Berkeley, CA--December 14, 2022
The past year has been challenging for the Save Anna Head School campaign, with some positive achievements overshadowed by continued neglect and resulting fires and floods on the campus.
As we reported in May, the Gables building suffered a devastating fire likely caused by a homeless person living at the school, according to fire personnel. Despite our warnings to the University about four fires in the 2021-22 school year, and our repeated requests that the school be secured with cameras and fencing, no action was taken…until the day after the Gables fire, when temporary fencing was finally installed. At that point, all personnel from the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (ISSI) were forced to relocate, and the school was boarded up and left vacant. Today, there is still no 24-hour security as we have requested.
We have also repeatedly reported our concerns about rain and water damage to the University, which did eventually tarp Gables and the Study Hall in fall 2021. After the Gables fire, which caused significant damage to the roof, siding and interior spaces, we again requested protective tarping. After an early September 2022 rainstorm, the damaged portions of the building were tarped.
In mid-November, a toilet waterline hookup on the second floor of Channing Hall began to leak, but with no people on campus it went unnoticed for days, if not weeks. The resulting water flow damaged virtually every room in the building’s first, ground and basement floors. The restoration company called into to mitigate the damage reported that it would take weeks to clean up the extensive water and mold damage, including the removal of several walls and ceilings. The 130 year-old landmarked Channing Hall has suffered mightily due to neglect. It does seem this latest damage could have been avoided had there been proper security.
On the positive side, we were gratified that the entire Berkeley City Council and Mayor endorsed our plans to save the school. Our proposal to the University includes an innovative proposal to relocate several of the buildings on the Anna Head campus to allow for the construction of a large apartment building to help the University expand its housing to meet the crisis faced by Berkeley students. A diverse and representative group of over 300 citizens have signed our petition to UC Berkeley to save the school, and many community leaders have endorsed our efforts. The University has also signaled that it will consider the ways Anna Head School can meet the UC Berkeley’s needs as part of a Student Services Master Plan now underway; we hope to be involved in the planning process early in the new year.
We are hopeful that the University will soon announce a commitment to save Anna Head School. But time is running out. With the historic buildings vacant and unsecured, they continue to be vulnerable to fire and vandalism. At year’s end, we are awaiting a damage report from the University about the evaluation of the Gables and Channing Hall and what UC Berkeley will do to implement plans to repair and restore the buildings. We again call upon the University leaders to declare Anna Head School a priority and to implement plans to secure and save the school early in 2023. And we continue to be ready and willing to assist the University in taking positive steps to save and rehabilitate Anna Head School.