Sacramento: California Office of
    State Publishing, November 2004.

CEQA Guidelines subsection 15064.5(b)

City of El Cerrito. “Property Cards for 10848 (formerly 1226) San Pablo Avenue.”

City of El Cerrito. “Property Cards for 10860 (formerly 1230) San Pablo Avenue.”

United States Department of Commerce – Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of
   the United States: 1930, El Cerrito Township.




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