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Planning Schizophrenia and UC Expansion

Tuesday January 20, 2004

The University of California recently released its Notice of Preparation (NOP) for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the next Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), which will “present a framework for campus land use and physical development to meet the academic goals and objectives of UC Berkeley through the year 2020.” 

When the university prepares an EIR, we know we’re in for a major spurt in construction and campus expansion. In fact, major construction sometimes proceeds without an EIR, as we’re witnessing in the case of the Molecular Foundry. 

Side-by-side with the LRDPs and the EIRs, the university is nurturing the New Century Plan (NCP), whose second most-important stated goal is “to ensure that each new investment preserves and enhances our extraordinary legacy of landscape and architecture,” and whose Strategic Academic Plan lists as its first principle “Limit Future Growth.” 

An important component of the NCP is landscape preservation, where the first strategic goal is “protecting significant natural areas and open spaces from further development,” and for which Policy 2.1 was created to “ensure no new projects intrude into the landscape preservation zones, as defined in the Design Guidelines.” 

In the campus architecture component of the NCP, one of the stated strategic goals is “ensuring new buildings enhance the spatial and architectural integrity of the classical core.” 

These and other noble goals pepper the NCP, while all the while mega-construction proceeds at full-tilt and planning for further expansion continues unabated. 

The recent NOP gives us a tidy demonstration of campus planning schizophrenia, embodied in the proposal for the Chang-Lin Tien Center for East Asian Studies, tacked onto the 2020 LRDP although it should have been part of the current LRDP (which runs through 2005). 

The NOP states: “The Tien Center is envisioned as a composition of two rectangular buildings. Phase 1 will be located at the south base of Observatory Hill on the site of the existing parking lot, facing Memorial Glade and Doe Library, and aligned with the central axis of the Glade. Phase 2 will be sited at the west base of Observatory Hill adjacent to Haviland Hall, oriented 90° to Phase 1.” 

The LRDP siting plan differs considerably from the plan displayed on the Tien Center website and the University Library website, where Phase 2 of the Tien Center is located on the east flank of Observatory Hill, near McCone Hall. 

Why is this difference in siting important? Because it affects two key resources on campus—Haviland Hall and Observatory Hill—and is directly at odds with the New Century Plan’s stated goals and policies. 

Haviland Hall (1924) is one of the campus’s architectural treasures. Designed by John Galen Howard, it was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 1981 (the bulk of the campus Landmarks were designated in 1988). It is number 82002161 on the National Register of Historic Places, added in 1982. 

Among the major academic buildings on campus, Haviland Hall is the most secluded. On all four sides, it is surrounded by landscaped open space, much of it consisting of dense tree and shrub plantings. On the eastern side of Haviland lies the historic Observatory Hill, home to a variety of native species, including Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), Pacific Madrone (Arbutus Menziesii), Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), and California Buckeye (Aesculus Californica), as well as to remnants of the old Students’ Observatory. 

A significant portion of Observatory Hill would be excavated and its nature areas sacrificed if Phase 2 of the Tien Center is built next to Haviland Hall. Adding insult to injury, the campus preservation zones plan treats the Tien Center as a fait accompli, making believe that the green area that still exists on the west flank of Observatory Hill is already gone and therefore not in need of preserving. So much for “protecting significant natural areas and open spaces from further development.” 

Haviland Hall itself is doomed to be overshadowed by the considerably taller Tien Center buildings (according to the NOP, “each building will be roughly 75 feet in height above the existing ground plane”). McCone Hall is several stories higher and can handle the competition (it’s also no beauty queen and possesses no historic significance). Haviland, situated on lower ground, will be severely overwhelmed and trivialized. It will no longer be visible from the steps of Dow Library or from the Campanile esplanade. This flies in the face of Policy 3.1 in the Campus Architecture Strategic Goals: 

“Projects within the Classical Core shall enhance the integrity of this ensemble, and complement rather than compete with existing historic buildings.” 

Building on Observatory Hill is not consistent with the goals of the New Century Plan. If I may make a modest suggestion to the campus planners, sometimes moving a department is preferable to adding yet more buildings to an already overcrowded campus. If the School of Social Welfare were to move to another location, Haviland Hall itself could make a fitting and stately new home for the Tien Center. 


Daniella Thompson is the webmaster for the Berkeley Landmarks website.