Landmark University Garage to be demolished for student housing

Photo of landmarked gas station at 1952 Oxford Street
Sam Tilles/Staff
Berkeley’s University Garage located at 1952 Oxford St. is set to be demolished. Despite the landmark’s significance, the land that University Garage resides on will help combat the student housing crisis.

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Demolition is currently underway for the University Garage, a landmarked garage and gas station, in order to accommodate more housing for UC Berkeley students, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

Located at 1952 Oxford St., the University Garage lies on a university-owned square block bounded by Oxford Street, University Avenue, Walnut Street and Berkeley Way. The garage was originally called the Richfield Oil, Co. Station, as it was leased as income property to Richfield Oil Company, according to the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association site.

Kyle Gibson, spokesperson for UC Berkeley Capital Strategies, explained that the demolition is occurring as a result of campus’s lack of housing available for students.

“Due to the high cost and low supply of housing close to campus, a significant percentage of our students are not able to live in Berkeley, undermining their ability to thrive, succeed and fully partake in all that the university has to offer,” Gibson said in an email.

According to Gibson, in the fall 2021 semester, more than 5,000 students were denied campus housing due to a lack of available space. He added that UC Berkeley houses fewer undergraduate and graduate students than any of the other UC campuses.

To accommodate for the housing shortage, Gibson noted that a task force identified potential spots to construct housing. This task force found University Garage possesses certain characteristics making it the ideal location.

“This site is ideal for student housing as it is just one block from the UC Berkeley campus, three blocks from the Berkeley Bart station, near major transit lines, and part of an emerging residential neighborhood,” Gibson said in an email.

Until last summer, the University Garage, one of five unoccupied buildings on the site, served as a storage location for vehicles used by the Parking and Transportation services. Gibson added that the garage also did not comply with UC Seismic Safety Policy.

Currently, the garage is a city of Berkeley landmark and is even eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources, according to Gibson. However, this does not keep the building exempt from demolition.

With appropriate mitigation measures and having the demolition approved by the UC Regents, the building can be destroyed, Gibson stated.

Though the building is set to be destroyed, Gibson added that approximately 8,000 bricks from the garage will be salvaged and incorporated into the design of the new student housing unit.

“We understand that there are those in the community who may have strong emotional ties to the garage. But we hope to gain their understanding that there’s an urgent student housing crisis that demands our attention,” Gibson said in the email. “In order to double our existing student housing, which will require more than 8,000 new beds, it is not a question of which sites to develop — we must build on every university-owned site identified for new housing.”

Contact Diego Lapayese-Calderón at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @diego_lapayese.