‘Level playing field’: UC Berkeley breaks ground on Anchor House

Photo of a construction site
Nick Quinlan/Staff
Anchor House, a 244-unit, 772-bed housing project, is expected to finish construction before the 2024-25 academic year.

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and other campus representatives broke ground on the site of the Helen Diller Anchor House on Monday, more than a year after the project’s initial announcement.

Construction on the 244-unit, 772-bed housing project is anticipated to complete before the 2024-25 academic year, according to campus spokesperson Kyle Gibson. While the building aims to house more students, the project also required the displacement of tenants at 1921 Walnut St., including Natalie Logusch.

“The tenants of 1921 Walnut St. included a third generation family living there for over 25 years, a single mom with a young child, immigrants, working class people, a tenant close to retirement and others,” Logusch said in an email. “The tenants at 1921 Walnut St. will be forever grateful to the Berkeley community that stood with us and fought with us.”

Logusch added some tenants were forced to leave Berkeley and even California during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gibson, however, said tenants received “generous” relocation packages and emphasized this below-market housing project will fulfill 9% of campus’s housing goals for the next decade.

The Helen Diller Foundation is fully funding and constructing Anchor House, according to Gibson, and revenue from businesses in the building will go into funding scholarships for first-generation and underrepresented undergraduates. Phyllis Cook, executive officer of the foundation, stressed the importance of creating a supportive community, particularly for transfer students.

“If students care that there is a fair and equitable opportunity for people despite their means — and transfer students are often low-income — this makes a level playing field in terms of finding housing,” Cook said. “We know this is something that has been difficult for all students.”

Gibson echoed the need for campus to improve conditions for transfer students, noting the project will strengthen the community and “redefine” their experience. Beyond Anchor House, Gibson pointed out several ongoing and proposed projects to address campus’s current housing crisis.

While Anchor House is beginning construction, campus’s 105-unit Intersection Apartments complex in Emeryville recently opened applications. The People’s Park Housing project and three others still under development will add about 3,000 beds, but Gibson said these sites will achieve less than half of campus’s goal to double student housing.

“Private housing in the Bay Area is one of the most expensive markets in the nation,” Gibson said in an email. “While the cost of privately-owned housing is beyond our control, we can, and we do, control the cost of university-owned housing. UC Berkeley consistently, year after year, maintains quality student housing with rents that are well below the market for the Bay Area.”

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.