Campus Given $3 Million To Retrofit Student Union

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As part of a continuing effort to prepare UC Berkeley for the impending impacts of future earthquakes, the campus received a $3 million grant in federal money June 3 to partially fund the seismic retrofitting of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

The grant, provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, funds about 35 percent of the approximately $8.7 million project, which will reinforce several of the building's weak points and aims to raise the building from a "poor" to a "good" seismic performance rating.

The rest of the project will be supported by funds accrued from the life safety fee, a $46 fee included in per-semester campus-based fees.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there is a 67 percent chance an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or greater will hit the Bay Area sometime between 2003 and 2032.

Nick Peterson, project manager for UC Berkeley Capital Projects, said the retrofit of the building will focus on shoring up weaknesses in the Pauley Ballroom, adding steel reinforcement to the Tilden Room on the fifth floor and improving how the building's floor slabs tie into the structural wall.

Peterson said construction on the building began more than a week ago and will likely continue into the fall.

"We're hoping to have the bulk of the building back as functional as it was by Welcome Week and mid-August, and Pauley should be done by the end of September," he said.

Peterson managed a similar retrofit of Eshleman Hall - also designated with a "poor" seismic performance rating - that took place in March, but he said the Eshleman renovations were smaller in scope than the student union retrofit because Eshleman is slated to be demolished and replaced as part of the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative, a student referendum passed in April to raise funds for the renovation of Lower Sproul Plaza.

The initiative also calls for alterations to the student union building, but ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul said the current retrofit will be incorporated in the building's renovation.

According to Mark Whitaker, fiscal and policy analyst for the state Legislative Analyst's Office, the campus's task in preparing buildings for earthquakes is difficult to compare to other universities. He cited UC Berkeley and UCLA as the campuses facing the most challenges as they are both located near fault lines and have older buildings.

The student union's retrofit will not use state funds because the building is not used for teaching.

As the university decides how to allocate funding, enhancing the safety of old buildings is often at odds with taking on new projects, Whitaker said.

"Safety projects should be priority, he said. "But at the same time (UC campuses) have growing and evolving needs."


Contact Alisha Azevedo and Mihir Zaveri at [email protected]

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