BUSD Weighs Options for Move To West Campus

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday September 18, 2007

The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) is investigating options to move its administrative staff to its West Campus location, according to school officials. 

The proposed move was discussed as part of Friday’s 2x2 Committee meeting between city and school staff. 

The district now uses the Old City Hall, renamed the Maudelle Shirek Building, as its headquarters as part of its 20-year lease with the city which runs out in 2009. “We know the Old City Hall is unsafe and unhealthy,” said board director Joaquin Rivera. “And it’s not retrofitted.” 

“You should get out of that old building immediately,” Mayor Tom Bates told Rivera and Lawrence. “You put yourselves at risk, you put us at risk.” 

The district’s Facilities Construction Plan states that West Campus should be used as BUSD’s headquarters in the future. It comprises 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.  

“We are going through a couple of options for templates at the site but ultimately it would be nice to have a permanent structure there,” said district superintendent Michele Lawrence, who will be retiring in February. 

“Some modular buildings can be on the template for now. They can be placed in a corner so that you can have the University Avenue strip to see what kind of development goes in there. The staging has to be calculated ... We want the best short term that does not affect the long-term development.” 

Lawrence added that the district would also study the Creeks Ordinance, which safeguards the city’s many open and culverted waterways, before proposing any plans. 


Warm water pool 

Lawrence and school board vice president John Selawsky said the district was moving ahead with plans to make the Berkeley High School tennis courts on Milvia Street the new location for a warm water pool to replace the one now located in the school’s Old Gym. 

The district’s South of Bancroft Master Plan includes the demolition of the landmarked Old Gym to make room for new classroom facilities, with the option of relocating the warm water pool to Milvia Street. 

A lawsuit was filed earlier this year asking for a new environmental impact report on the district’s permit to demolish the gym building because the original environmental review did not adequately address the building’s historic status.  

The city is looking at ways to develop the tennis courts into a warm pool but has yet to come to an agreement with the school district about its use. 

A conceptual design was presented at a recent Disability Commission meeting for the second time. 

“It meets most of the requirements of the disabled community but the biggest issue is parking,” said Deputy City Manager Lisa Carona. “Parking is limited but it’s open for discussion depending on the needs of the school district.” 

She added that the proposed $10 million plan did not have any provision for parking above the pool, which would be on the ground floor. 

Corona added that the value of the land would be assessed Tuesday (today) and reported to the City Council. 

The district will first have to declare the Milvia Street property as surplus before leasing or selling it to the city. 

Bates asked the school board to identify legislation that would allow the school to donate the property to the city for use by the community. 

Downtown behavior 

Berkeley Police Department (BPD) chief Doug Hambleton informed the 2X2 committee that violence on the Berkeley High campus and downtown was under control. 

“We are not having a lot of violence downtown,” he said. “Merchants are pretty happy. We do have problems with kids congregating in front of Allston and Shattuck who are rude to police officers. We’d like to have more officers available to pay attention to that.” 

Hambleton added that some Berkeley High students continue to sit on the ledge outside the police department on Martin Luther King Way, apparently unaware of the possible $200 fine for sitting there. 

“The officers don’t like to fine kids, but it’s quite disruptive with all that screaming going on outside,” he said..