Tolman Hall classrooms close due to poor seismic rating

Tolman Hall, located at the northwest corner of UC Berkeley’s campus, received a rating of “poor” in a 1997 seismic safety survey, which has generated concern among those with offices in the building.
Anna Vignet/Senior Staff
Tolman Hall, located at the northwest corner of UC Berkeley’s campus, received a rating of “poor” in a 1997 seismic safety survey, which has generated concern among those with offices in the building.

The removal of classes and student activities from Tolman Hall — which occurred July 15 — due to the building’s “poor” seismic rating has been the source of recent tension between campus administration and faculty members with offices still in the building.

Located at the northwestern-most corner of campus, Tolman Hall is home to the offices of the campus Department of Psychology and Graduate School of Education. The structure also houses the Education Psychology Library and 13 general assignment classrooms — rooms reserved for sections that do not have offices in Tolman Hall.

The building’s “poor” seismic rating ranks only one above the lowest of four possible ratings from a 1997 survey that started the UC Berkeley SAFER program — a campuswide initiative to retrofit or replace 27 percent of the main campus’s total space, which was found to have a seismic rating of “poor” or “very poor.”

Since then, 75 percent of the buildings targeted for renovation or replacement have projects underway or have improved their seismic ratings, according to the program’s website. Eliminating classes in general assignment classrooms is part of an incremental effort to reduce the traffic of students and faculty in buildings with lower seismic ratings.

The removal of classes from general assignment classrooms was discussed in a recent memo sent by Catherine Koshland, vice provost of teaching, learning, academic planning and facilities, to deans and chairs of departments housed in Tolman Hall. The memo states that the decision was made to move people out of the building “to the greatest extent possible.”

“It is our intention that moving Tolman Hall’s (general assignment) classes to other locations on campus will be the first increment of an effort to move the building’s departments and programs to other appropriate campus locations,” Koshland said in the memo. “Finding enough alternative space to accommodate all programs and activities now occupying Tolman will be a challenge.”

The “alternative space” discussed in Koshland’s memo is only one of several areas of concern for staff members — academic and nonacademic — whose offices are in the building. Campus education professor Dan Perlstein said he still “has questions about our continued presence in a building that the university deems unsafe.”

“I understand that the university limits its liability, but once you’ve identified that, to leave some offices there seems odd,” Perlstein said. “It’s also a kind of strange calculus of who’s worth what.”

Koshland rejected the idea that the Tolman Hall staff members were being singled out, saying that “their risk is not any different from other people whose buildings are rated poor. They are not being discriminated against.”

“The first thing … everyone has to remember is that the seismic status of that building is no different today than it was since 1997,” Koshland said. “Remember what we have been trying to do as a campus … to address the seismic situation.”

Nonetheless, staff in Tolman Hall remain apprehensive. One staff member, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said the administration has opened themselves up “morally … and legally, probably.”

“They said ‘why are you all of a sudden panicking? Because you have always been in this crappy building and told that it was rated poorly,’” the staff member said. “Well, now they are pulling people out, so that creates a different kind of division among those who have a right to be safe and those who do not … I don’t see how they can get around that, I mean morally.”

Psychology Department Chair Richard Ivry — whose department’s offices are located in Tolman Hall — draws a somewhat different conclusion. He said he believes that removing students “is the sensible thing to do.”

“However … it’s somewhat discouraging to those of us still in Tolman,” Ivry said. “It may be a slow process to replace Tolman. It is going to remain a risky situation.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that 75 percent of the campus buildings were rated by the engineering review of UC Berkeley facilities that was conducted in 1997 as being “poor” or “very poor.” In fact, approximately 27 percent of the main campus’s total space was rated “poor” or “very poor.”

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  • Bottom line is that if Tolman staff/faculty are that concerned, they should relocate to the midwest.

  • chicken farmer

    It would be good to see a comparison of all the departments and units in all the buildings on campus to see who seems to receive more favorable treatment. Engineering, science, law, business school, education….there is a pecking order at UC Berkeley and lets not forget “money talks”. 

    • Guest

      Your suspicions aren’t confirmed by fact.  The corrections priority is based on ratings and risks.  The first three buildings to be reinforced were South, Wheeler, and California.  No science, engineering, or professional schools there.

      • Anonymous

        Those — and more– were completed prior to the SAFER program.

        The UC Regents adopted the University of California Seismic Safety Policy in 1975. Following that, the Berkeley campus participated in a system-wide study of seismic performance ratings that assigned a rating of “Good” “Fair” “Poor” or “Very Poor” to its facitlities. of of a rating system for the seismic safety of campus buildings in 1975, UC Berkeley In the years following this study , the campus retrofit a number of deficient buildings. Corrections totaling approximately $250 million had been made in 1997, including the retrofit of three high-rise residence hall complexes. All of these corrections are designed to bring the buildings to a rating of Good.

        Seismic projects completed prior to the launch of the SAFER program include South, Wheeler, California, McCone, Barker, North Gate, and University halls, Moffitt Library, Doe Library, the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, 2607 Hearst, 2401 Bancroft, 6701 San Pablo, Harmon Gymnasium (now Haas Pavilion), and University House.

  • Christine Shaff

    The previous comment about buildings rated Very Poor  is correct – only two remain on/near the central campus.  One is the Old Art Gallery, which is used only for storage and the other is part of the stage at the Greek Theater, which will be retrofit starting this fall.

  • Guest

    “27 percent of the main campus’s total space was rated “poor” or “very poor.”

    I think all the buildings rated “very poor” have since been reinforced.

  • JD

    I cannot enter Tolman without thinking about the big dust heap it would become in event of an earthquake.

    • Guest

      It would take more than “an earthquake.”  It would have to be quite a big earthquake.  Tolman wasn’t damaged by the Loma-Prieta quake, at 7.1 Richter.  If we had a quake of magnitude 8 or 9, the dust from Tolman would quickly merge into the dust of a 50-mile radius of destruction.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, not just any earthquake would bring down Tolman.  It would have to be a big one on the Hayward-Rogers Creek Faulty system.  Loma Prieta’s epicenter was in Santa Cruz mts, iirc,  and yet it did a fair bit of damage in the East Bay.  

        As the saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.

        Some facts from the State of California Department of Convervation Web site

        NB  The last factoid is most relevant to those of us working in Tolman Hall

        The epicenter was on the San Andreas fault roughly 56 miles south of San Francisco and 10 miles northeast of Santa Cruz, near Mt. Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The focal depth was 11 miles (typical California earthquake focal depths are 4 to 6 miles). Loma Prleta ruptured the southernmost 30 miles of the break that caused the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

        Magnitude established at 6.9 after consultation with monitoring stations around the world. The Loma Prieta quake was felt as far away as San Diego and western Nevada.

         A magnitude 5.2 aftershock occurred approximately 2.5 minutes after the main shock. In the week following Loma Prieta, 20 aftershocks magnitude 4.0 or greater and more than 300 of magnitude 2.5 or greater were recorded. Thousands of aftershocks were recorded. The aftershock zone stretched 25 miles, from north of Los Gatos near Highway 17 to south of Watsonville near Highway 101.

        63 people were killed, 3,757 were reported injured and 12,053 displaced.

         Damage and business interruption estimates reached as high as $10 billion, with direct damage estimated at $6.8 billion. 18,306 houses were damaged and 963 were destroyed. 2,575 businesses were damaged and 147 were destroyed. The most notable damage included the collapse of the elevated Cypress Structure section of Interstate 880 in Oakland, the collapse of a section of roadbed on the Bay Bridge, and extensive damage to downtown Santa Cruz and San Francisco’s Marina District. The Bay Bridge was unusable for a month. Also, the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s was postponed.

        SIGNS: Geologists had forecast a major earthquake in this area based on historical data, especially the lack of a major seismic event along the San Andreas fault since 1906 — the 8.3 San Francisco earthquake. In the 83 years prior to the 1906 quake, seven damaging earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or greater occurred. Only two have occurred since the San Francisco earthquake. Several 5.0-plus seismic events in the two years preceding Loma Prieta also served as warnings. There is still a 50 percent chance for one or more magnitude 7.0 earthquakes In the San Francisco Bay Area in the next 30 years, and the probability of a repeat of the 1906 quake is significant.

         The San Andreas Fault is the boundary between the North American plate and the Pacific plate. Land west of the fault has been moving to the northwest relative to land on the east at an average rate of 2 inches per year for millions of year. This motion typically occurs in sudden jumps during large earthquakes. The Pacific plate moved 6.2 feet to the northwest and 4.3 feet upward over the North American plate during Loma Prieta.

         Magnitude is a measure of an earthquake’s size, but rather than being a direct measure of the level of ground shaking, it is a measurement of the strength of the seismic sound waves given off by the earthquake. A magnitude 8 earthquake radiates 30 times more energy of a magnitude 7 and 900 times the energy of a magnitude 6. Strong ground shaking for a magnitude 7 quake typically lasts about 15 seconds. It lasts a minute in a magnitude 8.

        As devastating as Loma Prieta was, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake on the Hayward Fault in the East Bay could do $65 billion in damage.

        • Guest

          Sorry, I don’t get your drift.  You’re saying that a large earthquake could topple Tolman Hall, and much else.  I said that too.  Everyone who lives here knows that, and many of us remember Loma-Prieta.  You seem to imply that you want to say more.  Go ahead.

          • Anonymous

            You mean like asking if your first name is begins with a C — or perhaps you work in an office of someone’s who does?

          • Guest

            Sorry, I don’t catch your meaning.  If you’re worried about some kind of conspiracy, you’re wrong.  What’s on your mind?

  • Bronwen Rowlands

    ‘Koshland rejected the idea that the Tolman Hall staff members were being
    singled out, saying that “their risk is not any different from other
    people whose buildings are rated poor.”

    How many total hours does any one student or faculty member spend in Tolman per day?  Staff are required to be there 8  hours, and they don’t have the option of “working at home.”  That doesn’t increase their risk?

    I agree; this is a moral issue.  And what does it tell us that the staff member who spoke out had to do it anonymously?

    • He’s saying that there are many buildings on campus that rated seismically poor, and faculty/staff in Tolman are not being treated differently than faculty/staff in other such buildings.  Which is true.  It’s entirely possible that UC is treating them all poorly, but they are not singling out Tolman employees for worse treatment than other employees.

      As far as the anonymous staff member, it doesn’t tell us much yet, since we can’t tell if that person in serious danger of retaliation, or is just a drama queen.

    • Guest

      The “big one” isn’t likely to destroy just Tolman Hall.  The Bay Area is filled with unsafe houses, stores, hotels, warehouses, schools, theaters, parking structures, nursing homes, jails, museums, churches, apartment buildings, supermarkets, etc., etc., etc.  Look around.  What makes you think you’d be worse off in Tolman Hall?

      • Bronwen Rowlands

        You seem to sidestep my point intentionally.  One population of Tolman Hall dwellers–students– has been removed.  We can only assume that this was done for their safety.  Of the remaining population, non-academic staff spend the most time in the building; they are therefore in the most danger.

        • Guest

          I’m not sidestepping your point; I’m saying it’s myopic.  The entire Bay Area is dangerous.  Do you want the University to guarantee your safety in a major earthquake?  It can’t.  No one can.  If it makes you nervous to work in Tolman Hall, nobody prevents your leaving.

          Most people spend twice as long at home as at work.  What’s the seismic risk of your house or apartment?

          • Guest

            The University has chosen to protect one group of people — students — from a modest risk (since they would not be in Tolman for many hours in any event), and has chosen to leave another group — staff and some faculty — at far greater (10x) hazard.  What about this observation is myopic?  Myopia is in failing to see this and to understand its implications.

          • Guest

            Go ahead, say what the implications are.

          • Guest

            “chosen to leave another group — staff and some faculty — at far greater (10x) hazard.”

            The article has already explained this.  Students were moved out first because it was easiest to find alternate space for them.  Eventually, everyone in Tolman will move out.  If you know where to find vacant office space now for the faculty and staff in Tolman, speak up.

          • Anonymous

            Once the new Public Health building is complete, won’t the surge space they’ve been using become available?

            Another that irks me is that the Earl Warren building (corner of Hearst and Oxford) was built to be a surge building for the seismic retrofit program  but it it got repurposed.

          • Guest

            Specific logistical questions like this should be addressed to the project manager.

    • Guest

      “That doesn’t increase their risk?”
      Reducing the risk to one group doesn’t increase the risk to others.  The risk to occupants of Tolman is exactly the same as it was the day the building opened.

    • Guest

      “I agree; this is a moral issue. ”
      I don’t agree.  Whose actions have been immoral?  The seismic corrections program has done a lot of good and harmed no one.

  • Anonymous

    Why not get the Regents to spend money as they did to retrofit the stadium to make it not exactly earthquake safe since it is impossible to say there will be no loss of life when there is an earthquake?  Afterall that rebuilding will only cost the Athletic Department $1,000,000,000 that everyone knows they cannot pay back with the taxpayers picking up the tab eventually.    

    What?  Tolman Hall does not bring in the superfunds that a few alumni spend on football?

    Phew!  Thought UC was about education.  Guess I am mistaken.

    • Guest

      “taxpayers picking up the tab eventually”
      The State only takes responsibility for the instructional programs (like those in Tolman).  Tax money cannot be used for recreation and sports departments.

      • Anonymous

        Think you better do the research before you write wrongly.  UC Regents have funded the retrofit for Memorial Stadium because UC needs a winning football team – after all it is in Tedford’s contract. 

        • Guest

          I don’t understand your reply.  The Regents are not spending tax money on the stadium.  It’s an expensive project, but taxpayers aren’t putting in a nickel.
          (By the way, “osculate” means kiss.  You probably intended to write “oscillate.”

          • Anonymous

            Better take a look at Regents minutes if you know how to find them.

          • Guest

            Provide a link, and explain what you’re driving at.  Where do you find a reference to tax money for the stadium?  Why are you so cryptic?

          • Anonymous

            Or search the Daily Cal and read Brian Barsky’s article I referenced.

            “According to Bob Meister, professor of political and social thought at UC Santa Cruz and president of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, the debt being undertaken for the Berkeley stadium comes in the form of General Revenue Bonds issued by the university.  Consequently, nothwithstanding the regents’ proclamations, the debt is the obligation of the university…

            “The financial plan described in the regents document would be considered precarious even in the best of times, but is nothing short of irresponsible to the mission of the university when undertaken at the threshold of a new era  of lower sustained funding of the academic program.”

            I am not being cryptic.  I am being honest and angry.

          • Guest

            Stop beating around the bush.  If there’s something in the Regents minutes (as you imply) showing that tax money will be spent on the stadium, show me.  I don’t care how angry you are, you appear not to be honest.

          • Guest

            “look at Regents minutes”
            Is this what you meant?
            I don’t see a dime of state funds in it.

  • Anonymous

    maybe Regent Blum should have demanded that funds be provided for a Tolman retrofit, rather than having a new building recently built elsewhere on campus for the purpose of naming it after himself.

    seriously a man who is worth untold billions of dollars, who owns a billion dollar stake in for-profit diploma mills designed to transfer federal tax dollars to his personal bank account while bankrupting thousands of dupes, now has a building named after him whose purpose is the study of “developing economies”.

    • Guest

      Seismic corrections are funded by the State; the Regents have no say in the matter.  The campus already has a seismic-corrections plan for Tolman and is trying to get it implemented as soon as feasible.   It’s part of a campuswide plan that has been in operation since the 1980s.  Don’t link the safety of the campus to your dislike of Blum.

      • Bronwen Rowlands

        And we should believe you because…?  You don’t even identify yourself.  Is this a top secret seismic-corrections plan for Tolman?  Perhaps you’ve shared it only with the faculty.

        • Guest

          On the contrary, I assumed everyone knew about it.  Are you new to the campus?  Here’s the website:

          The project to correct Tolman’s seismic defects is on page 21 of the Capital Financial Plan:

          If you’ve been unaware of seismic-corrections projects on campus, you must have been asleep.

          • Anonymous

            That is a plan for a capital construction campaign. Right now there are no funds for retrofiting or rebuildilng.  

            Here is the reality as stated in an FAQ  on the closure of  Tolman Hall General Assisgnment rooms.  This FAQ was produced and distributed by  the office of  Vice Chancellor Koshland:

            1.  The campus recently decided to reassign general assignment classes scheduled in Tolman Hall.  Why now? 
            Tolman Hall is currently rated “poor” in the university’s rating protocol.  A plan for addressing its seismic safety has been presented to the Office of the President for inclusion in the state- funded capital program; however, the current fiscal environment makes it very unlikely the campus will receive state funding any time soon for the potentially $200 million project.    

          • Guest

            Your comments are very vague, and I can’t infer what you mean.  Yes, there is a funding proposal to address the seismic deficiencies of Tolman.  That’s why the Daily Cal published this article.  Why do you refer to it as if it were a secret plot?

          • Anonymous

            I didn’t.  That was someone else.  My point is that it is a hope and dream to raise money privately because there is no expectation of money from the state of California.

            Vice Chan. Kosland has stated that is no chance of funding from the state government

          • Guest

            Well, it may be a long-shot this year, when California is so deep in the red.  But a lot of buildings have been reinforced using state funds, and the program certainly hasn’t been halted.  The campus has been making seismic corrections for decades, one or two buildings at a time.  Tolman’s turn will come.