The eight rent-controlled units that once encompassed 1921 Walnut St. are now little more than a barren construction site.
The building was constructed in 1909, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and University Avenue. It housed generations of Berkeley residents, narrowly escaping the flames of the 1923 Berkeley fire and undergoing several name changes.
For some, 1921 Walnut St. invokes memories of impassioned protests and legal battles between UC Berkeley and the city. The property was purchased by campus in 2020 and subsequently demolished less than two years later to build the Helen Diller Anchor House, a 244-unit, 772-bed housing project.
Anonymously deemed as “among the University of California's most generous philanthropic partners,” a donor offers to pay for the design, development and construction of an existing plan for a student housing project.
The Gateway was to be built on five University-owned parcels of the six parcels composing a city block just west of campus.
The only parcel on the block the UC did not own was 1921 Walnut St.
About 25 gather to protest the university's plan to purchase 1921 Walnut St.
A resident since 1989, Davone Riddick, said, “This apartment really means a lot to me because I grew up here, and I have a lot of history here.”
Backing up the tenants were members of the Berkeley Tenants Union and the Eviction Defense Center. Representatives from Arreguín's office, as well as the office of Councilmember Kate Harrison, were there.
Tenants and supporters protest outside the UC Office of the President in Oakland.
A group of about 20 protestors and tenants were joined by members of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, Berkeley Tenants Union, Berkeley Citizens Action, Eviction Defense Center and Bay Area Tenant and Neighborhood Councils.
UC Berkeley officials inform residents they must move out of the building, offering a monetary incentive of $54,000 or more, in preparation for its demolition. According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, relocation packages “easily reach six figures.”
In an email to all UC Berkeley students, Chancellor Carol Christ details plans for Anchor House, a student housing project aimed at housing and supporting transfer students.
In the email, Christ noted that most transfer students at UC Berkeley, who are more likely to come from low-income families and communities of color, come from California Community Colleges. Transfer students often feel disconnected from the larger campus community, Christ added, a struggle that could be remedied by Anchor House's prioritization of transfer students.
Project was to be built upon 1921 Walnut St. and the five other university-owned parcels on the block.
Christ said the donation to fund its design and construction is “the largest philanthropic gift in our history.”
About 40 community members gather outside 1921 Walnut St. to protest campus's plan to evict tenants to build Anchor House.
On behalf of the City Council, Mayor Jesse Arreguín voices support for the protest, as the cost of rental housing is “skyrocketing” across Berkeley.
UC Berkeley Capital Strategies spokesperson Kyle Gibson said in an email campus is committed to accommodating tenants during their relocation. As well, Gibson said UC Berkeley acknowledges the challenges of relocation and will not require tenants to “permanently relocate before the end of August 2021, at the earliest.”
Community members march against campus plans to redevelop 1921 Walnut St. and People's Park.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, tenants, including Natalie Logusch, expressed concerns about eviction. Logusch claims she and other tenants attempted to hold a community listening session with UC Berkeley multiple times but were met with disinterest from campus.
Mogulof denied these claims in an email, where he said tenants were encouraged to reach out to UC Berkeley regarding their relocation and rights under UC system policy.
The Coalition for a Truly Public UC gathered in downtown Oakland at 8 a.m. to protest the UC Board of Regents, including campus's plans to redevelop People's Park and 1921 Walnut St.
Among the protestors were then-ASUC senator-elect Amanda Hill and UC Cops Off Campus organizer Katie Latimer.
The $82.6 million settlement includes a $920,000 payment to recognize campus's planned demolition of the eight rent-controlled units at 1921 Walnut St.
As part of the agreement, the city cannot legally challenge Anchor House, among other university projects.
The settlement also detailed that campus would explore relocating the building but only if the relocation does not increase the time needed to complete the project or delay the construction of Anchor House.
The settlement was signed by Arreguín.
While they call the $82.6 million settlement a “win for the city,” they express frustration over campus's intention to evict residents and demolish 1921 Walnut St.
The last of the 1921 Walnut St. tenants agree to vacate their rentals with relocation packages that could reach six figures.
In response to the tenants' decisions, ASUC Senator Kalliope Zervas expresses concern over the relationship between city and campus, increasing houselessness and the preservation of low-income housing.
The newly cleared land will make way for the Helen Diller Anchor House.
While the project's construction is fully funded by the Helen Diller Foundation, the revenue from the businesses within the building will help secure scholarships for first-generation and underrepresented students.
While the tenants of 1921 Walnut St. were afforded relocation packages by the university, Logusch claimed some tenants had to leave Berkeley, or even California, altogether.
According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, the university provided “comprehensive” relocation packages to the former 1921 Walnut St. tenants based partly on their household income.
Packages included assistance in finding alternate housing, rental assistance payments and reimbursement for moving expenses, Mogulof added. Tenants could also choose a lump sum payment — equal to the rental assistance — for purchasing a house instead.
Mogulof noted that the $82.6 million settlement between campus and the city did not change plans for the Anchor House.
“It was always the campus's hope and intention to reach individualized agreements regarding relocation benefits with every household at 1921 Walnut Street,” Mogulof said in an email. “That is exactly what happened.”
As rents rise in Berkeley and Alameda County, Anchor House may provide some much-needed relief to campus's strained housing supply. Currently, UC Berkeley houses the lowest percentage of undergraduate and graduate students in the UC system, but Anchor House will fulfill 9% of campus's housing goals for the next decade.
Despite this, Anchor House did not come to fruition without some detriment to the tenants of 1921 Walnut St. While none of the former residents were available for comment, tenant testimonials made prior to the vacating of the building are available at the Save 1921 Walnut website.
“The tenants at 1921 Walnut St. will be forever grateful to the Berkeley community that stood with us and fought with us,” Logusch said in a previous Daily Californian article.
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