320 El Cerrito Exterior
320 El Cerrito Interior
About This Home
Set among other stately homes on a leafy street, this gracious home mixes natural light, lavish gardens, and richly textured details in one of Piedmont's great estates. Now, for the first time in decades, it is available.
A shady, romantic drive lined with stately redwoods fades deep into the property. In the deep front porch, a huge door of intricate ironwork and glass opens to a formal entry leading into two magnificent spaces. In the living room, light from an array of tall leaded-glass windows illuminates an exquisite coffered ceiling and limestone fireplace. Nearby, the dining room shows off a gold-leafed and delicately hand-painted ceiling, wall coverings, and a marble fireplace. Just beyond is a spectacular solarium with tiled fountain and wall insets, stenciled ceiling, leaded glass skylights, checkerboard stone tile flooring, and French doors to the expansive gardens. The vast kitchen with butler's pantry, huge island and adjoining family room also opens to the rear patio and gardens beyond. Back across the entry, leaded glass windows in the firelit library overlook the front gardens.
On the second floor, the paneled master suite features two walk-in closets, a fireplace with marble surround, and a private sitting room overlooking the gardens. This level also features four additional bedrooms and three more bathrooms, plus a spacious laundry and a bright study/office with a garden-view deck.
The third floor provides a huge family room with pitched ceiling, along with a kitchenette, two more bedrooms, and two baths. The approx. 1700 sq ft basement holds many more rooms and storage galore.
The home is enhanced inside and out by magnificent gardens front and rear. The tiered back garden rises from brick patios past a waterlily-covered koi pond to a sweeping green field big enough for soccer, badminton, corn-toss—whatever your imagination allows. While roses clearly take center stage in these gardens, they’re accompanied by everything from spiky birds of paradise and soft wisteria vines to a huge, highly productive vegetable garden. Three more structures share the grounds: a charming carriage house with a 1 bedroom apartment above and two-car garage below, a garden guest house with kitchenette and full bath, and a children’s playhouse and playground.
Set in the center of Piedmont, the home is just a few short blocks from the elementary, middle and high schools, the local market, express bus to San Francisco, the casual carpool and the central park. It’s also close to the shops, restaurants, and boutiques of Grand, Lakeshore and Piedmont Avenues. This is an incomparable jewel – and a timeless home to treasure.
- Built in 1911
- Approx. 8019 sq ft of living space in the home (measured)
- 7 bedrooms and 6.5 bathrooms (5 bedrooms/4 baths on the second floor & 2 bedrooms/2 baths on the third floor)
- Carriage house with 2 car garage and 1 bedroom apartment (additional 636 sq ft)
- Garden studio cottage with kitchen and bath
- - 43,388 sq ft parcel (per county records)
Provenance of this distinguished home
320 El Cerrito Avenue, Piedmont: a history
Construction on the mansion at 320 El Cerrito Avenue likely began in the fall of 1910, the date a building permit was taken out for the home. William C. and Florence Barnard were the owners. William was a broker in grain, and he and his wife had four children and a servant when they moved in.
The house is a fine example of Craftsman architecture, but many of its features make it unique. In typical Craftsman fashion, the roof has a wide overhang supported by decorative brackets. The rafter tails are exposed to fine effect. As a high-end Craftsman design, the house showcases a multitude of natural materials: brick in the porch and chimney, for a contrast in textures; wood in the clapboards and the Tudor-inspired half-timbering; and finely crafted leaded glass.
In 1922, H.M. Storey, who was the California director of Standard Oil, purchased the home and moved in with his wife, Grace, and their four children. (An oil tanker named after Storey was attacked during WWII, a footnote to the times.) A building records search reveals that during their years in the home the Storeys made numerous minor interior alterations.
Next came Horace O. Lanza, an early advocate for California wine. He and his wife, Selina, moved into 320 El Cerrito in 1944, and census data shows seven people living there. By 1952, Lanza was chairman of the boards of Lanza Vineyards and the California Grape Products Corporation. He encouraged many in the industry to pursue their education in the wine industry at UCD, where there is a scholarship in his name, established in 1987 by John L. Bree, in honor of his grandfather. Lanza continued to live in the house until at least 1972. Selina died in 1966, followed by Horace in 1983 at the age of 102; he is buried in Mountain View Cemetery.
Lanza hailed from Italy and is probably responsible for the way the formal rooms look today, with the many European-inspired details. He is the likely author of the elaborate decorations on the ceilings, the polychrome tile work in the solarium, the formal touches in the dining room, and the fine ironwork inside and out. In 1947, Lanza enlarged the kitchen and a bedroom and also raised the front-facing roof to enlarge the top-floor servants’ quarters. The blueprints still exist and can be found at Piedmont City Hall. It appears that Lanza built the backyard cottage as a kind of smoking room for him and his friends, as is wife forbade smoking in the house.
An article in the January 28, 1945, Oakland Tribune mentions the “old Italian interior and furnishings” in the Lanza house and features photos of young women in the gardens. The Lanzas often opened their home to receptions for the Oakland Symphony, the Opera League Board, and the California Federation of Music Clubs. Selina was also very active in the Ebell Society in Oakland. One can easily imagine the gala parties and receptions that went on in these splendid rooms.
The current owners, David and Linda Lei, have done much to preserve the home’s character. Major remodeling projects have included the kitchen, with its beautiful, hand-painted backsplashes full of Chinese symbolism, and the house-wide family room in the attic, with its two remodeled bedrooms and two updated baths.
The Leis have long been outstanding citizens of Piedmont and the broader Bay Area, lending their support to dozens of causes. David, now retired from an import business he founded, delivered the Commencement address this year at UC Berkeley as the 2019 Peter E. Hass Public Service Award honoree. David comes from a family inculcated in the idea of community service. Born in Taiwan, he serves on the boards of several Bay Area Chinese-American nonprofits, mentoring and serving others as he has done since his high-school days, and receiving numerous community-service awards. He is a sponsor of this year’s evocative film on the Chinese Exclusion Act, which is now showing.
Linda has a long history of service to not only Piedmont, but also to the broader Chinese-American community. She has served on the parent boards of the Piedmont Middle and High School, the Education Foundation, and Dress Best for Less, and is a past president of the Piedmont Asian-American Club. She was one of the leaders in advocating Mandarin as a foreign language in the Piedmont schools and later helped secure a $250,000 federal grant to improve the Mandarin program at PUSD; she also served as its Director of Mandarin curriculum. In 2005, Linda received the Lois Blair Rawlings Educational Inspiration Award for her contributions as a teacher and community volunteer.
As a past president and board member of Society for Asian Art, Linda continues to develop art education programs to support the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. In addition to her 15 years’ work as a docent at the Asian Art Museum, she has chaired the rigorous docent training program for both adult and school programs. Linda comes from a long line of scholars and educators in her family, and the Leis’ daughter, Adrienne, raised at 320 El Cerrito Avenue, continues the family tradition as the Manager of Education & Public Programs at the Frick Collection in NYC.
Who will carry on this fine legacy as the next owner of the estate at 320 El Cerrito Avenue, Piedmont? The home awaits.
NOTES AND RESEARCH
2019 Peter E. Hass Public Service Award at UC Berkeley, where he was Commencement speaker. Begins 1:34:34.
Center for Asian American Media
KQED HERO AWARD
Lei is an accomplished entrepreneur with a deep-seated commitment to community development. In his 40 years of involvement with Bay Area nonprofits, he has volunteered his time for numerous charitable events and served on the boards of organizations such as the Chinatown Community Development Center and the Asian Art Museum. Most recently, he co-founded the Chinese American Community Foundation to support donors who want to be resources for nonprofits serving Chinese American communities.He currently serves as its Vice Chairman.
CHINESE-AMERICAN COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
David is an accomplished entrepreneur with a deep-seated commitment to community development. After graduating with a degree in Business Administration from UC Berkeley, he started his own consumer goods exporting company in 1981–but not before spending time in the social sector, working with at-risk Asian and African-American youth through Chinatown’s YMCA and Richmond’s Model Cities program.
Giving back to the community and learning how to create new economic opportunities were both foundational aspects of David’s upbringing. While still in high school, David spent much of his days volunteering at the Donaldina Cameron House, where he mentored over 40 students and developed leadership skills that later helped him succeed in different fields of work. At age 18, David also co-founded the Chung Ngai Dance troupe, a nonprofit performing arts organization providing team-building activities and summer jobs to Chinatown youth. With David part of the management team, the troupe pulled in performance revenues north of $40,000 a year, at a time when the federal and state minimum wage was still less than $2 an hour.
In college, David served on his first board as a member of Chinatown North Beach Family Planning. Since then, he has been on the leadership team of multiple organizations, including the Chinese Performing Arts Foundation (which he co-founded); the Chinatown Community Development Center (then known as the Chinatown Resource Center); the Center for Asian American Media; the San Francisco Lunar New Year & Parade Festival Committee; the City of San Francisco’s Asian Arts Commission; the Academy of Chinese Performing Arts; World Arts West’s San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival; the Asian Chefs Association; and UC Berkeley’s Berkeley China Initiative.
In 2006, David sold his business and retired, but only nominally. His curiosity continues to drive him to explore new business opportunities, including an artisanal chocolate line in China and a wine export venture. He remains as active in the community as ever, working to introduce sustainable funding models to community-based organizations.
New member the Chinese American Community Foundation was featured last week in the San Jose Mercury News:
A group of East Bay residents from Orinda, Piedmont, Berkeley and Oakland has launched a foundation with the idea of building an energetic Chinese-American community to promote philanthropy and volunteerism.
The Chinese American Community Foundation, launched Feb. 28 in San Francisco, hopes to use its donor community to tackle challenging problems and advance creative solutions within the Bay Area’s growing Chinese-American population. Led by Board Chairman Dr. Rolland Lowe, of Orinda, Vice Chairman David Lei, of Piedmont, and Treasurer Buck Gee, of Hiller Highlands, the foundation’s goal is to strengthen community-based nonprofits that support Chinese-American society.
The need for this foundation is based on the fact that though many nonprofits operate within the Chinese-American community, running the gamut from youth and senior services to immigration issues and newcomer services, few services exist to ensure their survival. To answer this need, the foundation will work toward becoming a leading platform for sustained philanthropy, focusing on two main areas. The first is to create a more dedicated, aware and effective community of donors.
EXCLUSION ACT – FILM
The Appreciating Diversity Film Series (ADFS) presents free screenings of The Chinese Exclusion Act on Wednesday, October 17, and Saturday, October 20, 2018. The Chinese Exclusion Act explains the causes, consequences, and continuing impact of the only federal legislation in United States history to single out and name a specific race and nationality for exclusion from immigration and citizenship – a timely look at an episode in American history that resonates today. Award-winning documentary filmmakers Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu shed light on the origin, history, and impact of the 1882 law that made it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America and for Chinese nationals already here ever to become U.S. citizens. The first in a long line of laws targeting the Chinese for exclusion, it remained in force for more than 60 years.
Following the screening, well-known community advocate David Lei, who is featured in the film, will lead a discussion on this little-known part of American history and its relevance for 2018 and beyond.
His passion for building communities, social changes/improvements, youth education and the arts has led to his becoming a tireless Bay Area volunteer with many organizations, such as the Center for Asian American Media.
The best way to understand a home is to hear from those who have lived there. Here is what the sellers have to say about the home that they have loved for many years.
"In 1992, when we started looking for a larger home in Piedmont, there were several stately homes on the market. Although some homes were grander and in much better condition, 320 El Cerrito really spoke to us. The property had wonderful features that we greatly appreciated: beautiful grounds that included majestic redwood trees, lovely rose gardens, ponds, a rustic cottage, and a carriage house. The interior of the main house had exquisite features that were built by the hands of Old-World artisans, and the “bones” of the house were so solid that we knew that with some careful renovation the house could be restored to its original glory with modern conveniences. Thus, shortly after purchasing the property, we embarked on large-scale renovations that included the kitchen, solarium, dining room ceiling, bathrooms, bedrooms, and the entire third floor. After the dust settled, the end results were perfect for our needs. Our family enjoyed the home and lovingly maintained it for 25 additional years.
What do we most like about the house? There are just too many reasons to list! But here are a few:
Location: central Piedmont. This means convenient distances to all schools, city activities, and public transportation. After living in another house on the far side of Piedmont where we had to drive our daughter everywhere, the central location where she could safely walk to school and friends’ houses was a vital feature.
Neighborhood, the street, and our caring neighbors. Even though over the years several new young families have moved in, the new neighbors continue the traditions of street gatherings on 4th of July, a holiday progressive dinner, and more. There is renewed vibrancy on the street! Our family hosted the annual Halloween pumpkin carving party when our daughter was young, and the next-door neighbors always had an Easter egg hunt. Neighbors have always been friendly and have watched out for each other.
The house. The main house has beautifully proportioned rooms for entertaining, whether for a small family gathering or 100 guests. The house is grand and elegant, and yet it is warm, homey, light, and airy. We hosted so many memorable local and international events! Guests would flow effortlessly from the formal rooms through the solarium and out to the patio and gardens. Our front steps also became the perfect spot for a class picture for my students from the Middle School, and our annual end-of-school class party was always a highlight for my kids. The third-floor family room was a special room for Adrienne’s sleep-overs and birthday parties. One year, her class Homecoming float was even built in our back yard! The back yard grassy area has been perfect for outdoor games for kids and adults. So many wonderful memories! Oh, let's not forget about the library—David’s personal retreat.
The grounds. Towering redwood trees and the beautiful rose garden—David loved sitting under the redwood trees reading a book, and caring for the garden. I enjoyed cutting all the flowers, especially the roses to put into floral arrangements. My friends from the Garden Club always love to forage through my yard for that special flower or greens for their creations. Bountiful fruit trees and vegetable gardens were always so welcome. Every year, neighbors and friends would wait patiently for our home-grown tomatoes and persimmons to mature. They are better tasting than anything from the farmers’ market!
Although we enjoy the peace and tranquility on this property, it is just steps away from all the conveniences that Piedmont has to offer. Our home is a private oasis in the middle of the city. We leave this beautiful home of nearly 27 years with sadness. However, we feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to enjoy it for such a long time. Now it is time for new owners to take on this lovely estate."
About the City of Piedmont
The independent city of Piedmont is one of the East Bay’s most sought-after communities. The town, measuring just two square miles, offers a wide variety of homes, from bungalows to mansions, wonderful parks, verdant neighborhoods, and marvelous views of the Bay and San Francisco beyond. It is often called the “queen of the hills.”
San Francisco magazine once declared the town the “best place for kids,” and it’s easy to see why, as its school district offers excellent, nationally ranked public schools (Piedmont High School is one of the top high schools in the nation according to US News and World Report). Locally controlled emergency services and police are based in the center of a town measuring only one mile by two, so sub-five-minute response times on the part of police, fire, and medical personnel are commonplace.
Piedmont is both a neighborhood of San Francisco and of the greater East Bay, with 20-minute express bus and casual carpool convenience to downtown San Francisco and easy commuting into Oakland and Berkeley. It is a small independent municipality with excellent local control of its affairs; it combines the charm of a small town with the amenities of one of the country’s most sophisticated regions. It is most of all a community of deep traditions, including a classic Fourth of July parade and closed-street block parties, summer movies-in-the-park, an arts center, community pool, tennis and basketball courts and playfield, and kids’ sports organizations of all types. Mulberry’s Market is a central fixture in town, and the thriving Piedmont Center for the Arts features everything from classical music to rock, plays, and arts exhibits of every kind. Public-private partnerships, such as the Piedmont Beautification Foundation, have a long history of supporting the town and its beauty. Several parents’ organizations uphold the schools.
The adjacent Oakland districts of Montclair Village, Grand Avenue, Lakeshore Avenue, Piedmont Avenue, and Glenview provide everything from classic movie theaters to award-winning restaurants, singular boutiques, independent bookstores, and wonderful farmers’ markets on weekends. The town is well served by public transportation, access to local freeways is easy, and a pair of well-established “casual carpool” centers serve San Francisco commuters in fine fashion.
Centrally located in an ideal climate zone, Piedmont is convenient to the greater Bay Area, the Wine Country, and the Sierras.
Driving distances and average times from Piedmont to:
- UC Berkeley: four miles (15 minutes)
- San Francisco, Financial District: 10 miles (20 minutes)
- Silicon Valley (Cupertino): 50 miles (1 hour)
- Stanford University: 38 miles (50 minutes)
- San Jose: 45 miles (50 minutes)
- The Napa Valley (St. Helena): (1 hour, 15 minutes)
- UC Davis: 65 miles (1 hour, five minutes)
- Sacramento: 80 miles (1 hour, 30 minutes)
- Squaw Valley: 190 miles (3 hours)
- Lake Tahoe, North Shore (Tahoe City): 195 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
- Incline Village, NV (North Lake Tahoe): 200 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes)
- Heavenly Valley (South Lake Tahoe): 184 miles (3 hours, 10 minutes)