UC Berkeley News


Bond measure on March 2 ballot would help renovate Giannini Hall
No, not that bond measure. The other one . . .

| 25 February 2004

As Governor Schwarzenegger takes to the streets to campaign for a spending cap and what has euphemistically been dubbed “the Arnold bond,” educators at Berkeley and throughout the state are watching the fate of a less-publicized measure. If passed, Proposition 55 would provide $12.3 billion to relieve overcrowding, accommodate new enrollments, make overdue safety repairs, and upgrade the state’s aging public-school infrastructure at all levels.

While school-bond measures are usually popular with voters, Proposition 55 faces a difficult road to passage, says Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain, in part because news coverage has focused on other, better-known initiatives.

“Sometimes the fate of a measure depends upon the company it keeps,” Cain observes. “On the ballot with such high-profile measures as Propositions 56, 57, and 58, Prop. 55 has gotten very little attention.”

With polls showing the measure hovering around the 50-percent barrier required for passage, a whole range of planned projects throughout the state could be imperiled. The University of California system is slated to receive $690 million if Proposition 55 passes. The UC Regents support the measure and have cited the university’s ongoing seismic needs as an important reason for approving the capital funds. At Berkeley, where the Hayward Fault runs directly beneath the eastern edge of the campus, preparing for an earthquake is of crucial importance.

Giannini Hall would be the biggest Berkeley campus recipient of bond funds if Proposition 55 is successful. Constructed in 1930, Giannini is part of the three-building Agriculture Group originally planned by campus architect John Galen Howard. Best known for its Art Deco lobby, Giannini has been honored many times, including by designation on the National Register of Historic Places. But Giannini also claims another distinction of which the campus is less proud: rated seismically poor, it is considered highly vulnerable in a severe earthquake.

Honoring its namesake
Now the administrative center for the College of Natural Resources and the home of the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, Giannini is scheduled for retrofit beginning in 2005, but only if Proposition 55 passes. The building is slated to receive $21 million to improve seismic safety, fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and disabled access.

Such work will not only allow the campus to protect a “beautiful” building, said Anthony Fisher, chair of agricultural and resource economics, but it would honor the history of A.P. Giannini, “who revolutionized American banking by being the first to lend on a large scale to farmers, including small farmers, and who established the Giannini Foundation to study the agricultural sector of the economy.”

In addition to renovating Giannini Hall, Proposition 55 funds would be used on the Berkeley campus to make seismic improvements to the southern section of Davis Hall and to help fund the replacement of Campbell Hall with a safer, more modern building.

Previous bonds have supported seismic and life-safety upgrades to buildings throughout campus, including Barrows, Hertz, Hildebrand, LeConte, and Wurster Halls.

The University of California website on Proposition 55, which includes fact sheets, a list of frequently asked questions, and a project list, can be found online at www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/prop55/.