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The Berkeley Student Cooperative (aka University Students' Cooperative Association or USCA) is a student housing cooperative serving primarily the University of California, Berkeley but open to any full-time post-secondary student. The BSC houses over 1300 students in 20 houses and apartment buildings. Residents of the houses are expected to perform work (about 5 hours a week) as part of their rental agreement; the work helps to keep the rent lower. The BSC is led by a board of directors elected by the residents. The BSC is a member of NASCO.

History Edit


The USCA began in 1933, to meet the need for affordable student housing during the Great Depression. Berkeley YMCA director Harry Kingman inspired 14 students to start the first housing cooperative in Berkeley, doing workshifts in exchange for lower rent. In the fall of 1933 the students leased Barrington Hall which housed 48 students. Sherman Hall, Sheridan Hall, and Euclid Hall all opened during this era, as well as Stebbins Hall, the first women's co-op.

After World War II the USCA also purchased Ridge House and Cloyne Court Hotel to meet the demand from the increase in the student population caused by the GI Bill. In the 1960s the USCA opened one of the first co-ed student housing projects in the nation, Ridge Project, later renamed Casa Zimbabwe in the 1980s. The 1960s and 1970s saw a decline in the popularity of the Greek System in Berkeley, which allowed the USCA to purchase defunct sororities which became Davis House, Andres Castro Arms, and Wolf House.

The 1970s saw the opening of Lothlorien Hall, a vegetarian theme house, and Kingman Hall, both of which formerly belonged to cults (Lothlorien belonging to the One World Family and Kingman Hall to the Berkeley Living Love Center). This decade also saw the construction and opening of the Rochdale Village Apartments, one of the USCA's three apartment facilities. The others are Fenwick Weaver's Village and the Northside Apartments. The USCA also owns two graduate and re-entry student houses, The Convent and Hillegass/Parker House, formerly Le Chateau.

In 1990, the members of the USCA voted to close its largest co-op Barrington Hall, in reaction to complaints from neighbors and problems with the City. The decade also saw the opening of two new theme houses: the African American Theme House, opened in response to the University's closing of all of its theme houses; and, in 1999, Oscar Wilde House, the first LGBT co-op in the country. Oscar Wilde House is a former fraternity house, which the USCA was able to buy due to the continuing decline in the popularity of the Greek system in Berkeley.

Houses Edit

The USCA currently owns and operates 20 houses and apartments, housing over 1300 students.

African American Theme HouseEdit

The African American Theme House is located close to the University of California at Berkeley near Memorial Stadium and the International House. The house is open to all students, not just African American students. House members promote the theme by doing community service and hosting student group events. The building was originally the Slavic House for the University of California, Berkeley. The USCA bought the house in 1997 and converted it to an African American themed cooperative.

The African American Theme House is one of two themed houses in the USCA. The African American themed fraternities on the UC Berkeley campus do not have houses, which makes the African American Theme House unique in having a separate house for its members.

Despite the building being named The African American Theme House, the demographic make-up of the house couldn't be more to the contrary. The black resident population of the house has been on a steady decline since its purchase by the USCA in 1997. Despite the house being known for being the most culturally diverse building in the USCA, the inhabitants are mostly Caucasian. At this rate the African American Theme House will become just another USCA housing facility.

Andres Castro ArmsEdit

Andres Castro Arms, often referred to as simply Castro, houses 56 residents, known as Castrati, and is located about two blocks south-east of the University of California, Berkeley.

The house was originally designed as a mansion by architect Julia Morgan. Its most distinguishing external feature is the three story red brick staircase leading up to the Warring entrance.


The house was originally designed in the Mediterranean style by architect Julia Morgan for metallurgist Charles Washington Merrill. The house was built in 1911 at a cost of $21,531 and originally featured an S-shaped driveway running up the steep hill to the house and the interior was elaborately decorated with redwood, pine and oak panelling, similar in many ways to the interior of another Julia Morgan-designed coop, Davis House, however this was stripped when the house was converted to a sorority.

With the construction in 1923 by the University of California of Memorial Stadium and the International House in 1929 a few houses to the north, the neighborhood, once home to many exclusive and expensive mansions, turned into more of a student-oriented neighborhood dominated by sorority and fraternity houses.

In 1939 Merrill sold the home to the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. The eighty-four chapter sorority was founded in 1898 and the Upsilon Chapter at Cal was established in 1915 and initially located in a house on Euclid Avenue on the northside. The sorority attempted to make the house look more modernist by stripping the interiors of the woodwork and enclosing the front porch in glass. In 1957 the sorority constructed a wing addition to the house at a cost of $71,500.

In the 1960s, the popularity of the Greek system declined significantly in Berkeley and many sorority and fraternity houses were forced to close for lack of membership. Unable to attract sufficient membership ZTA was forced to close its doors.

The USCA purchased the building in 1971, and decided to name the house in honor of long-time central kitchen cook Andres Castro, who was seriously ill at the time, but later recovered. The USCA initially opened the house as an all-male house, but after the first year in response to the need for more female housing and an overall trend in favor of co-ed housing, the house became co-ed.


California State Historic Resources Inventory, compiled by Sara Holmes Boutelle (author of Julia Morgan - Architect) 8/3/78. Her sources include:

  • Architect and Engineer, November 1918, pg. 66
  • Julia Morgan client list
  • Building permit, issued October 1911
  • Morgan, Julia. Architectural Drawings - House for Mr. C.W. Merrill; West Elevation; First Floor Plan; Interiors. October 1911. Repository - Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association.

Casa ZimbabweEdit

Main article: Casa Zimbabwe

Casa Zimbabwe, commonly referred to as CZ, is located at 2422 Ridge Road, a block from the North Gate of the University of California, Berkeley campus. The brown stucco fortress sits on what is referred to as the "Holy Hill", the area surrounding a five-way intersection surrounded on all sides by churches and seminaries, such as the Graduate Theological Union. The USCA central office and central kitchen are located within the Casa Zimbabwe building.


The residents of Casa Zimbabwe are affectionately referred to as Czars.


Template:Update While every other USCA house was a pre-existing structure eventually converted into a co-op, CZ was built from scratch with the specific intent of being used as a cooperative living space.

The house is divided into three segments. Residents' rooms are located in the east and west wings, both of which are connected in the middle by two stories of wide open common space. Such a layout seems to encourage social interaction more so than in some other houses.

Further evidence of having been built as a student co-op is the strange architecture. While the east wing is three stories tall, the west wing is four stories and is offset downward by half a floor. The stairwells look like their corners were chopped off as an afterthought, and none of the halls are perfectly straight. According to Co-op legends, the architects had originally designed the building to look more normal, like the campus dorms. Since many former dorm-residents move into the co-ops to escape the sterility of dorm life, the architects were asked to re-design the house to look less dorm-like.

When CZ opened in 1966, it was known as "Ridge Project" since it shares its lot with Ridge House. In 1987, the house residents successfully petitioned to change the house name to its current one, originally intended as a parody of some alternative exotic-sounding proposals. In 2002, the residents petitioned to change the name of the house to Krackistan, but the USCA Central Office rejected the proposal outright.

Casa Zimbabwe closed at the end of 2006 in order to perform major seismic retrofitting work. The house is scheduled to reopen in Fall 2007.

Cloyne Court HotelEdit

Main article: Cloyne Court Hotel

The Cloyne Court Hotel, often referred to simply as Cloyne, is located at 2600 Ridge Road at Leroy Avenue on the north side of the University of California, Berkeley campus. Residents of the house are known as Clones. Cloyne Court was named after Cloyne, the village in Ireland where George Berkeley was bishop.

Cloyne is one of the biggest cooperative houses in the country with 150 residents. Despite its size the house was entirely student-run for nearly sixty years. This changed in July 2005, when the co-op was required to hire a live-in manager in order to renew the property lease with the University.

Cloyne was built in 1904, as a high-class hotel, operated by the Pierce family, who later bought it from the original investors. The building survived the devastating 1923 Berkeley fire. Cloyne Court was sold by the Pierce family in 1946 to the University Students' Cooperative Association. In 1972, Cloyne Court became a co-ed house. In 1970, the USCA was forced to sell the property to the Regents of the University of California, upon the threat of an eminent domain acquisition by the University, in exchange for a low-cost lease, most recently renewed in July 2005.

The building is one of fifty-six buildings in Berkeley listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as a City of Berkeley Landmark.

The ConventEdit

The Convent is located at 1601 Allston Street, about a mile from the UC Campus. Because it is located on University of California property, all of its residents are required to be UC students, like Cloyne Court.

Until the opening of the Hillegass/Parker House coop in 2005, The Convent was the only USCA coop housing only graduate and re-entry students, and the only coop in which all residents had single rooms. With an older resident population and a more isolated location, it has a reputation for being quieter and cleaner than other coops.

The Convent gets its name from the fact that it occupies a former convent. Its rec room is a converted chapel, and like the building, has kept the name.

Davis HouseEdit

Davis House is located at 2833 Bancroft Steps, which is a pedestrian pathway between the Alpha Phi Sorority and Sherman Hall (another USCA cooperative), near California Memorial Stadium. The house can hold 36 residents.


The building was originally built in the early part of the 20th Century as a single-family mansion, supposedly to house the son of one of the Hearst family's attorneys while he attended school at the University of California.Template:Fact The house was designed by architect Julia Morgan, who also designed two other current USCA houses, Wolf House and Andres Castro Arms.

With the completion of Memorial Stadium in 1923 and the International House in 1929, the neighborhood transferred from one of quiet, expensive mansions into a student-oriented neighborhood dominated by sorority and fraternity houses. At some point during this time, the house became a sorority (Alpha Xi Delta) and several additions were made to the building, including a sleeping porch with a deck above that features an expansive view of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

With the 1960s, the popularity of the Greek system in Berkeley saw a steady decline. Many sorority and fraternity houses were forced to close for want of members, including this one.

In 1969 the University Students' Cooperative Association purchased the building from the sorority for use as a co-op, one of several former Greek houses it acquired during this era. The price was $75,000 (1969 dollars) and another $40,000 or so was spent on interior modifications, including changing the sleeping porch into private rooms. The house opened to residents in January 1970.

Davis House was established for juniors, seniors and graduate students, and was unique for its time in that members prepared all their own meals, including dinners, rather than obtaining them from the USCA's Central Kitchen on Northside. Like all co-ops, each member had a five-hour workshift every week, and for seven of the members, cooking dinner was the shift. They were free to select what would be served. Breakfasts and lunches were prepared individually by the residents, and at holidays such as Thanksgiving sumptuous meals would be created for which all the students wore their finest.

Davis House was co-ed, and every effort was made to have an equal number of men and women, or as close to it as possible. Three marriages resulted from the first 34 charter members.

Euclid HallEdit

Euclid is one of the smaller USCA houses, with 24 residents. The residents of Euclid Hall are affectionately referred to as Euclidians. It is named after Euclid Avenue, the main street leading north into the hills above the Berkeley campus.

Euclid Hall was originally the University of California Japanese Students' Club, built after the 1923 Berkeley fire destroyed the building which previously stood on the location. During World War II, when Japanese and Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from the west coast, the building was leased to the USCA, which returned it to a JSC alumni group, the Nisei Alumni of the University of California, in 1947. The building reopened in the spring semester of 1948 as Euclid Hall, and was open to students of any background, with preference given to Nisei students without housing. In 1967, faced with declining occupancy, Euclid Hall was re-leased to the USCA, which eventually purchased it in 1972.

External linksEdit

Fenwick Weaver's VillageEdit

The Fenwick Weaver's Village, commonly known as Fenwick, is an apartment complex located on the Southside of the UC Berkeley campus. Fenwick houses 102 residents in one-bedroom to four-bedroom apartments.

Hoyt HallEdit

Hoyt Hall is located on the Northside of the UC Berkeley campus, on a block which holds four other USCA properties. Hoyt is one of the USCA's two women-only houses, and houses 60 women during the school year.

Hillegass/Parker HouseEdit

Hillegass/Parker House is a student housing cooperative in Berkeley, California. It is part of the USCA coop system.

From the 70s Until 2005, Hillegass/Parker (AKA HIP House) was the site of Le Chateau, a large undergraduate co-op for 85 residents. After Barrington Hall closed, Le Chateau became "the black sheep" of the USCA system. [1]. Housing values rose in the southside neighborhood it occupied, and neighbors organized to file 20 small claims court cases at once against the USCA. The USCA offered to evict everybody and install new undergraduates if the neighbors would drop the suits, but they refused. The USCA decided to meet the neighbors' request to convert the building into a graduate/re-entry coop, which opened in Fall 2005.

HIP House consists of three large houses, with a large kitchen in the central Main house. Additionally, it has a large backyard which was re-landscaped during the conversion. One of the house's major perks, the swimming pool in the backyard, was cemented over in order to appease neighbors. There is also a large roof deck on top of Main house.

Kidd HallEdit

Alexander Mardsen Kidd Hall houses 17 students; the smallest house in the USCA. Located in a wooded neighborhood two blocks north of the UC Berkeley campus, Kidd Hall features a backyard redwood forest-niche intersected by Strawberry Creek. The house also features a baketball court and one of few wheelchair accessible rooms in the USCA.

Kidd Hall has 7 double rooms and 3 highly-prized single rooms after reconstruction in 1989 which converted two triple rooms into three singles and a double.

Kingman HallEdit

Kingman Hall is located at 1730 La Loma Avenue on the northeast corner of the University of California, Berkeley campus. Kingman houses 50 residents, known as Kingmanites. It is named after Harry Kingman, the former YMCA director who inspired 14 students to start the USCA in 1933. The house was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in January 1999.


The house at 1730 La Loma Avenue was designed by the San Francisco architects Drysdale and Thomson and originally built as a chapter house for the Theta Xi fraternity in 1914 by Barry Building Co. of Oakland. The building survived the devastating 1923 Berkeley Fire, which burned close to 600 buildings north of the Berkeley campus. The Nu chapter of Theta Xi resided there until 1964, when the fraternity was disbanded owing to anti-Greek sentiment on the Berkeley campus.

The house was almost sold to developers as a site for high-rise apartments, but instead embarked on a more bizarre career. From 1964 to 1969 it was known as Toad Hall and served as a rooming house for male students. In 1969, it was purchased by a Hayward attorney named Harold Mefford, who rented out the house to non-students as well. The house reportedly functioned more as a commune than a rooming house and housed at most 50% students.

One of the residents was Joy, Country Joe McDonald's personal secretary, who lived in a basement room. Author/Merry Prankster Ken Kesey (not to be confused with author/future owner Ken Keyes, Jr.) and musician David Crosby used to buy their drugs from a Toad Hall dealer, and their cars were often seen parked in front of the house.

In 1973, Mefford sold the building for $127,000, to Ken Keyes, Jr., author of Living Love - a Way to Higher Consciousness and the building became the Berkeley Living Love Center. "The Living Love Way" was disseminated via broadcasts on KQED-FM every Saturday evening. A 52-hour morning-noon-and-night group workshop, designed by Keyes, offered the opportunity for a breakthrough toward higher consciousness. The LLC claimed tax exemption as a religious organization and operated on a non-profit basis.

On November 22, 1976, the center approached the city of Berkeley with an offer to donate the property for park use if it could be determined that it was located on the Hayward Fault line. They did this because they felt it would be a violation of the "Law of Higher Consciousness" to simply sell the property to someone else.

For whatever reason, this fell through and the building was sold in 1977 to the University Students' Cooperative Association for $300,000. The Living Love Center relocated to a Template:Convert farm-university in St. Mary, Kentucky. The house was renamed Kingman Hall, after Harry L. Kingman, director of the local University YMCA who encouraged the USCA founders to start a housing cooperative in 1933.

Landmark status Edit

In 1998–1999, in response to the residents' application to construct a deck on the roof of the building, the neighbors sought landmark designation for the building, previously considered eligible, in an attempt to block the group's permit application. Although the house was designated a landmark and the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the application for a permit to build a roof deck, the group's appeal to the Berkeley City Council was successful, the permit was issued with use restrictions, and the deck built. Kingman residents are not allowed to use the deck after 9 pm.


  • State of California Historic Resources Inventory, 2/13/79, compiled by Betty Marvin
  • City of Berkeley Landmark Application, 11/98, written by Daniella Thompson
  • "A Center for happiness?" Berkeley Gazette, Saturday, 14 April 1973.
  • "Student Co-op Buys Living Love Home" Daily Californian, 24 May 1977.
  • G.A. Pettitt, Berkeley, the Town & Gown of It, 1973.

External linksEdit


Lothlorien consists of two adjacent houses, the North House at 2405 Prospect Street and the South House at 2415 Prospect Street. The two houses surround a common courtyard area and share a communal kitchen and dining room in the South House.

Lothlorien is the USCA's vegetarian theme house. As such, all house-bought food is vegetarian and house bylaws prohibit the preparation, storage, or consumption of meat in all common areas. Because of this, most residents of Lothlorien are vegetarians or vegans, but diet is not a condition of residence and meat-eating members are quite common.


Lothlorien's North House (2405 Prospect) originally stood in the middle of the Channing circle, where Channing Way meets Piedmont Avenue. It was a mansion owned by the Maxwell family, known in the area as Maxwell House. Near the turn of the 20th century, the family decided they wanted a better view, put the house on logs and rolled it up the hill to its present locataion next to South House.

South House was a sorority during the 1920s, and was later bought by the One World Family, a cult lead by Allen Michael that was known for its eccentric beliefs. The USCA bought the building in 1975.

House TraditionsEdit

  • Along with the policy of not buying meat, the house buys all of its produce from the Berkeley Farmers' Market and the rest of its groceries are organic.
  • There is a house by-law which requires that there be no television in common space, though residents may have a television in their room.
  • Residents of Lothlorien are known as Elves, because the house was named after Lothlórien in J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy book The Lord of the Rings which was inhabited by Elves.
  • Lothlorien adopted consensus decision making for its house meetings in 1981 and uses this model of decision-making to this day.


Lothlorien is currently the only USCA house to make decisions by consensus. The house council must meet at least three times a month, but usually meets weekly. A motion passes when all those present at council come to consensus on the issue, rather than by a vote. Lothlorien is the only house without a president, and the duty of running council rotates to a new volunteer each week, while the other duties of President are generally the responsibility of the House Manager. As at other houses, elected residents serve as managers: House Manager, Kitchen Manager, Maintenance Manager, and Workshift Manager. There are also minor coordinators: Garden, Social, and Recycling.

External linksEdit

Northside ApartmentsEdit

The Northside Apartments are an apartment complex in Berkeley, California which are part of the USCA coop system. All the apartments are studios or one-bedroom apartments, and are highly-prized in the USCA. Due to the USCA's seniority system for allocating apartments, most of the inhabitants of the Northside Apartments are graduate students or long-term (more than 4-year) undergrads who've been in the USCA most of their time at Berkeley.

Unlike the other USCA houses, which are more like student-run dorms, USCA's three apartment complexes have no food service, and much lighter workshift requirements.

Oscar Wilde HouseEdit

The Oscar Wilde House, often referred to as simply Wilde House, is located on Warring Street, in the heart of UC Berkeley's fraternity row, and was a former fraternity house. Wilde House was the first gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender-themed (LGBT) student housing cooperative in the United States.Template:Fact It is named after Oscar Wilde.

Wilde house was a major source of inspiration for Ant Hill Cooperative in upstate New York.

Ridge HouseEdit

Ridge House is a converted mansion that houses 38 university students, immediately adjacent to Casa Zimbabwe, and next door to the library of the Graduate Theological Union. Ridge house was originally an all-male house, but is now co-ed.

Rochdale ApartmentsEdit

The Rochdale Apartments are an apartment complex in Berkeley, California which is part of the USCA coop system.

The apartments were constructed in 1971 on the site of a former Berkeley public school, the McKinley Continuation School which closed down in the late 1960s, and except for its Haste Street Annex building (now restored, but moved to a new location), was razed.

Stebbins HallEdit

Stebbins Hall is located on the Northside of the UC Berkeley campus. Once a hotel, it was renamed by the USCA in 1950 after Lucy Ward Stebbins, the Dean of Women at Cal. Until 1972, Stebbins was a women-only house, after which it became co-ed. The green hands on the front of the building were painted by residents of Cloyne as a prank, when Cloyne was all men and Stebbins was all women. Residents refer to themselves as "Stebbinites," and claim the lizard as their mascot. Stebbins now houses 64 students.

Wolf HouseEdit

Wolf House houses 29 residents, known as wolves, in a house on Durant Avenue, one house down from Piedmont Avenue and two blocks from the University of California campus on Southside, an area dominated by sororities and fraternities.

The house was built by Julia Morgan for the Rector of St. Mark's Church, the Rev. Edward L. Parsons, in 1905 and originally situated just above Telegraph Avenue on Durant at 2532. In 1915, with the commercialization of the neighborhood, the family of Rev. Parsons decided to have the house moved up Durant Avenue to 2732, next to the corner of Piedmont. At that time the front porch was enclosed and the location of the front door changed to fit the lot, under the supervision of the architect. When Rev. Parsons became the Episcopal Bishop of California, the family moved to San Francisco. The house was first rented and then sold. Before being bought by the USCA in 1974, the house served as a sorority.

In 2002, the USCA, in an attempt to make the building accessible to disabled residents, added a ramp that ran the length of the house along Durant to the front door, bisecting the front stairs.


State Historical Resources Inventory, 8/15/1978, compiled by Sara Holmes Boutelle (author - Julia Morgan, Architect). Her sources include:

  • Julia Morgan's client notations, 1905 and 1915
  • Building Permit, April 8, 1905
  • Correspondence with Miss Harriet T. Parsons, daughter of the Bishop

Defunct Co-opsEdit

The following facilities were once owned and operated by the USCA, but are now closed or otherwise defunct.

  • Barrington Hall (1933–1989)
  • Sheridan Hall (1934–1943)
  • Oxford Hall (1938–1977), original location of Central Kitchen (CK), leased until purchase in 1963
  • Lexington Hall (1943–1948), purchased from Japanese Students' Club, then returned after WWII. Repurchased in 1968 and reopened as Euclid Hall.
  • Le Chateau (1977–2005), closed in Spring 2005. Reopened in Fall 2005 as Hillegass/Parker House.

Central Co-op ServicesEdit

Right below Casa Zimbabwe are the USCA's Central Office and the Central Kitchen and Central Maintenance facilities.

Central Office handles all of the applications to the USCA and determines where members will be placed. Placement is based on how long the applicant has been a member of the USCA, the member's preferences, and the number of vacancies in their preferred house(s).

Central Kitchen handles and delivers the food orders for all of the houses but not the apartments. Food orders are handled on the house level by the Food or Kitchen Managers. Central Kitchen also handles the supply orders for all of the houses, such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies, as well as the furniture orders for both the houses and the apartments.

Central Maintenance is responsible for major work on the houses, including major projects or renovations. Most minor work is handled by house Maintenance Managers.

Famous USCA AlumniEdit


See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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