UC Berkeley moves forward with plans to demolish Tolman Hall

Kavya Narendra Babu/Staff

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Tolman Hall, home to the Graduate School of Education and campus department of psychology, is set for demolition after being deemed seismically unfit.

According to Kyle Gibson, communications director for UC Berkeley Capital Strategies, Tolman Hall has been closed to general campus access since summer 2018, with the exception of training exercises for local police and fire agencies. In the meantime, UC Berkeley Property Management has been salvaging remaining furniture and fixes from the building.

The project, according to Gibson, is currently open for bids, and a timeline of events will be defined once a contractor has been selected to demolish the building.

“It is expected that a new facility will eventually occupy this site, however new construction is not within the scope of the demolition project,” Gibson said in an email.

The first phase of interior demolition work is slated to begin in late 2018 or early 2019, with the overall project to conclude by the following school year of 2019-20, according to Gibson. Interior demolition includes removing hazardous material, light fixtures, ceiling finishes, flooring and cabinets. The next phase will be the removal of surrounding landscape features and the building’s demolition.

“Safety is always a priority and site protections will be implemented to safeguard the surrounding community,” Gibson said in an email. “This includes installation of traffic control measures, site and landscape protection and storm water measures.”

Tolman Hall’s demolition is one component of UC Berkeley’s Seismic Action Plan for Facilities Enhancement and Renewal, or SAFER, according to Gibson. Structural engineering firms that studied UC Berkeley buildings from 1997 to 1998 gave Tolman Hall a “poor” seismic rating, according to the report. In addition to its large breezeway and external concrete supports making it seismically unsafe, Tolman Hall also reportedly houses more faculty than other seismically unsafe buildings on campus.

After the study found that more than one-third of campus buildings required seismic safety improvements, Gibson said, more than 70 percent of the square footage identified has been retrofitted or replaced, according to the UC Berkeley SAFER program site. Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Wurster Hall, Barrows Hall and Doe Memorial Library, among other campus buildings, have been retrofitted.

The psychology department has been located in Tolman Hall since 1963, according to Ann Kring, professor and chair of the campus psychology department. The psychology faculty moved into Berkeley Way West in summer 2018, Kring said.

“We had a celebration of Tolman Hall last year knowing we were going to move out,” Kring said. “We didn’t get to be the No. 1 psychology department outside of Tolman Hall.”

Arin Fisher, a student in the campus psychology department’s post-baccalaureate program, said the Berkeley Way West building is more comfortable than Tolman Hall and spoke highly of the increased lab space.

In 2014, the UC Board of Regents approved a $150 million plan to replace Tolman Hall with a seismically safe building, Berkeley Way West, located on Berkeley Way and Shattuck Avenue.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to,” Kring said, “But we’re also glad to be in a brand new building.”

Andreana Chou covers student life. Contact Andreana Chou at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AndreanaChou.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Arin Fisher is a campus doctoral student in psychology. In fact, he is a student in the campus psychology department’s post-baccalaureate program.