University Makes First Moves To Raze Public Health Building

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 11, 2009 - 07:54:00 PM

UC Berkeley has taken the first step toward demolition of one of the city center’s biggest buildings, the 120,000-square-foot, eight-story former home of the state Department of Health Services. 

The initial move will be the selection of an expert to ensure the proper handling of any radioactive materials remaining at the site from research conducted at the site between 1980 and 2005, according to the request for qualifications (RFQ) issued by the university’s Capital Projects division. 

The structure, situated across Oxford Street from the main campus, occupies the block bounded by Oxford, Hearst and Shattuck avenues and Berkeley Way. 

Built a half-century ago, the structure was vacated by the DHS in 2005, and the university is planning a major high-rise project on the site, the largest single element of the 850,000 square feet of new construction covered by its Long Range Development Plan 2020. 

The university’s off-campus expansion plans into the heart of the downtown prompted a lawsuit which will produce a new Downtown Area Plan, which the City Council is slated to adopt next month. 

The council-appointed Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) devoted several discussions during its two-year run to consideration of the university plans for the site. 

During a March 7, 2007, DAPAC meeting, UCB planner Kerry O’Banion told the committee the university’s plans for the site call for a new “Community Health Campus,” shared by the schools of public health and optometry and the departments of neuroscience and psychology. 

“All four have outreach programs and subjects coming in for assistance and diagnosis. The optometry clinic is very heavily used, and there is also a lot of outreach. They are all good, likely candidates to be off the main campus,” O’Banion told DAPAC. 

The university’s slogan for the project “From Publication to Public Action,” defines the range of services planned for the new facility, ranging from research (publication) to action (treatment and public health measures). 

“The campus plan has always been to demolish the building,” Christine Schaff, communications representative of the university’s Facilities Services department, said Wednesday. 

“This is the first initial step,” she said, referring to the RFQ seeking “a qualified radiological contractor to develop and implement a plan that will demonstrate compliance” with state cleanup regulations. 

Schaff said no timeline has been set for demolition because nothing can be certain until the radiological work has been completed. 

No plans for the new building have been developed, though university officials told DAPAC they may opt for a high-rise at one corner of the structure facing the campus. 

The deadline for applications for radiological contractors in June 26.