BUSD Unveils West Campus Plan Tonight

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 29, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

The Berkeley Unified School District is a step closer to relocating its administrative offices from the seismically unsafe Old City Hall building on 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way to the southwest portion of the West Campus, between Curtis and Browning streets. 

At a meeting today (Thursday) the district will unveil plans to house about 100 employees in three modular buildings in the parking lot of the former Berkeley Adult School, Berkeley Unified spokes-person Mark Coplan said. 

The proposed project comes with an $8,249,106 price tag, with the modulars themselves costing more than $5 million. 

Coplan said that the move will take place as early as 2010 and that the Berkeley Board of Education will weigh options about the future of the original brick building—abandoned for a new adult school a few blocks away on San Pablo Avenue—over the next six to seven years. 

“The architects are trying to save the brick building,” Coplan said. “The cost per square footage of renovating the building is much cheaper than building a new structure.” 

Since the West Campus site was abandoned in 2004, the buildings have suffered minor vandalism and graffiti, Coplan said. The city does its part to maintain the 5.5 acre site along with the school district, he added. 

“It’s tough there’s no regular population,” Coplan said. “The neighbors need to see people there and some activity, and hopefully we’ll be able to take it to the next step.” 

City and school district officials are exploring options to use the new Adult School auditorium for school board, City Council and other commission meetings, Coplan said, since the West Campus was not a feasible location for TV recordings. 

According to a report presented to the school board in January, the district’s planning efforts include the possibility of daylighting Strawberry Creek and constructing a childcare facility at the site.  

West Campus now is the home of a private preschool, which is over an underground creek. 

The district proposes to submit its plans for the West Campus project to the Division of the State Architect for approval, because students will eventually be housed in the pre-K classrooms, instead of to the city of Berkeley, which would have jurisdiction over non-classroom construction. 

Some community members have expressed concerns about the district’s proposed exemption from the City of Berkeley’s planning process. 

According to a report prepared by Baker Vilar Architects—the firm hired by Berkeley Unified to design the modulars—the idea behind the proposed project is to create greater efficiency and collaboration between divisions. 


Community Meeting 

7-8:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the childcare facility (between the swimming pool and main campus). The entrance is on Addison Street between Bonar and Browning.