Friday, October 4, 2019 Message from the Superintendent, Dr. Brent Stephens
Oxford Elementary School Modernization Project and Geotechnical Report
This week, the Berkeley Unified School Board received the geotechnical report it commissioned in 2017 for Oxford Elementary School, located in a neighborhood known to be built on top of landslide fill. The 440-page report was a required element of the planned Oxford modernization. It was received and reviewed by me and other members of the BUSD staff during the period from September 12 – 27, 2019.
The report was completed by Alan Kropp & Associates of Berkeley, a firm with a great deal of experience in assessing geological conditions around the state of California.
The report confirmed that the school is built on the Keith Avenue landslide, and assessed the risk associated with this site in the event of a major earthquake. The key findings from this report are summarized below.
Key Report Findings
- The study confirmed the Oxford Elementary School site is located within the actively-moving Keith Avenue Landslide Complex.
An extensive compilation of past data indicates this landslide mass generally moves at an average rate of about one inch per year, with significant variations related to annual rainfall patterns; this movement will continue.
- The existing school buildings appear to be in relatively good condition considering they are approximately 60 years old. The buildings, pavement areas, and the existing retaining wall do not appear to have been significantly distressed by landslide movement. The lack of building distress, and limited observed superficial damage on the school property and in the surrounding area, probably indicate that the school property and the immediate surrounding area are moving as a relatively coherent block since these features were originally constructed.
- Based on calculations of the additional magnitude of landslide movement that would occur during an earthquake, the Oxford Elementary School campus would likely have a total movement that might range from as little as 2 feet to as much as 20 feet.
Without major site reconstruction, a high safety hazard would result in the Oxford Elementary School site.
- With some substantial remedial schemes, it may be possible for an entirely reconstructed school campus to achieve reasonable performance but still experience localized non-structural damage.
- The risk to the neighborhood during an earthquake is significant; this may preclude emergency vehicles from accessing the neighborhood and school and may prevent evacuation of children. This could lead to an extended period of isolation. This is already made worse by the narrow streets in that neighborhood.
- The active Keith Avenue Landslide (also known as the North Berkeley Slide) is very large; even if the school were built on a mat foundation, there will still be a debris field around the school, or coming at the school.
Even with a mat foundation, the school will have to be rebuilt after a landslide.
- Some seismologists predict that there is more than a 50% chance that a large earthquake will occur on the Hayward fault in the next 20-30 year window. (UC Berkeley Seismology Lab)
Other Information about Earthquake and Landslide Risk in Berkeley
The City of Berkeley maintains its own website on seismological risk. Members of the community can access this information at this link: https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Planning_and_Development/Building_and_Safety/Seismic_Hazard_Zones.aspx.
Schedule for Engaging the Oxford Community
The following dates are our short-term plans for sharing more about the AKA report with the Oxford and Berkeley communities. Meeting information will be updated, so please check back regularly.
- October 3, Oxford Parent and Staff Meetings held to discuss the report findings.
- October 4, establish website page for ongoing updates, access to the full AKA report, and links to resources; establish BUSD feedback email “email@example.com”
- October 15, 6:00, Oxford Parent Meeting #2 (neighbors invited)
- October 23, Board meeting: Presentation of staff recommendations and parent/teacher feedback to the Board
- Early November, “Technical Panel” Meeting at Oxford with Alan Kropp and other experts, for parents and community members interested in the details
Long Term Timeline for the Oxford Community
For the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, my current thinking is that the Oxford community will remain in place. The Oxford facility continues to comply with all state requirements for earthquake safety and is in this respect no different from any other BUSD facility.
Moving forward, we will assess our options. The West Campus facility at 1222 University, which is attached to the 2020 Bonar St. District office, is currently being renovated. West Campus is a potential new location for the Oxford community, should we decide to move the school.
Link to the full Oxford Geological Study by Alan Kropp & Associates
Link to the slide deck from the October 3, 2019 Parent Meeting at Oxford
City of Berkeley Seismic Hazard Zones