Public Comment


Barbara & Henrik Bull
Monday May 31, 2010 - 10:37:00 PM

When you are looking at your June ballot pamphlet, it might be a good idea to look into the future as well as the past. 

Looking to the future, in November there will be a bond issue of over $200 million that will include new classrooms and a new gymnasium at Berkeley High School at the site of the existing landmarked Old Gym and warm water pool.  

Looking back to 2000, Berkeley voters passed Measure AA, a bond issue for $116.5 million which focused on building new classrooms at Berkeley High. That money was spent for a variety of purposes, but no new classrooms were built. There was a need for classrooms in 2000 and there is perhaps a greater need now. 

The BUSD testified against granting landmark status to the old gymnasium building, saying that they were not bound by the restrictions that landmark status would impose on a private building owner. The Berkeley Landmarks Commission voted to landmark the Old Gym in 2008.  

The BUSD proceeded to hire architects to design a new classroom buildingat the site of the Old Gym and warm water pool. The architects were not told to study whether the proposed classrooms and gymnasium could be accommodated within the existing building. Little known to Berkeley citizens, the architects were assigned to design a new bleacher/ stadiumwith 2200 seats estimated to cost $10.4 million. This would be built before the classroom/gym building! 

In a city which prides itself on being “green”, BUSD seems to ignore the fact that the greenest building is one which already exists. On average, it takes 40-50 years to regain the energy wasted when a building is demolished. 

Concerned about the decision to demolish the Old Gym, a group of 22 volunteers, mostly design professionals, met at Berkeley High in 2008 to study the feasibility of accommodating the BUSD’s program within the Old Gym. They met for one morning. Many interesting ideas were generated in this brief study session and a report was presented to the BUSD. The were not interested. 

Being a member of the study group, I felt that a single unified plan should be developed. As a retired architect, I had time to pursue this task. I was pleased to find that the existing Old Gym could comfortably accommodate 18 classrooms rather than the BUSD program for 15 classrooms. Most would have lofty ceilings and high windows. A two story high gymnasium with ground floor spectator entry would fit comfortably. Theexisting warm water pool, which was recently upgraded by the City of Berkeley, would be retained. Based on the cost of the recent work at the Richmond Plunge, the total cost for renovating the pool and locker room would be within the$3 million which the voters approved for this purpose in 2000!. This contrasts with about $10 million for a newwarm water pool in the current Measure C ballot. 

Why not keep the existing warm water pool and not spend $10 million (of the $22.5 million measure C money) on a new facility? Why not renovate the Landmarked Old Gym to provide the needed classrooms and gymnasium? Is a new stadium with 2200 seats the highest priorityfor Berkeley High? 

You can view the architect’s plans for BUSD’s proposed buildings at:  

Click on educational, Berkeley High School South of Bancroft. 

Henrik Bull,FAIA
May 12, 2010