UC Berkeley tears down 112-year-old building to build student dormitory

UC Berkeley demolished 1921 Walnut St. on December 16. The building was constructed in 1909 by William B. Heywood. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

The 112-year-old rent-controlled building at 1921 Walnut St., which was at the center of a fight between its tenants and UC Berkeley, was torn down Thursday.

Bulldozers began tearing down the building in the morning, and within hours its eight apartments and ornate columned portico were reduced to a heap of rubble.

Work began Dec. 1 to demolish the three buildings that occupy the area where the new 772-bed student apartment complex will go, according to Kyle Gibson, director of communications for UC Berkeley Capital Strategies. It was a month after the remaining tenants reluctantly agreed to a buyout package and moved out.

Credit: Kelly Sullivan

University contractors tore down the brown clapboard house at 1925 Walnut St. and are in the process of dismantling the old 1930s brick garage, which was Berkeley’s only historic gas station. Work on the garage has progressed slowly as the university attempts to salvage some of the windows, Gibson said. It will take a few more weeks to clear and level the land to prepare it for the start of construction in January, he said.

In place of the buildings will be the greatest gift in UC Berkeley’s history: a high-end, 14-story building for transfer students directly across from the university. The Helen Diller Family Foundation pays the $300 million it will cost to build Anchor House, then donates the building to Cal.

While the building will provide much-needed student housing, it meant eliminating eight rent-controlled units at 1921 Walnut St. Since Cal is a state entity and does not have to abide by Berkeley laws, it does not has not been rebuilt as a rent-controlled replacement. units. Instead, tenants were offered subsidies and agreed to vacate the building in September, with some saying they had no options left to fight eviction.

1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street demolition, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
The demolition of 1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street demolition, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
An architectural flowering in the rubble, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street demolition, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
The demolition of 1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street demolition, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
The demolition of 1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street demolition, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Demolition of the weathered brick garage in Oxford Street, December 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

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