Berkeley residents challenging sale of historic Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary commands a breathtaking view of the Berkeley Hills all the way down to San Francisco. Built as neighboring estates by two wealthy Bay Area families in the 1930's, it was acquired by the Lutheran Church in the 50's and merged with Southern California based Cal Lutheran University in 2014.

Because of declining enrollment, the church is exploring a sale of the campus and moving students to a building they are leasing on Central. But a neighborhood group called "Top of Marin Stewardship," named after the street the historic buildings are on, is challenging the sale.

"They trained hundreds of clergy here. They have to leave because of declining enrollment," Mardi Sicular-Martens with Top of Marin Stewardship said.

The group says it is not against a sale per se, but they want to make sure any buyer preserves the structures, "To preserve the open space here, the cultural history here, to preserve the public access, to preserve the wildlife habitat," according to Sicular-Martens.

To that end, they are asking the city of Berkeley to declare the campus a historic landmark. Cal Lutheran has filed legal papers to block the landmark application citing financial hardship.

The university declined an on camera interview, as did Berkeley's Landmark Preservation Commission. But, in a statement on their website, the university says "The 6.6-acre property is much larger than needed to serve the 48 degree students and its aging buildings need millions of dollars in work. Utility and maintenance costs as well as the seminary's carbon footprint will drop significantly with the move."

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