By Ron Leuty
Reporter, San Francisco Business Times
Warren Hall, a 13-story beacon on the hill of California State University, East Bay, came down Saturday in a mix of smoke, dust and memories.
Fittingly for an academic building, it taught one last lesson, too.
As scores of VIPs watched in a parking lot near the top of the hill and hundreds more gathered just outside a police perimeter below in Hayward, Controlled Demolition Inc. of Phoenix, Md., set off imploding charges Saturday morning to transform the 42-year-old building into a 12,500-ton heap of concrete and steel in a mere 15 seconds.
The building was at the top of the CSU system’s list of seismically unsafe structures for years, particularly due to its position near the shifty Hayward Fault.
It’s that proximity to the fault that may allow Warren Hall — named after late Hayward businessman and campus backer E. Guy Warren — to teach one of its most enduring lessons for East Bay residents. The U.S. Geological Survey set up 600 seismographs in a two-mile hub-and-spoke design around the building to map branches of the fault.
“We can’t predict an earthquake,” one member of the USGS survey team said Saturday morning, but the implosion was expected to create something in the range of a 2.0 earthquake. That sensation would allow the agency to track how the implosion’s energy traveled along the fault and its numerous known — and not-yet-discovered — branches.
Warren Hall, mainly an administrative building known to many simply as “The Tower,” had been used for decades as a landmark for pilots landing at Oakland International Airport, said CSU East Bay President Leroy Morishita.
Rob Warren, a grandson of E. Guy Warren, said it was “peculiar” to be honoring a building “as you all sit here fervently waiting for it to be blown up,” but “the campus is moving forward, as well it should.”
E. Guy Warren, a trucking company owner, actively promoted Hayward as a site for a new East Bay campus, beating out sites in Alameda, Pleasanton and elsewhere, and joined the CSU board in the early 1960s.
“His greatest public passion was education,” Rob Warren said.
Warren Hall will be replaced with a new student services building — on the other side of the Hayward campus — which university officials said should be completed in 2015. In all, the demolition and new construction will cost about $50 million.