Around Cal

Berkeley Magazine, Fall 1998


Proposition 1A on California's Nov. 3 ballot is of critical importance to UC Berkeley, since it will provide more than $75 million to secure or renew buildings that could sustain serious damage in a major earthquake.

Berkeley's share of the $9.2 billion bond issue, which provides money for K-12 as well as for higher education, is a small but critical piece of the billion dollars needed to ensure an earthquake doesn't put Cal out of business. Over four years' time, Prop 1A will funnel more than $800 million for facilities reform to the nine UC campuses and a proposed 10th campus. The amount would be supplemented by private funds and money from Berkeley's operating budget.

"In the event of a major earthquake on the Hayward Fault, which runs -- unfortunately -- through the heart of the campus, nearly one in three of the buildings could present a threat to life safety, and an even higher percentage would in all likelihood be rendered inoperable," said Chancellor Berdahl.

In addition to life safety, the campus's first concern, a sizable quake could threaten the continued operation of the campus and its important research.

"Take those laboratories out of commission for two, three, or five years and the faculty will be gone. And the role that we have played in developing Northern California's impressive economy will disappear overnight," said Berdahl.

One of the larger portions of the bond pie will go to make LeConte Hall seismically safe. Though it houses four large lecture halls and many teaching labs, in the most recent survey of campus buildings it was rated seismically poor. "The bond monies will go a long way toward providing a safe environment for the teaching activities in the building," said Professor Roger Falcone, chair of the physics department.

It also will save a valuable historic building. Part of John Galen Howard's original campus plan, LeConte was the site of the world's first atom smasher, built in 1929 by Cal's first Nobel laureate, Ernest O. Lawrence, and became the home to five other Nobel physicists.

Other buildings slated for retrofit include Wurster Hall, home to the College of Environmental Design; Barker Hall, which houses numerous cell and molecular biology labs; and the old two-story brick Archaeological Research Facility.

Berdahl said that Prop 1A deserves a close look by anyone concerned about the future of Cal, as well as the future of public education in California.

"Funds from this bond measure are essential to the success of public schooling in California -- in first grade classrooms and in university laboratories," he said.

UC Berkeley Campus

[Table of Contents] [Berkeley Magazine Home] [UC Berkeley Home Page]

Copyright 1998, Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Comments? E-mail