After declaring Hillside School to be surplus property, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) is getting ready to give the same designation to the Berkeley High School tennis courts and property at West Campus and on Sixth Street.
The BUSD Surplus Committee submitted the report to the School Board on Hillside School site earlier this year. The School Board will now decide whether they will sell the property or put it on a long-term lease.
Six of the Surplus Committee members will continue their work on the committee and the board is looking for five new ones, said BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan.
“At this point it looks like a property management firm will be brought in to manage the Hillside property and set up a long term lease. The direction is definitely toward a long-term lease rather than selling,” said Coplan.
The property—which is 2.85 acres—has a split-level three-story wood frame building and a portable. Designed by Walter Ratcliff and built in 1926, the main building of the Hillside property has been designated a city and state landmark.
Hillside has housed BUSD students in the past. It can no longer do so because a trace of the Hayward Fault is located under the main building.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to sell school assets because you never know when you might need to use it in the future. However, in the case of the Hillside property, there is nothing that can be done with it. It has always been a problem because it’s an aging building and is located on a fault. Why maintain something if you are never going to use it?,” said School Board Vice President John Selawsky.
Selawsky said that the first criterion that was considered before surplusing school board assets was to see if there was any current or future use of the property.
“The second criteria is the ability to maintain the property. Maintenance alone is a huge cost,” he said.
In the past, Coplan said, BUSD has declared several of its properties to be surplus, including Grizzly Peak School and Tilden Primary School near Tilden Park and a section of Jefferson Elementary School on Rose Street which now houses the Crowden School of Music.
Selawsky also said that the board was looking for a possible site for shifting the BUSD headquarters from the Old City Hall building. “In a way it will be good to move out from there. The building is not retrofitted. We are ideally looking for something between 20,000-25,000 square feet, a place that will house offices and conference rooms,” he said.
BUSD exchanged a part of its property on Sixth Street with the City of Berkeley for use of the Old City Hall building as part of a 20-year lease which runs out in 2009.
“Part of the city’s health department moved into some of the BUSD property on Sixth Street. It is currently occupied by the Long Life Health Center. For Long Life to go on a long term lease, BUSD has to deem the property surplus,” said Selawsky.
According to the district’s Facilities Construction Plan (2006), West Campus will be used as the district’s headquarters in the future.
Currently, West Campus is comprised of nine buildings, several of which are connected. The administration, girls’ gymnasium, auditorium and classroom (Bonar Street) buildings are reinforced concrete construction while the library, cafeteria and shop building are wood frame construction. The boys’ gymnasium was constructed in 1930, the library was built in 1941, the auditorium and classroom buildings were built in 1953, and the administration, girls’ gymnasium, cafeteria and shop were constructed in 1967.
“Another potentially surplus property involves some acreage on West Campus which the city and merchants would like to use for commercial development,” said Coplan.
Some property on University Avenue which is part of West Campus is currently unused by the BUSD.
The Berkeley High School Tennis Courts—a possible site for the relocation of the warm water pool—is also on the list of potential surplus sites.
The current warm water pool, which is used by a large segment of the disabled community, is located in the Old Gym at Berkeley High. A lawsuit has been filed asking for a new environmental impact report on the district’s permit to demolish the building because the original environmental review did not adequately address the building’s historic status.
The city is looking at the possibility of developing the tennis courts into a warm pool.
“The city needs a resolution on that soon,” said Coplan. “The district is in a position to give up the property and the South of Bancroft master plan indicates the use of the tennis courts for a warm water pool already. It all depends on what kind of an agreement the city and the school board can come to.”
Coplan said that another possible location for the warm water pool could be West Campus, and the property now occupied by Iceland has been suggested as another alternative.