UC buys $6.5M Berkeley home for its president

Photo of a Julie Morgan-designed home in the Claremont neighborhood
Kyle Garcia Takata/Staff
The home was purchased to replace the Blake House in Kensington as the UC presidential residence, and is facing opposition from several UC Berkeley students.

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The UC system bought a $6.5 million home in Berkeley to serve as the official living quarters for its president, Michael Drake, as well as a space for university events, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

The purchase was financed by the university’s Searles Fund, a private donation fund for the university, that pays for expenses such as presidential housing that are not covered by state funds, according to UC Office of the President spokesperson Stett Holbrook. The home, which was originally bought in 1971 by the university and sold 20 years later, was designed by renowned architect and Berkeley alumnus Julia Morgan.

“The long-term investment returns the Berkeley landmark to the University, providing multiple uses that benefit the school and will serve as the official residence for University presidents,” Holbrook said in an email.

However, some students expressed disappointment that these funds are being used to repurchase a home for the president, rather than attend to the needs of students.

Campus freshman Virginia Sun said she thinks the money used to pay for the home should be allocated toward more prevalent issues at Berkeley.

“They could use that money to develop new housing units to combat the housing crisis,” Sun said. “Alternatively, the money could be used to improve the mental health Tang services.”

According to campus freshman Niko Tsukino, though she appreciated that the money being used to pay for the house is not coming from students’ tuition, there are better things the money could be used for.

Campus freshman Ashley Zheng also expressed similar sentiments.

“Why would the UC spend $6.5 million on a home, when it could be used for their students?” Zheng said.

Blake House in Kensington, the former UC presidential residence, has been uninhabitable for over a decade, and renovation costs are estimated at $10-12 million because of “extensive deferred maintenance and seismic issues,” according to Holbrook. The house will eventually be sold with proceeds going to UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, according to the UC website.

The Morgan home is considered by the university to be an “architectural gem,” the UC website states.

According to the UC website, Morgan is a historic figure in American architecture, and was one of the first women to graduate from what was then UC Berkeley’s College of Civil Engineering. She designed multiple buildings on campus, including the Hearst Memorial Mining Building and Hearst Greek Theatre.

Contact Olivia Branan at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @BrananOlivia.

A previous version of this article failed to attribute Berkeleyside as first breaking this story.