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Down at Last – Portola Edifice Now Rubble

The last stand of the old Portola Middle School in El Cerrito came to end Wednesday as the small remaining portion of main building was pulled down into the rubble. We thank contributor Betty Buginas for capturing the final fall on her video camera.

The last of the main building of Portola Middle School that peaked over the construction-site fence was pulled down by demolition equipment shortly after noon Wednesday, leaving only a pile of rubble in the foreground and a panaromic view of San Francisco Bay and Albany Hill in the background.

While crews have weeks of work left clearing the site, little remains that would be recognizable to the students who attended the Navellier Street campus over the past several decades.

A few pickup trucks can be seen parked along the loop that dipped off of Navellier Street and past the front entrance leading to the school's office. But the distinctive wing-shaped building no longer stands between the drive and the spectacular view beyond.

Workers have been at the school since spring, getting ready for the demolition, and began chomping on the buildings with steel-jawed contruction equipment in late September.

The 62-year-old school was condemned after being deemed by the West Contra Costa Unified School District as an irremediable seismic hazard on an unstable slope.

Portola classes are being held in temporary buildings on level ground at the western end of the site until a new Portola Middle School is built at the site of the former Castro Elementary School in El Cerrito.

The sloped portion of the current site will be graded and left empty by the school district for the time being. The temporary buildings on the flat western portion of the site, which are now being used by Portola students, will be used temporarily by Fairmont Elementary School students after the new Portola is built. Fairmont will be rebuilt on its current site.

After the Fairmont students move back to their new school, the City of El Cerrito may use the flat portion of site for soccer fields or other uses, depending on city needs at the time and agreements with the school district.

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Tim November 15, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Thanks, Betty! Very cool that you got video of some of that. It's going to be quite a different vista on our trip to Fairmont (we had a straight on view of the old Portola buildings) and from the tennis courts.
Kathy A. November 16, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Thanks, Betty! There seems to be just a bit of lower-level structure left today, on the south (Moeser) side -- aside from the huge piles o' rubble. I'm not sure how disruptive this was for the students, but living just a couple of blocks away, the demolition was much less noisy than I expected -- and not much traffic disruption, either.
Marty Takimoto November 16, 2012 at 12:54 AM
It's been bittersweet to watch the demo progression each morning while riding by on my way to work. Some good memories of kids experiences in those buildings. I think a new ECYB baseball field would be a good replacement for that site!
Dorothy Coakley November 16, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Thanks Betty! Without this footage, there would be no "proof" that Portola ever existed on this site in fifty years or so! (During the construction of the new ECHS, it was "discovered" that there had been an auto shop toward the rear of the old school. Naaahh!!)
Larry November 16, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Looks like Mrs. Zane's English classroom was the last to go...
portola student views and concerns December 29, 2012 at 11:26 AM
im a student a Portola middle school 8th grade my second year here sometimes it makes me sad that we can't have what past students had. We don't have hallways for when it rains, a cafeteria that cant fit more than 30 to 50 students. a gym so we dont have to be out in the cold for p.e, food that doesn't make us want to throw up, water faucets that are on the bathrooms. classrooms that aren't portables and even lockers so we don't have to break our backs carrying around heavy books from class to class. since the changes we have suffered crushing dreams of middle school i would have been happy if the school board thought about the students a little more than what they have already. everyone thinks that the demo is so great but have you guys ever thought about the students or even cared about our view of this because in our eyes you ripped away our views and excitements of middle school and left us in sadness of it all
James Gillett June 25, 2013 at 11:16 AM
Yes, The Germans paved over Hitlers Bunker too. Hated this dam kid prison in the 60s. What was the crime though is that there was no actual seismic hazard here from a common sense point of view. What we have are multi million dollar state funded groups of engineers and architects involved with demolition and construction of very solid old WPA and post WWII concrete buildings. Most organized criminal enterprises are not this proffesional or damaging to the communites around us when one studies on it. It was a crime to knock this relic down when one studies on most all factors such as just how it was calculated for maximum earthquake force resistance. It was very close to moden codes for new buidlings. What a shame that this child prison was torn down. At least the money to fund all the maggoty engineering was "free" tax money from you and me burned up in the name of save the children etc.. James

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