‘We won’t give up this fight’: Prop 13’s potential impact on UC Berkeley

Addison Briggs/Staff

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Proposition 13, a statewide measure that would fund public school, community college and university projects across California, is behind in returns.

If passed, Prop 13 would allow the sale of $15 billion in bonds, of which $9 billion would go to projects such as the renovation and construction of K-12 public school facilities. Meanwhile, $6 billion would be allocated to public higher education facilities, with community colleges, California State University system and UC system getting $2 billion each. The vote-by-mail ballots will take a few weeks to be completely counted, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar.

“The critical funds would have been a significant and much-needed commitment to improving seismic safety, addressing deferred maintenance needs and expanding physical capacity to better accommodate the more than 17,000 additional California students UC has enrolled since fall 2015,” said UCOP spokesperson Claire Doan in an email.

The UC system planned a total of 18 projects to implement at various campuses in the event Prop 13 would be enacted. While several of these projects involve seismic improvements to existing buildings, the two projects proposed at UC Berkeley would demolish and construct new buildings.

One proposed project would demolish Evans Hall and move the classes held there to a newly constructed building. This new building would have modern classrooms, lecture halls, computer labs and seminar rooms.

Another proposed project would demolish Hesse Hall and O’Brien Hall, two seismically deficient buildings on campus. In their stead, a single building would be built for students in the College of Engineering. The new building would include research and teaching labs, offices, brand-new classrooms and collaboration spaces.

According to Sarveshwar, there are some obstacles in getting Prop 13 passed.

“First, its name confused voters because the infamous 1978 property tax initiative had the same number. Many voters thought it had to do with their taxes, and it didn’t (we encountered some of these misconceptions while text banking). Second, some of its provisions for K-12 schools were controversial,” Sarveshwar said in an email. “Third, primaries tend to have more conservative electorates than general elections.”

Sarveshwar also added that students played a key role in getting this initiative on the ballot and sent hundreds of texts to California voters from text banks organized in Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego.

UCLA student and Government Relations Committee chair for the UC Student Association Aidan Arasasingham said they were following the vote-counting process after putting in hundreds of hours volunteering and speaking to numerous voters about this issue.

“Should the measure fail, we expect our university and elected officials to keep our deferred maintenance, seismic safety, and spatial equity concerns as top priorities,” Arasasingham said in an email. “And we won’t give up this fight to make sure our campuses are safe, quality, and accessible for all.”

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.