By Will Kane
San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
HAYWARD -- Shining beacon of knowledge on a hill. Lonely concrete eyesore. Directional signpost. Primo make-out spot.
Cal State East Bay's Warren Hall - the stark 194-foot tower that looms over Hayward and most of the East Bay flatlands - is a lot of things to a lot of people.
And when it's demolished on Saturday, the cityscape of the southern East Bay will forever be changed.
"It is certainly a landmark of the East Bay hills," said Doug Highsmith, interim library director at the school. "Just speaking as a resident of Hayward, I think it will have a different feel when you look up and don't see it. I actually use it to find out which way I am sometimes when I'm on unfamiliar streets."
The 13-story building rises almost 800 feet above sea level and, when it opened in 1971, was the second-highest structure, by sheer altitude, in all of the Bay Area. The building is still, at least until Saturday, the tallest structure in Hayward and one of the tallest buildings in the East Bay south of Oakland.
The building has been doomed since 1999, when it was dubbed the single-most-seismically unsafe building in the state university system, said Barry Zepel, a campus spokesman.
"We aren't far from the Hayward Fault, so it is a matter of concern," Zepel said.
The tower will eventually be replaced by a five-story administration building, in another part of campus.
But a piece of Hayward culture will always be missing, residents said.
"It is just one of those buildings that everyone knows, that always sparks interest," said John Christian, assistant archivist for the Hayward Area Historical Society. At least a few Hayward teens have spent steamy evenings canoodling in the building's parking lot, with its panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay.
The building, which housed administrators and other college bureaucrats, is named after E. Guy Warren, a Hayward trucking magnate who, in 1957, persuaded state leaders to open the state university campus in Hayward.
Warren died in 1972, a year after the tower was built and eight years before it was named in his honor.
At least one school administrator worried when the plans were announced that building "a tower-type building is going to lead, sooner or later to the tower being called an 'ivory tower.' "
But the tower was built - and no one ever accused the monolithic hunk of concrete of being an ivory tower.
If anything, people saw it more as a point of reference.
"I don't necessarily think that having a tall building in that area is a bad thing, especially when there are no points of emergence, when you are in the flatlands." said Pierluigi Serraino, an architect and author of NorCalMod, a survey of modernist architecture in Northern California.
"When you have a tower, the tower orients you. It becomes a signal where you can find directions. That was one of the critical points of domes and high-rise construction, even Gothic towers. They were ways to people to find their way in the landscape."
Whether or not the Brutalist tower, a mix of concrete, glass and brick, ever fit in with the rolling East Bay hills is up for debate, but the building is clearly part of the fabric of the city.
"It is almost more iconic to people that don't live here," said Jared Mariconi, a library assistant who has researched the building's history. "I think a lot of people use it as a landmark to orient themselves. When you see it driving, or even flying to the Bay Area, you know where you are."
Sylvia Solorio, 19, a junior health sciences major from San Diego, said the towering Warren Hall was her first impression of the campus. "It was one of the first things I saw, coming up here," she said. "It is going to be missed."