Berkeley City Council, school district to vacate Old City Hall

Both the Berkeley Unified School District and Berkeley City Council plan to vacate Old City Hall, which houses the district’s offices and council chambers, in the near future.

The building, located at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way and also called the Maudelle Shirek Building, after the former council member, was completed in 1909 and has suffered from a lack of upgrades and renovations over the years.

“Our old building was not seismically safe, and renovating it to meet the standards would have been a large finical burden,” said district Superintendent Bill Huyett.

Huyett said the district will move its headquarters to a three-story building at Bonar Street and University Avenue, which will be part of a larger development known as “West Campus.” Renovations on the building, which began in May 2010, are set to be completed by December of this year, according to the district’s website. Huyett said the move is set to be completed by January 2012.

The West Campus, a 7.3-acre location on University Avenue, could also be home to City Council chambers. However, the council is considering several locations and has not yet decided where or when to move, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

“We have not yet voted,” Worthington said.

Worthington cited several reasons for moving, including obtaining a building that is more wheelchair-accessible than the current chambers.

“We want to allow all members of the community a chance for equal participation,” he said. “We also want a location that is situated near public transportation.”

Critics of moving the council chambers to West Campus have said that it would shift the seat of government to an area that is more residential and less centrally-located. Thus far, no timeline has been made available for when the City Council will vote on a new location.

The Revolutionary Education and Learning Movement charter school will jointly occupy the West Campus site with the district headquarters.

Classes for the REALM school, which was approved by the district’s Board of Education in June last year and is the district’s first charter school, are currently held on Eighth Street, near the intersection of Addison Street. Starting at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, the school — which is expected to eventually grow to 400 students — will start using facilities at the West Campus, according to Huyett.

Details of the move are still being worked out. Huyett said REALM is trying to figure out where to have a cafeteria in the West Campus, since, if the council chambers move there, they would occupy the cafeteria.

According to Huyett, a preschool that is currently located on the West Campus will remain open and continue with normal operations.
A community meeting about the move is set for 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the West Campus Gym.