I-House residents frustrated with renovations start petition

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff
Residents of International House have launched a petition seeking compensation for inconveniences caused by ongoing construction.

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Frustrated with disruptions caused by ongoing renovations to Berkeley’s International House, many residents are petitioning the I-House administration for monetary compensation for their grievances.

Founded in 1930, I-House has been a home to students and scholars from all around the world but has suffered significant wear and tear over the years. According to Greg Rodolari, I-House director of physical operations, plans to renovate and modernize the building have been circulating for years, with construction finally beginning over winter break to minimize disturbances.

Recent renovations to the laundry room, however, have left 583 residents to share a temporary laundry facility equipped with only four washing machines and four dryers, and some residents say disturbances are overwhelming.

“Sometimes I have to do laundry at 12 a.m. to get a machine,” said I-House resident Andrea Gayon.

The project, expected to finish by early April, will modernize the facility and create a new lounge. Aside from improving the laundry room’s aesthetic appeal, the renovations also address the state fire marshall’s request to separate the elevator lobby area and laundry room for safety purposes.

This week, many residents on the east side of I-House had no water from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at which time no residents could use the laundry facility. Residents also report having to tolerate noise from construction and elevators that do not provide access to the ground floor.

I-House administration has credited each resident $25 for the inconvenience, but some are seeking additional compensation.

Parisa Parsi, a resident at I-House, created a petition demanding the I-House Board of Administrators cut one installment of fees, amounting to about $1,000 in savings per resident.

“If we’re paying to have a laundry room that’s usable, a Gamble Lounge … working elevators, ice machines and stuff like that, then why aren’t they trying to compensate us for our losses?” Parsi said. As of Thursday evening, the petition had been signed by 183 I-House residents.

But Christophe LaBelle, another resident at I-House, thinks the petition might do more harm than good.

“If you want to have money returned, then that will cut back on the services we already have, and I don’t think folks will appreciate that,” LaBelle said.

I-House administrators insist they are doing their best to accommodate the residents and consistently schedule renovations during times least inconvenient to residents.

“We’ve spent a lot of extra money doing work on the weekends,” Rodolari said.

After a board meeting Thursday evening — which Parsi and fellow protesters had planned to protest at but were deterred by security — Parsi brought her petition to Hans Giesecke, executive director of I-House. Giesecke promised to review their concerns and bring their recommendation to the finance committee after it goes through and is approved by the I-House student council.

Contact Kathleen Tierney at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @kathleentierney.