Report to BUSD Board, Presented June 22, 2005
CONSTRUCTION ADVISORY COMMITTEE PAST
The “recommendations to
the Board” contained in past
CCAC reports have had mixed consequences.
Some recommendations were not explicitly adopted. A few were adopted but abandoned
when found ineffective or too difficult to sustain. But there is near consensus
that the substance of all the reports, as well as the discussion at each
meeting, have served the charge by raising either Board or public consciousness
regarding the facilities program, providing “heads up” regarding problems and
public perception, and generally making the District and the Facilities
Department a more savvy player of the school facilities construction “game.”
Why do some projects proposed by the District become “problematic” because of public dissent and opposition?
There are many possible reasons. The Committee has discussed one of them in detail. It is clear that, when faced with new projects, “People have irrational fears.” Often these fears are based upon presumption, misinformation or lack of information, and are exacerbated by insufficient time to adequately process information.
Our recommendation is
for the District to deal with these fears as a psychotherapist would.
Although the tactics
in th is example ar may
be too “fine-grained” to be used routinely by
a large entity like a school district, BUSD HAS engaged in a version of
“pre-emptive concern addressing” on three occasions when a great deal was at
to placing on the local ballot the first bond “A”, the second bond “AA” and
parcel tax “BB”, and the most recent parcel tax, the District has contracted a
This is a method rarely undertaken
, even by the City of Berkeley. We can name
many episodes initiated by leaders are
very enthusiastic and are sure that most people will agree with
the overwhelming “logic” of their plan but have no polling data to back up
their confidence. At the first – typically premature - public meeting people
appear and publicly raise objections. The initiators are (1) surprised, and (2)
initially unsympathetic. Both reactions are fatal to realization of the initiators’
Perhaps these suggestions
sound obvious and intuitive.
Then why are
they so rarely heeded? BUSD deserves kudos for the number of times it has
gotten planning right. The CCAC would like to see these methods
institutionalized and thereby increase the District’s success rate.
Show Respect: Part of the method’s potency is uniformly treating people’s concerns with respect; don’t dismiss them as misguided. Systematically recording and responding to concerns shows respect for the public and heads off opposition.
Take Sufficient Time: Public facilities planning and programming are not like other types of administrative decisions. It involves:
A. Listening to all stake-holders. Listening cannot be hurried.
B. Identifying, disseminating and absorbing large bodies of information.
C. Invention, a process
by neither administrative will nor by resources.
D. Harmonizing conflicting interests.
E. Specifically addressing public concerns, whether “rational” or not.
F. Dealing with city and state procedures, timetables and plans.
Allowing too little time
assures “failure” - the certainty of having to
repeat the process or of the project
being stalled indefinitely by
entrenched opposition. This winds up wasting money
and stunt ing
the growth of our shared civic asset.
On March 27, 2003
CCAC commenced the
discussion of parking at Berkeley High. The entire committee favors building a
parking structure of compact “footprint” to contain the 230 parking spaces
which are permanently allocated to BHS staff upon the BHS campus. The obvious
location for a structure is the former tennis courts site on Milvia. Lloyd Lee suggested an alternative: parking beneath an
elevated ball field. For eight subsequent months the CCAC gave this its
sustained attention. For the background and rationale see:
On October 23, 2003 the
CCAC heard a presentation by local developer
Patrick Kennedy and city of Berkeley “parking czar" Matt Nichols. Mr.
Kennedy, with Mr. Nichols looking on, proposed to build for BUSD at no cost to
BUSD a parking structure on the tennis courts from which BUSD would receive all
parking revenue. A summary of this presentation is available. (Contact CCAC chair Bruce Wicinas
for the MS Word .doc)
CCAC halted its discussion through
the duration of master planning at Berkeley High. The concept
endorsed by the master plan and waits to move forward.
In 2002 the attention of
the committee was repeatedly drawn by the prolonged "capacities
study" for which the Superintendent had commissioned a consultant, California
All subsequent building program decision-making
during that year was declared suspended pending outcome of this study. Near
the year’s end the committee saw a partial draft. The CCAC wrote a response in
1/2003. The Manager of Facilities also wrote a recommendation to the Board at
this time. Nothing
came of any of it.
2004 the committee heard a brief presentation by the
chair, who drew the three “zone” divisions for BUSD in 1993 ,
regarding the recent history and rationale of BUSD capacity allocation. The CCAC agrees that questions
remain, that capacity decisions have facilities
consequences and that capacity allocation falls under the charge of no other
“Special use” space can be used for only one purpose. In many cases the District has yielded to community and parent pressure and built such spaces. Examples are new-concept food service and performing arts spaces. In some cases the outcome has been positive and the expense apparently justified by use and by community and staff satisfaction. In other cases, the space is “orphaned” by the time it is completed. BUSD facilities money has been spent on facilities which are under-used or are even perceived as liabilities.
What lessons can be learned from these efforts? What mistakes can we avoid in the future? The Committee suggests: impose a “test” criterion. “Is there an alternate use this space can be adapted to?” (In case the constituency for the idiosyncratic use “goes away” by the time it is built.)
Over the life of the
CCAC we have looked at a
variety of approaches by which the building were programmed. Most of the
schools had strong site committees. Some spontaneously sprang up when the
facilities improvements appeared on the horizon before “start” date of the
District’s project timeline. Others (such as BHS) were programmed via public
processes initiated by the District or by the Architect. The site committees
had varying styles that reflected the members and leader. For example the
G&H building programming was characterized by: “weak principal, strong
Inflexible programming decisions lead to inflexible buildings.
When the enthusiasm for the use or program goes away, the building becomes less useful.
Analyze whether the program for which there is current enthusiasm (and/or the constituency) might go away. Require that there be an alternative use (i.e., a “plan B”) regarding the use of that space. There is more than enough history from which to pull some generalizations regarding these kinds of spaces.
In the course of the building program, programming decisions were made that became “form-determinants” of buildings. There should be an attempt to go back and see what worked. Some schools were designed around some theme or generating idea – was this facilitating or restrictive? For example, the unconventional design for Columbus was greeted with much hoopla. Cragmont was billed as “built around” its great room. How do these programming decisions look with the perspective of years? How do students, staff and parents feel about these schools? What was the discussion that led to grand program decisions? How was the program manifested? How have the plan, components, materials, and systems performed?
There are many ways to apply the “Did it work?” criterion.