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UC Berkeley moves forward on plans for more student housing and a seismically secure dining complex
07 Apr 2000

By Marie Felde, Public Affairs

BERKELEY -- With the release of a draft environmental impact report today (4/7/00) the University of California, Berkeley moves a step forward with its plans to provide new housing for up to 900 students and replace two existing seismically unsafe dining halls.

Major components of the Underhill Area Projects, as they are called, analyzed in the environmental impact report, include:

·Three new multi-story student residence halls.

·Two apartment-style student housing complexes.

·The demolition of two seismically poor dining halls and construction of a new central dining facility.

·Central offices for housing and dining operations.

·A three-story parking facility for 1,000 vehicles.

·A new sports and recreation field on the parking structure's rooftop.

The projects are planned in and around the block bounded by Channing Way, Bowditch Street, Haste Street and College Avenue. Two high-rise student residence hall complexes currently exist in the area.

The student housing component of the Underhill Area Projects was added last year in response to a call from students and the community for more student housing. The additional student housing units proposed for the area are consistent with the campus's 1990 Long Range Development Plan.

The proposed new central dining facility would replace two dining halls built between 1959 and 1962, when the first high-rise residence halls in the area were constructed. The residence halls have all been seismically upgraded in recent years, but the dining facilities were not and remain rated poor.

By demolishing the two dining halls and replacing them with a new central facility at the corner of Channing Way and Bowditch Street the campus serves two objectives. It will provide a vastly improved facility for students and it will provide infill space to build new residence halls on the sites of the old dining commons.

The proposed parking structure replaces a two-story structure and sports field built in 1962 that was demolished in 1993 when engineers found that it would not stand up to a major earthquake. The new structure will provide a similar amount of parking, about 1,000 spaces, and replace the popular rooftop sports field of the old parking structure.

The draft environmental impact report reviews the projects under the California Environmental Quality Act guidelines. Among the significant impacts identified are:

·Land Use conflicts with city zoning regulations related to building height, setbacks and density.

·In the section on cultural resources, two areas of impact are noted. One is the plan to demolish or remove a stone cottage on the site of the new dining and office complex. The Fox Cottage, as it is known, was constructed in 1930 and is an example of the picturesque revival-style architecture of that era. In addition, the design of the 1960s-era dining halls may be noteworthy and the impact of their demolition is examined in the draft EIR, as is the impact of developing the new infill residence halls within the existing complexes.

·Traffic safety, notably pedestrian safety, is also raised in the draft EIR. Because students from the nearby housing complexes will have to cross the street to dine in the new central facility, there is opportunity for pedestrian and auto conflicts. The university is proposing to add crosswalks and other safety measures to reduce the problem.

The first public hearing on the draft environmental impact report is scheduled for April 24 at 7 p.m. in UC Berkeley's Unit 1 Residence Hall at 2650 Durant Ave. Additional hearings will be held in the city.

The University of California Board of Regents is expected to consider the environmental impact report in September. Construction could not begin until after regents' certification of the final EIR and approval of individual projects. The campus hopes to have the dining hall and the first of the student housing completed in 2002.


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