UC Berkeley to start Upper Hearst housing construction, pending UC Board of Regents’ approval

Soloman Cordwell Buenz/Courtesy

UC Berkeley intends to start construction on the Upper Hearst Parking Structure and Ridge parking lot in September, transforming the property into a six-story residential housing and a four-story academic building, the campus announced Wednesday morning.

The lot, located on the corners of Hearst and La Loma avenues, currently features a parking garage with 387 parking spots. The campus plans to construct two separate buildings on the site by 2021 in order to add 150 units of housing for students and faculty and provide additional academic space for the Goldman School of Public Policy, or GSPP.

Construction and financing

Construction could begin as early as September and conclude in July 2021 — a 23-month project — according to the site’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Report, or SEIR, released by the campus. The development will be mostly funded through GSPP donor funding reserves totaling about $10 million. The remainder of the cost will be financed with a tax-exempt bond.

In part because the cost of the development exceeds the GSPP’s funding reserves, the project must first be reviewed by the UC Board of Regents. In March, the campus will present the plan to the board as a discussion item with the hopes of having it approved at a later meeting.

To build the Upper Hearst development, the current parking structure and lot will be demolished, permanently decreasing the number of parking spaces from 407 to 200. A new underground parking lot will be built beneath the residential building to provide the 200 vehicle spots. The campus expects fewer GSPP affiliates to commute by car once academic and residential buildings lie in close proximity.

Soloman, Cordwell, Buenz / Courtesy

Soloman, Cordwell, Buenz / Courtesy

Student and faculty housing

The planned residential hall will serve graduate students, postdoctoral students and faculty members to help UC Berkeley reach its goal of increasing housing availability for the campus community. The Upper Hearst site will comprise studios as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments.

While the units will be unavailable to undergraduate students, campus spokesperson Kyle Gibson said both undergraduate and graduate housing are “big issues.” According to Gibson, UC Berkeley houses a lower percentage of the student body than any other UC campus.

“We need to do more on every front. This development is just the tip of the spear,” Gibson said. “Every bit of housing that we do right now helps.”

The rates of the apartments will be determined throughout the development process, Gibson said. He added, however, that the campus hopes to price the units at or below market rate.

In an attempt to find short-term solutions to the housing crisis, the campus has also entered into master leases with local developers to provide more immediate student housing options close to campus, according to the press release. These leases last five to 10 years, according to Gibson, and are only short-term solutions until university-owned projects are developed.

“Every bed that we’re bringing online is another bed that’s not being filled by the private market,” Gibson said. “The more we build, the more pressure we take off of the private market. … There’s a net benefit for everyone.”

GSPP academic space

Another motivator for development on the Upper Hearst site is the need for further academic buildings to sustain and broaden programs in the GSPP — expanding its capacity to include an additional five staff members and 30 students — as well as support faculty and students, according to the SEIR.

GSPP’s current two buildings are “fully occupied and intensively used,” according to the SEIR. To make up for needed space, GSPP has been forced to rent space at Memorial Stadium. The addition of a third academic building on the Upper Hearst site will make it possible for the school to operate entirely on Northside while also broadening its programs.

The GSPP’s existing facilities have “exceeded their capacity and cannot accommodate several key elements of the program,” according to the SEIR. Specifically, the school requires more classroom space, a large lecture room for undergraduate students and space for a small expansion of other graduate programs.

“I’m excited to be looking at the viability of several potential sites for new student housing,” said UC Berkeley Director of Development and Leasing Michelle Starratt in the press release. “We want students to be as close to campus as possible, which is beneficial to the student experience and also reduces regional impact.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.