BUSD to Unveil Latest Design to Replace Old Gym

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 31, 2008 - 10:01:00 AM

The Berkeley Unified School District will hold a public meeting Wednesday to discuss the latest design for new classrooms and athletic facilities on the south side of the Berkeley High campus. The district proposes to replace the landmarked Old Gym on Milvia Street, which houses the warm water pool, as outlined in the South of Bancroft Master Plan. 

The Berkeley Board of Education is scheduled to vote whether to approve the conceptual design on Aug. 20. 

Boardmembers have said in the past that the district’s ideal would be to build 15 or more classrooms in the new building to help alleviate the space crunch faced by Berkeley High students, who are forced to attend classes on the steps of the Community Theater at times. 

School Board President John Selawsky said the district would “reiterate and explain” the timeline for the proposed project at the meeting, adding that the demolition of the gymnasium would not begin before June 2011. 

Berkeley Unified passed a resolution last week to work with the City of Berkeley to relocate the warm water pool from the landmarked Old Gym to an appropriate location. 

Part of the master plan includes an opportunity for the district to work out a “property arrangement” with the city so that the city may construct a “replacement warm water pool.” 

The resolution calls for the city to prepare a ballot measure for the June 2010 election to improve the three community pool centers which are on district property, including the warm pool, and fund a new site for the warm pool.  

The district was sued over the South of Bancroft master plan last year by Friends Protecting Berkeley’s Resources for an inadequate environmental impact report, but settled the lawsuit with the group in February in exchange for a charette outlining possibilities to renovate the Old Gym. 

The warm pool is used by the City of Berkeley for recreational and therapeutic programs for seniors and disabled community members. 

According to a memorandum of understanding created in 1990, the city is responsible for operating and maintaining the pool and the adjacent north pool, which is closed for safety reasons, but provisions to recover costs from the school district also exist. 

All capital improvements have to be agreed upon by both the city and the district, according to a report included in the master plan. 

The conceptual design for the proposed project is being prepared by Baker Vilar Architects. A site committee has met eight times in the last six months to discuss the developments, said Lew Jones, the district’s facilities director.  

He said the proposed project was similar to the one outlined in the master plan. It would constitute three phases, starting with the construction of a two-story bleacher building between April 2010 and June 2011. 

The building, which will have bleachers on top, would be built on the opposite side of the football field where the old bleachers currently exist, Jones said. 

“It will have locker and coach rooms which are now located in the Old Gym,” he said. “Before we tear down the Old Gym, everything in it, with the exception of the warm water pool, will be replaced in the new bleacher building.” 

The demolition of the Old Gym would take place between June 2011 and November 2011, followed by the construction of a new classroom building and gymnasium from January 2012 to August 2013. 

“We were never going to do those simultaneously,” Selawsky said.  

He added that the district would be putting in four portables and renovating parts of the Berkeley High campus—including the studio at the Berkeley Community Media-to have up to seven classrooms ready for students in September. 

Selawsky said the district has only conceptual designs for the new classroom building at this point. 

Jones said the new classroom and gym building would be smaller than the Old Gym, which is around 86,000 square feet. 

“The classrooms will take up approximately 20,000 square feet and there will be two small gyms,” he said.