PLTS Move Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about PLTS’ upcoming campus move

What are the plans for the new site?

The lease of an 11,000 square foot place, including the planned new construction, was accomplished a few weeks ago. The site will have office space for 20 faculty and staff. Three smart classrooms will be established, with capacities for 40, 32 and 20 people. A large gathering space with movable tables and chairs will double for study/conversation and weekly worship. A grand piano will be moved from the present chapel. There will be a kitchen/break room, work area, sacristy and student lounge as well. The kitchen and student lounge will be simpler, smaller spaces than what we currently have available on campus, but downtown Berkeley offers many places for gathering that we suspect people will use. Visitors through a single entrance will be greeted by a receptionist and guided to their destinations.

The new facility will have LED lights (instead of fluorescent, per Berkeley code), two restrooms, new furniture and many walls for art, books and exhibits. The graduates’ composite pictures will be compiled into a book and be on display. 

The remodeling phase is anticipated to take several months, with the space available for preliminary occupancy sometime in the spring. However, most seminary functions will remain on the hill through the end of the school year, with Commencement on May 20th

What is planned for the move from the current to the new site? 

On Saturday, May 27th, we will host a Decommissioning Worship Service on the present campus. We will start with worship in the Chapel of the Cross at 10:00 a.m., followed by the distribution of bag lunches, a processional walk through the current campus and down the hill to the new campus in downtown Berkeley (about three miles, mostly downhill), carrying some of the instruments of worship, to a gathering at the new site, to include the conclusion of worship. Plans for this day are still under construction, but all are invited to participate.

Is the 2770 Marin Ave. for sale now?

At its most recent meeting, the Cal Lutheran Board of Regents authorized staff to look into the possible sale of 2770 Marin Ave. Since the possible sale was the subject of a local news story, there has been much interest generated in the matter. However, the property is not yet listed as for sale.

Why is PLTS moving?

The seminary is re-locating for both mission and sustainability reasons. The new site will be in the heart of Berkeley, and so our focus will be turning more outwardly toward the opportunities and needs of the urban setting. The new space is directly across the street from the steps of Berkeley City Hall, next to the main campus of Berkeley City College, two blocks from the University of California, next to the large YMCA, kitty corner from Berkeley High School. We will be closer to the GTU (.8 miles) and the Delaware Apartments (1.2 miles), and next to the downtown BART station, retail stores, restaurants, cultural and art centers.

As to sustainability, we will be relieved of maintaining what is both a beautiful and burdensome aging property on the top of the hill. The move will not be without challenges. Nevertheless, we will be able to focus more of our resources on our mission of forming leaders for the church and the world. Likewise, our neighbors will not be the local wildlife or homeowners, but instead persons who are students, who work downtown and in city government. We transition from an exclusive, isolated location to a populated, engaged one similar to seminary settings in Europe and other parts of the US.

It is difficult now to understand all of the changes that we will experience, and we will certainly discover fresh challenges at the new campus.

Have other sites within the core area of the GTU been considered?

Three years ago, we investigated embedded sites on the campuses of Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Pacific School of Religion and the Graduate Theological Union. All those possible sites have been withdrawn or are no longer available.

How can a business property serve as “sacred space” for the seminary?

There is no doubt that a floor of a business building will not possess the high ceilings or dedicated sacred aspect of our present chapel. Yet places of any kind can become sacred by the kinds of activities that happen in them.  Praying, singing of hymns, practice of the Eucharist, preaching – all of these holy activities help a space to become sacred. Creating our own sense of the sacred will teach us all about how the church can be portable. It takes us back to an earlier time, of the traveling tabernacle. This year, some of our students, as coursework, have been engaging in the issue of how to make this transition well, and how to work with a business kind of space. They have come up with creative and elegant solutions.

What about Commencement, Founders Day, Luther Lecture, and other well-attended PLTS events?

These events will have to take place at other venues, including a local congregation, a public facility, a GTU site, or even Freight and Salvage, a performance space located near 2000 Center St. This move will allow us to become better friends with neighboring congregations and the wider community. 

How will parking be accommodated since 2000 Center Street has no dedicated lot?

There are four commercial parking facilities nearby that might provide options. The campus site is within walking and biking distance of both the Delaware apartments and the GTU. The latter destination requires a bit of a climb, but by a route that takes you through the Cal campus and out the North Gate. Plus the very accessible BART station makes using the train a very attractive option.

Can the seminary squeeze into this much smaller space?

The property at 2770 Marin Avenue is much larger than what we need for current and projected enrollment, staff and faculty levels. Our new space will allow for all necessary activities, but with more limited space for records and files. We have already been digitizing many of our files, especially from the registrar’s office and seminary relations. We plan to make hallway space available for part of the faculty’s libraries.

Why sell land when rental costs are going to keep going up?

The current property on the hill is encumbered with millions of dollars-worth of deferred maintenance, mandatory ADA upgrades and infrastructure problems. These issues are nobody’s fault. They have just arisen over time due to natural deterioration and new legislation since 1950.  Likewise, utility and routine maintenance costs are outsized in relation to enrollment. Overhead costs will drop significantly when we move to the downtown site. In addition, our carbon footprint decreases significantly, which is good for our ecosphere.

What will happen to the Marin Avenue property and proceeds?

It is likely that the property will be sold, and the proceeds will be solely dedicated to the future of the seminary.

Could the ELCA purchase the property?

It is certainly possible that the ELCA or an arm of the church could purchase the property.  Representatives of the church and church agencies are aware of the sale and the move of the campus site.

What about arranging for the PLTS property to become a retreat center?

The goal of the seminary and university is to maximize the profit from a sale of the property. If a buyer wants to create a retreat center there, that offer would be duly considered. And let’s not forget the amazing retreat centers that are already in existence in our Regions: Holden Village, Spirit in the Desert, Mt. Cross and El Camino Pines, Lutherwood and Luther Glen, Rainbow Trails and Sky Ranch, Christikon and Flathead and more. They are always willing to hosts groups for retreats!

What about student housing?

A sale of the Marin Avenue property will take the Beasom hall dormitory out of our inventory of student housing. Currently, all of our residential students live in the Delaware apartments, down the hill, 1.2 miles from our future site. We intend to keep the Delaware apartments, and have plans, in fact, for their further renovation. Forty units of one- and two-bedroom apartments are available to us there. If we experience rising enrollments, we will seek other forms of student housing within Berkeley and beyond. Along with Beasom Hall dormitory, we will lose the guest housing of the Bay and Canyon rooms.

What will happen to the Chapel of the Cross?

That depends upon who buys the property and what their intentions are for it.

Why were the plans to move such a surprise?

The rationale for moving has been developing for decades. Students in the early ‘60s had concerns about the chapel being built and preferred that the campus be moved closer to the heart of the GTU. Former president Phyllis Anderson was an early reader of the current national trends in lower seminary enrollment. One of her proposed solutions was the merger with a university, which has been accomplished with splendid and concerted effort. Another of her proposed solutions, considered by the previous Board of Directors, involved moving the seminary site. With this background of readiness, including the openness of the current Advisory Board and the faculty, a favorable site came on the market this past June. The 2000 Center Street location fit the requirements of the seminary’s mission in many ways, and the building’s owners viewed the offer favorably. These convergent events were supported by a motion of support from the Cal Lutheran Board of Regents to embrace this window of opportunity.

Does this move put us at a disadvantage with other seminaries?

While we don’t know the answer to this question, we do know that all of the other ELCA seminaries are taking major steps toward addressing size and space issues. None is going to stay just as they are. Two are merging, one other has merged with a university before us, and a fourth seminary has just announced such intentions. Another seminary has sold quite a bit of its property. We might lose students who want a tranquil setting to study, but expect to attract at least as many who are excited about studying in a vibrant city on the West Coast and who are interested in learning from our tremendous faculty.

Is this move a temporary stopping point on the way for relocation to Thousand Oaks?

There are two main reasons for PLTS to relocate at this time. The first is to be more engaged in the GTU and the urban setting as places for ministry training. The second is for greater sustainability. Each of these matters are very important for both the seminary and for the university. The move to downtown Berkeley will be for the long term if a reasonable level of sustainability can be achieved and the consortium of the Graduate Theological Union remains robust and effective and vital.

Can I visit the old campus one more time?

Yes, please do!  Beasom Hall is open for overnight guests and costs only $35 per person per night. Contact Chelsea Pell at cpell@plts.edu or 510-559-2735 for more information. We also have scheduled open alum gatherings for February 14-16, March 14-16 and April 25-27 to which you are invited. And don’t forget the Decommissioning Worship Gathering on May 27. (Update - Guest housing at Marin Campus no longer available)

More

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    Mon June 13, 2016

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