Fix Historic Alameda High or tear it down?

This fall, school district leaders will begin a public discussion about Alameda's public school facilities, including the future of Historic Alameda High School. The historic campus has had identified seismic issues since 1935 according to an engineer's report commissioned by district administrators, but school leaders have been unsuccessful in their attempts over the years to raise the money needed to retrofit the buildings despite the desire of many residents to see them fixed up. So The Alamedan is asking readers: Do you want to see the school district find a way to fix up the buildings for reuse, or should they tear the old campus down and erect something new in its place? Let us know what you think by taking our poll, and feel free to expand on your answer in the comment section below.

Fix it up
76% (117 votes)
Tear it down
24% (36 votes)
Total votes: 153


It's probably quite expensive to repair the internal building but if it's possible to replace that and keep the facade that might be the best option to keep costs down and not destroy part of Alameda history.

What other choice is there than to tear it down? Superintendent Vital has told the public that it would cost $40 million to $60 million just for the retrofit the building. Then there is the expense of repairing what the retrofitting did to the inside so that the district staff and possibly students could use the building again.

Where would that money come from? It probably would be cheaper to tear it down and build a new modern facility.

Well, if Kristin Vital said it would cost a bajillion dollars, than that's got to be what it will cost, right?

In fairness, I doubt she ever said "bajillion", but I would like to know how many buildings in Alameda, other than those w/ K-12 classrooms are "unsafe" because they do not meet "Field Act "requirements K-12 buildings must meet. I doubt any city building meets those standards, certainly not a single apartment building, residential home, I doubt any Park St business does.
The moving of admin offices uses not just facility money (I doubt that covers all the new furniture, the cost of physically moving, and all the office down time with office staff unable to work, and needing to deal with packing/unpacking and setting yo in new digs) Do the new digs meet "Field Act" standards? I bet not..

Someone compared this move to the movement of Adim offices for Berkeley Unified. After talking to someone there (which the reporter should have done before writing her article) - There are major differences:
1 BUSD moved into one of their own buildings which had been shuttered for years. They spent a lot of money doing it, but, it also houses part of a charter school they share the property with.therfore helping students and improving their own property.
2 BUSD relized they did not have to put everyone under the one roof. In fact they used to be divided up into 6 buildings in 3 distinct sections of Berkeley - now they are in 5 buildings in 3 distinct sections of Berkeley. They are now out of the decrepit old building they leased dirt cheap, and in all buildings they own. Vitale & Co are going in the opposite direction with no budget and no ability to issue new bonds they can begin to pay until about the year 2038 - They have already spent the max they can collect for decades into the future. BUSD in comparison, is a poster school example of how to do things right.- without alienating the community.


Hi Christopher. A question and a clarification. The Field Act only applies to schools, so the city and private property owners aren't held to its standards, just schools. Also, I'm wondering if you can elaborate a little more on your comment that the district can't issue bonds until 2038, because asking voters to approve a fresh bond issue was one of the strategies the district seemed set to explore. Thanks!

Jon Spangler's picture

I would argue in favor of retrofitting and repairing the existing AHS buildings--IF the resulting facility will provide the kinds of classrooms and offices that AUSD can use effectively to achieve its overall educational goals.

Retrofitting IS always more expensive than new construction but historic preservation is very important and worth looking closely at before abandoning an existing and historic facility....