The Berkeley Board of Education voted Wednesday to proceed with the South of Bancroft Plan—which calls for the demolition of the nationally landmarked Old Gym to make room for a stadium and 15 new classrooms, with the option of relocating the warm-water pool located inside it to a site on Milvia Street—and approved $1.4 million for Baker Vilar Architects to design the new facilities.
The board had discussed the outcome of a charrette held last month to settle a lawsuit against the Berkeley Unified School District at its April 9 meeting but had not taken any action. Friends Protecting Berkeley’s Resources sued the school district last year for what it called an inadequate environmental impact report on the demolition of the gymnasium and warm-water pool.
The charrette results illustrated adaptive reuse of the Old Gym to meet the school’s academic and physical education needs as identified in the master plan. The district’s Director of Facilities Lew Jones praised charrette participants for their ideas and commitment to Berkeley schools and included their three basic schemes for rehabilitation in his staff report.
The first concept proposed classrooms on the second floor and added a basement to a portion of the Old Gym. The second concept—suggested by community members concerned about maintaining a league-sized football field at the high school—would demolish a part of the building to accommodate the field and convert the north pool into a warm-water pool. The third plan calls for the demolition of the Donahue Gym, constructing classrooms on the first floor and converting the north pool into the warm-water pool.
According to the staff report, although none of the groups focused on preserving the 1936 Chace retrofit—historically the most important concept identified by the district—a majority of it could be preserved in a retrofit.
Warm-water pool users encouraged the board to preserve the Old Gym and the warm pool, citing a recently released city tax survey which shows that voters do not favor a $23 million Pool Improvement bond measure to build a warm water pool, renovate the city’s three existing pools and add youth water play recreational activities.
“A bond is not very encouraging in the present economic time,” said warm pool user Richard Moore.
One Warm Pool Advocacy Group Co-Chair JoAnn Cook waited until the end of the meeting to hear the board’s decision on the master plan.
“Your assistance and advocacy is more important than ever after the disappointing results of the bond survey,” she said.
Board member Joaquin Rivera asked Jones about future plans for the relocation of the warm water pool.
Jones told the board the relocation to the Milvia Street tennis courts, as outlined in the master plan, had not been discussed in great detail.
“It’s not just a district issue,” Rivera said. “We need to talk to the city. We need to make sure before we demolish the Old Gym there is something else.”
The Old Gym is scheduled for demolition around or after spring 2010, district officials said.
School board president John Selawsky mentioned the downtown YMCA and West Campus as alternate locations to the Milvia Street site.
“We need to figure out what’s feasible because it doesn’t seem too promising with the bond,” Rivera said.
The mayor’s office is also exploring ways to convert the Milvia Street tennis courts into a warm pool but have not yet reached an agreement with Berkeley Unified about its use.
The district currently has funding to demolish the Old Gym and to plan the new building, but no money to build it.
Jones said that funding options included state resources or bond measures.
School board opposes aerial spray
The board unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday to oppose the aerial spraying of the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM). District officials said the spray zone includes Berkeley public schools and facilities.
A group of parents, teachers and students turned up to speak against the aerial spraying and quoted research about its possible adverse health effects.
“Something about this does not smell right,” said one parent.
The state Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plan to carry out an aerial spraying program to eradicate the LBAM in nine California counties, including Alameda County, starting this summer.
Native to Australia, the pest can reportedly impact more than 2,000 plant species.
Complaints against the aerial spraying of CheckMate—an encapsulated artificial pheromone product—have been lodged by the cities of Albany, Berkeley and Oakland. The three cities have also adopted resolutions opposing it.
Santa Cruz won its lawsuit against the CDFA for a similar aerial spraying Thursday.
Additionally, five different State Assembly bills—including one from Assemblymember Loni Hancock which lost in committee— would either ban, limit or require additional reviews or authorization before the spraying occurs, especially around urban and residential areas.