UC Berkeley’s student-run newspaper, which was recently faced with the threat of eviction, will retain its campus office. However, the Daily Californian may be forced to cede some of its space to other student groups.
The university’s Store Operations Board, composed of students and administrators, voted unanimously Tuesday evening to authorize a renewal of the Daily Californian’s lease, ensuring that the paper will keep its sixth-floor office in Eshleman Hall on Bancroft Way.
Newspaper officials cheered the move, arguing that a termination of the lease and a move off campus would have harmed the Daily California’s ability to recruit and retain student employees. The paper has 150 people on staff, almost all of them students.
The Daily Californian, which operates independently of the university, first encountered lease troubles this spring when then-student body President Wally Adeyemo, who served on the Store Operations Board, suggested replacing the newspaper with a public service center on the sixth floor.
Newspaper officials suggested that Adeyemo, who frequently clashed with the Daily Californian, made the recommendation for political reasons. Adeyemo said he simply wanted to provide space for campus groups that needed it.
The board voted on May 14 to table Adeyemo’s proposal and order a study of office space in the seven-story Eshleman Hall.
The board voted Tuesday night to renew the lease, but said the Daily Californian must be willing to make concessions. Citing the space study, which revealed that 142 student groups applied for about 70 slots in Eshleman this year, the board directed its lease negotiators to pursue a reduction in the Daily Californian’s square footage, freeing up room for other student groups.
The board also recommended that the lease include a provision for more advertising space in the Daily Californian for the student government – the Associated Students of the University of California – and other campus groups.
Under the terms of its current lease, which expired July 31 and is operating on a month-to-month basis, the newspaper pays part of its rent through advertising credits for student groups. The board has recommended an increase in the number of credits.
Daily Californian Editor-in-Chief Rong-Gong Lin, II said he is looking forward to a “good compromise” in lease negotiations, but has “concerns” about the possible reduction in space and increase in advertising credits.
Lin’s manager of classified advertising Corinne Chen gave voice to those concerns at the board meeting, arguing that an increase in advertising and a corresponding reduction in page space for articles would damage the integrity of the newspaper.
She also said a reduction in office space is untenable because employees already share desks.
“To reduce our space... would be nothing less than punishing us for providing the largest free speech forum on campus,” Chen said.
But several board members said the Daily Californian does not merit an entire floor to itself, arguing that the paper must yield space to other student groups.
“Who are you to weigh one service over another?” asked Han Hong, a board member and ASUC executive vice president.
The newspaper’s rent will be a key element in the upcoming lease negotiations. The Daily Californian currently pays $7,428 per month, or $1.80 per square foot. The newspaper says the local real estate market has softened significantly since it signed the current lease three years ago and it is asking for a return to 1999 rates of $1.41 per square foot, or $5,770 per month.
To support its claim that the rental market has softened, the Daily Californian presented the operations board with rental rates for five area properties, ranging from $1.15 to $1.55 per square foot.
But Thomas Cordi, director of the ASUC Auxiliary, which manages Eshleman Hall, said he had “serious questions” about the Daily Californian’s figures.
Cordi said several of the properties cited by the newspaper are not suitable office space, arguing that the rates for similar, appropriate space in the city range from $1.80 to $2.35 per square foot.
Newspaper officials say they need the rent reduction because a nationwide slump in newspaper advertising sales, brought on by the economic downturn, has damaged the Daily Californian’s bottom line.
General Manager Hubert Brucker said sales from national advertisers have declined 40 percent since the downturn and that local sales have also slumped.