Campanile renovations will cost about $40,000

William Tatlonghari, David Moreno-Medina and Maria Parar visit the Campanile, which will begin being renovated starting July 5. The process will last just under six weeks.
Ayon Kabir/Staff

UC Berkeley’s Sather Tower, better known as the Campanile, will be closed to visitors for six weeks beginning next month to make its entrance more wheelchair accessible.

Due to the fact that the only visitor-accessible entrance will be blocked by construction efforts, visitors will not be allowed inside the building or up the 307 feet to the top of the clock tower between July 5 to Aug. 13, should construction move forward as planned.

Paid for by general campus funds, the construction project will cost approximately $40,000, according to Sarah Hawthorne, assistant provost for academic compliance and disability standards.

Hawthorne said the construction on the tower is part of a larger campus program to provide access upgrades to campus buildings so that UC Berkeley will be able to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Under the act, it is required that all buildings on campus have wheelchair access.

Upgrades to allow for better wheelchair accessibility on campus — which began in 2005 — started with “minor fixes” to a few campus buildings, including Zellerbach Hall and the lower level of Moses Hall that faces Barrows Hall, Hawthorne said.

Currently, a slight step at the entrance of the tower can hinder handicapped visitors in entering the lobby, which led campus officials to determine an upgrade was necessary.

UC Berkeley’s Department of Facilities Services, along with contractors, will temporarily remove the bricks in front of the entrance and grade some of the foundation underneath, which will slightly change the angle to the entrance, said Christine Shaff, communications manager for the campus’s facilities services.

“At the construction’s completion, there should not be any noticeable difference from what (the entrance) looks like today,” she said.

Shaff added that the campus usually experiences most of its construction work during the summer because there are fewer people on campus, making construction less disruptive.

“This temporary closure will likely affect the new students from orientation the most, since they usually want to go up the Campanile upon their initial visits to Cal,” said Lilyanne Clark, a campus administrative assistant who operates the tower’s elevator.

Though the construction should allow handicapped patrons to visit the lobby and ride the elevator to the seventh floor vestibule, such visitors will still require assistance to climb the 38 stairs to reach the observation deck atop the tower, Clark said.

However, making the observation tower wheelchair accessible is highly unlikely, Hawthorne said, because the tower has been deemed a state historical building, and as a result, this distinction does not allow the infrastructure of the tower to be changed.

During the six weeks of construction, the carillon — the keyboard instrument that controls the 61 bells of the Campanile — will not play its three-times-a-day music because musicians will not be able to gain access to the tower.

But the daily bell toll should still occur because it tolls automatically without the need of any musicians, Clark said. She added that she felt the construction should go off without a hitch and that by August, the tower will re-open as promised.

“The project team is usually good unless something drastic happens, because they have all the materials ready, and everything is all lined up,” she said.

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of Lilyanne Clark.