Bancroft Residence Hall to help alleviate student housing crisis

Priyanka Karthikeyan/Staff

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The building at 2400 Bancroft Way was once an old, ivy-covered, two-story building that blended in with surrounding shops, cafes and restaurants — that is, before it became a pit of dirt filled with construction equipment.

Old Stiles Hall is gone, and in its place will stand Bancroft Residence Hall, a UC housing structure set to open in August 2018 at the intersection of Dana Street, Durant Avenue and Bancroft Way. The new residence hall will house about 770 students to help alleviate the campus’s tight housing supply.

Bancroft Residence Hall is mentioned in a January plan by the campus’s housing task force in its assessment of the 2020 Long Range Development Plan, or LRDP, which hopes to guarantee two years of housing for incoming freshmen, one year for junior transfers and one year for graduate students. It’s a series of goals the campus has consistently had trouble meeting.

“The task force recommends a campus goal of housing approximately 50 percents of our undergraduate students and 25 percent of our graduate students,” the January housing report states. “This translates to a need for just over 15,600 beds in 2016 terms — a significantly larger number than our current stock of close to 8,700 beds.”

The report also found that the undergraduate population has increased by 15 percent and the graduate population by 7 percent since the 2020 LRDP was published in 2005. Such enrollment changes have led to “creative” campus accommodations, according to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff.

The campus made a number of changes this year in anticipation of the student-population increase, including forging a number of off-campus partnerships and developing plans for new housing, according to Ratliff. Methods of accommodation include partnering with Mills College and Holy Names University in Oakland, creating lease agreements with off-campus housing groups, such as the New Sequoia Apartments, and constructing new residence halls, such as Bancroft Residence Hall.

“UC Berkeley anticipated an increase in demand for on campus housing this year, including a record number of first-year students seeking housing,” Ratliff said in an email. “Our residential halls have a greater density as we strive to meet one of our primary objectives — housing all newly admitted first year students.”

Bancroft Residence Hall is across the street from campus and will contain mostly double-occupancy bedrooms, with a few single-occupancy rooms for resident assistants and students with special needs. These rooms are separated into 19 “pods,” or communities of students with a resident assistant, study lounge and pair of gender-inclusive bathroom facilities.

In total, the building will have seven floors for residency, and the ground floor will contain retail space and student facilities such as a fitness room and social spaces. According to UC Berkeley real estate spokeswoman Christine Shaff, the building’s retailers have not yet been decided upon.  

The bottom floor will also contain the new home of the Stiles Hall nonprofit agency. Stiles Hall Executive Director David Stark said the agency has had a lot of input on the design of the building, ensuring that the square footage allocated to the Stiles Hall agency is similar to the old building’s space. He noted that the organization “couldn’t be more excited” to move in.

While an increase in housing for students is never unwelcome, the new residence halls, such as Bancroft Hall, will not house as many students as necessary. ASUC Senator Anthony Carrasco worries they will also be more expensive than current residence halls. He also said the university should utilize the several plots of land it owns in Berkeley for more student housing rather than waiting for the land to turn a profit.

ASUC Senator Chris Yamas said building more student housing, regardless of details such as room size and cost, is essential for housing an influx of students. The repurposing of common areas, such as turning lounges into rooms, adds another layer of stress and takes away privacy from students who have to live in such spaces, he added.

“I’m not optimistic that the university can do much more than what they’re currently doing,” Yamas said. “We’re still at a critical shortage.”

Transfer students are given a much shorter time period between their date of acceptance and their housing application deadline than freshman are, according to Yamas, who is a transfer student. He said, however, that housing priority for freshmen in the new residence hall is understandable after the campus received pressure this past year for failing to provide campus housing to all freshmen.

Carrasco suggested a few steps the campus could take to increase housing in the coming years, including more leasing agreements with the Berkeley Student Cooperative and a residence hall next to Barrows Hall in the “empty grass lot,” also known as North Field. He added that he and other ASUC senators had previously suggested to develop the field but were turned down because the lot is on campus.

“I don’t care if we have a property 6 feet away from the Campanile — we need to develop it,” Carrasco said. “Profitability (is) nice, but we are not in a place where we can be thinking that way.”

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected].

A previous version of this article may have implied that the Bancroft Residence Hall project began after the release of the housing task force report in January. In fact, although the Bancroft Residence Hall was mentioned in the report, construction had begun before the report was released.

A previous version of this article may have implied that the campus is certain to eventually guarantee two years of housing for incoming freshmen, one year for junior transfers and one year for graduate students. In fact, these are campus goals, not assurances.

A previous version of this article may have implied that the Long Range Development Plan published in 2005 was titled the 2005 Long Range Development Plan. In fact, it is titled the 2020 Long Range Development Plan.