School District Gets Ready to Sell Sixth Street Property

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday October 03, 2008 - 11:57:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District’s historic property on Sixth Street—which started out as the Berkeley Day Nursery many decades ago and is now home to West Berkeley’s LifeLong Medical Clinic—will be sold if the district finds a suitable buyer, district officials said. 

The Berkeley Board of Education approved the sale at a public meeting last Thursday after declaring it “surplus”—or no longer fit for public education use—in April. 

The City of Berkeley made an agreement with the school district in 1979 to lease the property on 2031 6th St. for 30 years in exchange for letting the district use the Old City Hall at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way for the same time period. 

With the trade-off, in which both sides paid $1 annually for three decades, coming to an end in 2009, the district has now set its sights on rehabilitating the former Berkeley Adult School at the West Campus site for its new headquarters. 

The City of Berkeley, district officials said, has expressed an interest in buying the 6th Street property, a Tudor Revival building designed by Walter H. Ratcliff, which is both a national and a local landmark. 

The city subleases the building to LifeLong Medical Health Center, which provides medical services—including prenatal and pediatric care—to underserved and uninsured people. 

At a community meeting held in March to discuss the future of the Sixth Street site, more than 100 people turned up to support LifeLong’s continued existence at its current spot. 

“LifeLong Medical has done incredible things, and anything we can do to help them is good,” Councilmember Kriss Worthington said. “They provide a really important service for the city and the community.” 

Julie Sinai, chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bates, said the city manager’s office would meet with Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett to discuss the city’s interest in the property. 

“Our goal is to keep LifeLong,” she said. “We haven’t received any information on what the cost is going to be. We want to work it out, but it has got to be within our means.” 

The district’s Director of Facilities Lew Jones said the property had been appraised but added that he couldn’t divulge the amount to the press. 

“Our belief is that the city will be interested in buying it,” he said. “They have 60 days to decide from when they receive a letter from us. We will be sending out the letter in three or four days. If they don’t express any interest, we can put it out to other public entities such as UC Berkeley or Alameda County. Depending on what happens there, we can offer it for sale to private entities.” 

Jones said that the building had never been reviewed by the Division of the State Architect to see if it could be renovated to current safety codes. 

“We just didn’t feel that it would be of any good use to us,” he said. “It was too small to be used as an administrative building, and it wasn’t appropriate to hold classes there either.”