Seismically 'Poor' Campbell Hall Slated for Replacement

Photo: UC Berkeley's Campbell Hall (left) was deemed seismically
UC Berkeley's Campbell Hall (left) was deemed seismically "poor" in a 1997 campus report. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed providing $65 million to replace the building with a new seismically safe one (right).

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Correction Appended

Dexter Stewart is ready to move out of Campbell Hall.

Since 2003, Stewart, a student affairs officer in the UC Berkeley astronomy department, has worked in Campbell Hall - a 1959 building deemed seismically "poor" by a campus review. Though she said she is used to California earthquakes, she is ready for a change.

"This is the building on campus you don't want to be in (during) an earthquake," Stewart said.

In 1997, campus officials developed the Seismic Action plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal program (SAFER), ranking campus buildings from "very poor" to "good" based on resistance to damage and potential safety hazards from earthquakes.

At that time, 23 percent of campus assignable square feet was declared to be in need of retrofitting, according to Christine Shaff, communications director for the campus Department of Facilities Services.

However, Stewart and others in the building may see a reprieve in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed state budget and the $355 million he allocated for UC capital projects - including $65.2 million toward replacing Campbell Hall.

If funding is approved, the new building will include 53,138 assignable square feet and will create an estimated 480 jobs, according to a UC document. It will also expand the astronomy department and the physics department laboratories.

Currently, the building houses the astronomy and interdisciplinary studies departments, as well as the College of Letters and Science undergraduate advising and dean's offices.

Shaff said the architect is currently fine-tuning designs for the new building and aims to start demolition of the current building in early 2011. The campus also received an additional $11 million in federal grants, according to Shaff.

A Question of Funding Priorities

According to the seismic safety program's website, priority in retrofits is based on the building's seismic safety ranking and its equivalent continuous occupancy (ECO), a calculation of the number of people in a building at any given moment.

Mary Comerio, a professor at the UC Berkeley Institute of Urban and Regional Development, said in a 2000 paper that the campus buildings with the highest equivalent continuous occupancy include Dwinelle Hall, Valley Life Sciences Building, Barrows Hall and Etcheverry Hall.

"As a point of comparison, the ECO for each of these buildings is greater than that of Memorial Stadium - a space which holds some 75,000 people, but is only occupied about twelve afternoons for four hours each," the paper reads.

Shaff said decisions for seismic retrofits are based on seismic safety rankings as well as the availability of funding, adding that the equivalent continuous occupancy numbers would not "make or break" the decisions to retrofit.

However, the funding that would be used to replace Campbell Hall and four other buildings across the UC system is contingent on the passage of the proposed state budget.

Systemwide Seismic Retrofits

In a May 6 letter addressed to Robert Blumenfield, chair of the state Assembly's budget committee, UC President Mark Yudof requested support for funding the UC's projects, saying they were "long overdue" and "vitally needed."

According to Judy Heiman, a principal fiscal and policy analyst at the California Legislative Analyst's Office, the state budget conference committees have already approved the Campbell project and similar ones at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, UC Merced and UC San Diego, denying only a project at UC Irvine.

"The fact the governor requested (funding for Campbell) and it was approved by both the Assembly and the Senate means it has a pretty good chance," Heiman said.

Steve Montiel, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said the committee only selected projects that "involved seismic safety or some other kind of life safety" and UC Irvine's proposed project was a growth project.

Patrick Murphy, chair of the department of politics at the University of San Francisco and an adjunct researcher in budget and tax policy at the Public Policy Institute of California, said despite the economic climate, the state's funding of UC capital projects is a good use of funds, adding that around 75 percent of the projects are already under way.

"If you say 'stop tomorrow,' (construction workers) still have to be paid," he said.


Correction: Tuesday, July 20, 2010
A previous version of this article and its headline referred to the Campbell Hall construction as a retrofit. In fact, the building is going to be demolished and replaced.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Sara Johnson at [email protected]

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