Ridge House members in the 1950s. Back then, the house was all men. The Berkeley Student Cooperative went co-ed in all but two of its houses during the 1960s and 1970s. The Co-op was one of the first providers of student housing to go co-ed.
Plans began in the 1960s for the Rochdale Village Apartments, which opened in 1971, housing 262 students. Rochdale was built on University-owned land and financed by a low-interest loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Harry Kingman and the co-op had lobbied in Congress years earlier to make this sort of loan available for student co-ops.
During the dire times of the Great Depression students strained for resources were starting cooperatives throughout the country. In February 1933, Harry Kingman, former YMCA director, inspired 14 UC Berkeley students to start the first student housing cooperative in Berkeley. The plan was a success, inspiring members to work all summer to raise capital to keep their co-op alive. In the Fall of '33 the students leased the original Barrington Hall housing 48 students.
In today's hard times of economic recession and rising tuition, the Co-op remains committed to providing low-cost housing to students in the Bay Area, mitigating the high cost of education. With rates less than half of the dorms, and some of the cheapest apartments near campus, the BSC remains popular among students with limited resources. Over a third of members come from families with annual income of less than 50,000.
Despite a financial crisis in the summer of '34, which nearly foreclosed the co-op, the students managed to organize their books and in '36 leased Stebbins Hall, it's first women's co-op, and in '38 leased the Sherman Hall, opened in 1942. The co-op also decided to rent Barrington Hall, which was in desperate need of repairs, to the U.S. Navy. Despite some protest from membership, the Navy moved in in '43 and stayed until '48, renovating the building and making it fire safe.
The changing times of the '60s were evident when the Co-op opened the first co-ed living situation on campus in 1966 known as the Ridge Project (renamed Casa Zimbabwe in 1987). The Ridge Project, funded largely by money donated by members, alumni, UC faculty, the Cowell Foundation, and cooperative organizations and individuals, provided the Co- op with a badly needed warehouse, Central Kitchen and office space, as well as housing for 128 students.