Campus groups plan ‘Free Day’ at soon-to-be-demolished building

Michael Ball/Staff
The Smyth-Fernwald residential complex is located on the southeast side of campus, at the highest point of Dwight Way.

Related Posts

In preparation for the demolition of UC Berkeley’s Smyth-Fernwald complex, a few campus programs hope to minimize the negative environmental impact by giving away all of the complex’s furniture at a “Free Day” next weekend.

The complex — campus buildings that served as student family housing with apartments, a community center and maintenance offices for 65 years until they were vacated in June — will probably be demolished sometime in the upcoming fall semester, according to Christine Shaff, communications director of the campus’s Facilities Services Department.

Shaff said the complex’s buildings have “outlived their useful life,” as the structures need significant seismic upgrades — they are situated directly above the Hayward Fault line at the top of Dwight Way. Shaff also said the campus does not plan on building anything in place of the complex, instead simply leaving the concrete foundations in the ground to help prevent erosion and continuing to manage the property for fire hazards.

Also situated on the complex is the Smyth House, a historical landmark built in the nineteenth century and donated to the campus in 1926, which will not be demolished.

At this time, the campus department of capital projects has established constant security and is currently installing sensors around the property and will begin to prepare the facility for demolition in late August, according to Shaff.

However, before the demolition begins, the campus programs ReUSE, Residential and Student Services Programs and Campus Recycling and Refuse Services hope to remove all of the complex’s furniture, and aim to do so in an environmentally and financially friendly way.

On July 13 and 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the campus programs will host a “Free Day” outside of Clark Kerr Campus Building 5, which will be open to all campus faculty, staff, students and general public, to come and salvage free desks, shelves, chairs, sofas, tables and other reusable items from the complex. On July 12, the event will be exclusively open to campus faculty and staff by appointment only.

Claire Porter, ReUSE program manager and incoming campus junior, said the normal process when preparing a building before demolition is for the campus to sell whatever furniture they can and let the rest be sent to the landfill along with the demolished building.

“It’s really disturbing to go into a building you know is going to be crushed and destroyed and you see all this stuff that is usable inside,” said Porter, who said there is usually a significant amount of remaining furniture before demolition.

Through the “Free Day” effort, Porter hopes to move all of the furniture inside the complex to new homes in Berkeley before the complex is demolished.

Residential and Student Service Programs member Larry Wong, who proposed the event, was inspired by the success of the similar “Free Day” at Campbell Hall that the same campus programs hosted last October.

“I don’t want to waste and I don’t want to create carbon footprint by throwing away any reusable material,” said Wong. “After Campbell Hall, I though, ‘Oh yeah, we can do this.’”

UPDATE: According to ReUSE program manager Claire Porter, the location of the “Free Day” event has been changed from the Smyth-Fernwald complex to outside Clark Kerr Campus Building 5 “for the convenience and safety of the campus community and the general public.”