Renovations to Force Moves by Cloyne Court Residents

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When Cloyne Court closes at the end of the semester for seismic retrofitting, housing officials will have to find spots elsewhere for members of Berkeley's largest co-op within the already-crowded system.

The renovation project, which is estimated to cost $6.3 million, will make about 150 spots temporarily unavailable until the house re-opens in fall 2009, said Jan Stokley, executive director for the Berkeley Student Cooperative. The scheduled shut-down date for Cloyne Court is Dec. 20, 2008.

Stokley said she does not expect problems relocating Cloyne residents to other co-ops, as the co-ops typically have a 10 to 12 percent vacancy rate in the spring. She also said a clause in the residents' housing contracts offers them spots in the system through the spring semester.

Senior Adriana Javier, a house manager at Cloyne, said she is annoyed by the move.

"I'm going to be displaced from what I considered my home for over a year," she said, adding that she witnesses up to 40 residents leaving after every semester. "It's just going to be sort of a larger mass of people having to move."

Planned construction at Cloyne may be an added inconvenience for co-op resident hopefuls, as co-op officials have said they are experiencing the longest waitlist in recent years at roughly 130 people.

However, Betsy Putnam, housing supervisor of the Berkeley Student Cooperative, said officials are committed to relocating Cloyne Court residents before accommodating waitlisted students, as they did with Casa Zimbabwe residents two years ago.

In 2006 when the 124-member Casa Zimbabwe closed for seismic retrofits, housing officials were able to relocate residents to other co-ops and find spots for people on the waitlist, Putnam said.

While the renovations may cause inconveniences for some co-op residents, co-op officials say they are aiming to update the city landmark, which was built in 1904, in accordance with current safety standards.

Burton Edwards, principal at Siegel & Strain Architects, presented the proposed changes to Cloyne Court at the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting last week.

The project aims to make the house seismically sound, which includes tearing down two firewalls that go through all three floors. Few changes will be made to the exterior.

In addition, the ground floor will be made wheelchair-accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. An elevator will not be added to the building, Edwards said.

Junior Alex Ghenis, the disabled access coordinator for the Berkeley Student Cooperative, said he was pleased overall with the proposal.

"Having that huge house be wheelchair-accessible will definitely introduce somebody in a wheelchair to a rowdy place, and for people who have not been near a person in a wheelchair, learn to be more understanding towards them," he said.

Cloyne Court residents must submit applications and preferences for spring housing by Nov. 12 and will be notified of their assignment by Dec. 1, according to Stokley.

Senior David Hampian, who has lived at Cloyne Court since fall 2007, said he is somewhat worried about the relocation process, but is looking forward to the change.

"I can look at it as a disruption, but I look at it as an opportunity. I'm accepting it and welcoming it and I think that's how a lot of the kids at my house feel," he said. "I don't think anybody wants Cloyne to be shut down for a semester, but everybody understands."


Carol Yur covers housing. Contact her at [email protected]

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