UC Berkeley demolished 1921 Walnut St. on Dec. 16. The building was constructed in 1909 by William B. Heywood. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

The 112-year-old rent-controlled building at 1921 Walnut St., which was the focus of a fight between its tenants and UC Berkeley, was demolished Thursday.

Bulldozers started knocking down the building in the morning, and within a few hours its eight apartments and column-graced portico were reduced to a pile of rubble.

Work started on Dec. 1 to take down the three buildings that occupy the area where the new 772-bed student apartment complex will go, according to Kyle Gibson, the director of communications for UC Berkeley Capital Strategies. That was a month after the remaining tenants reluctantly accepted a buy-out package and moved out.

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Credit: Kelly Sullivan

The university’s contractors demolished the brown shingle house at 1925 Walnut St. and are in the process of dismantling the old 1930s-era brick garage, which was Berkeley’s only landmarked gas station. Work on the garage has gone slowly as the university is trying to salvage some of the windows, said Gibson. It will take another few weeks to clear and grade the land to make it ready for construction to start in January, he said.

In the buildings’ place will be the largest gift in UC Berkeley’s history: a 14-story high-end building for transfer students right across the street from the university. The Helen Diller Family Foundation is paying the $300 million it will cost to build Anchor House and then will gift the building to Cal.

While the building will provide much-needed student housing, it meant the elimination of eight rent-controlled units at 1921 Walnut St. Since Cal is a state entity and does not have to abide by Berkeley laws, it did not rebuild substitute rent-controlled units. Instead, the tenants were offered subsidies and agreed to leave the building in September, with some saying they were left without options to fight eviction.

The 1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street demolition, Dec. 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
An architectural flourish in the rubble, Dec. 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
The 1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street demolition, Dec. 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
The 1921 Walnut and 1952 Oxford Street demolition, Dec. 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Demolition of the weathered brick garage on Oxford Street, Dec. 16, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...