Berkeley co-ops lower fall housing capacity amid COVID-19

File Photo of the exterior of Berkeley Co-Op, Andres CastroArms.
Daniela Cervantes/File
On July 8, the Berkeley Student Cooperative Board of Directors passed operation guidelines that temporarily limit the capacity of each house.

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The Berkeley Student Cooperative, or BSC, Board of Directors Summer Committee passed operation guidelines July 8 on house and room capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BSC board decided all quads and triples would turn into doubles and that it would temporarily limit the capacity of each house to 80% or 90 members, whichever is lower. The board also voted to reserve at least five apartments for quarantining. The BSC board will meet again July 22 to review recommendations from its operations and emergency response teams and make specific decisions about each housing unit’s occupancies this fall.

Josh Lavine, a co-house president of Cloyne Court, said the housing limits would mean that Cloyne Court will have up to 90 members, or about 64% of its maximum capacity, which is normally 140 members.

“I’m somewhat relieved that we won’t be a full house,” Lavine said in an email. “But, 90 people in a single co-op during COVID is still really high in my opinion.”

According to Lavine, there have been different efforts to come up with house guidelines since March. These efforts culminated in his house’s decision to form a task force focused on improving prevention and response efforts.

Lavine said Cloyne Court also formed the task force to be “more transparent and democratic” so that guidelines and practices are beneficial for the whole house.

Abigail Jaquez, house president of Kidd Hall, said after the city ordinance on lease cancellations, the board of directors passed a policy stating that the BSC cannot charge cancellation fees, but can still charge members who have canceled contracts until the BSC finds a substitute for their spot.

The deadline for fall contract cancellation was July 8, the same day that the policy was passed. Jaquez said she wished that members had been alerted of the policy earlier.

Jaquez added that with fewer members, there will be fewer people doing work shifts, and there won’t be as many social events.

“In particular, the co-op living experience will be more stressful and less social at small houses like Kidd Hall,” Jaquez said in an email.

Kim Benson, executive director of BSC, said the BSC is working with UC Berkeley, University Health Services, the city health department and other student housing cooperatives to improve its operations for summer and fall.

Benson added that the BSC emergency response team and board of directors will continue to monitor local and campus developments, update health and safety protocols, seek feedback from BSC members and evaluate research. 

Housing guidelines were shared with members in July, but as things evolve, BSC will continue to communicate new protocols as needed, according to Benson.

“It’s exciting to see the Co-Ops align with social distancing practices that are necessary to flatten to curve,” said ASUC Senator Liam Will in an email. “I would like to see them continue to receive student input on eviction or cancellation policies, as members are very much impacted by the pandemic.”

Will also said he would like to see a bigger focus on the impact of mask usage and work to center immunocompromised students in these conversations.

Contact Mela Seyoum at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @melaseyoum.