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Trash and treasure up-for-grabs this Friday

on October 20, 2009

Want a free chair?  Want two?  How about three dozen?

This Friday, U.C. Berkeley’s Marchant Building in North Oakland will be cleared of tables, drawers, wooden chairs, a futon frame, sofas and office supplies–enough to fill roughly six large moving trucks.

They’d like you to take it.  As much as you want. Free. But bring a van, or a truck. There will be no “holds” allowed.

“There are big piles of stuff,” said U.C. Berkeley’s moving coordinator, Tamera Garlock, who’s overseeing the giveaway – which will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Nice desks, solid hard wood. Someone who wants to spend a little time to repair and refinish them is really in for a treat.”

Garlock says there is no limit on how much one person can walk away with, and based on a much smaller-scale giveaway held last month, she expects a crowd this Friday.

“We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries,” Garlock said.

Three years ago, the University of California sold the Marchant Building on San Pablo Avenue and 67th Street, which housed a printing press, among other things, plus the university’s business offices, overstock and surplus from the printing press. It’s taken the university three years to hammer out the logistics of relocating the press and offices, Garlock said.

She says the university doesn’t have the resources to repair the furniture, some of which are slightly damaged but in “good working condition.” The university has already donated more than a dozen truckloads of similar items to local schools and shelters, according to Garlock. And the pressure is on to move everything out in the next year, when the university’s relocation to Richmond will be complete.

That’s the main reason for the massive giveaway. “Surplus operations that does sales simply can’t sell this much this quickly,” said Garlock.

The Marchant Building is a massive, peach-colored building that looks sort of like a frumpy high school gymnasium from the 1970s and stretches the length of a city block. The building’s bottom level has long been a purgatory for items leftover, forgotten, and abandoned.

Garlock says she’s spent a good portion of the past three years trying to figure out what belongs to whom, calling people who might not have worked for the university in years, and asking them what they want to do with their stuff.

“When you haven’t seen something for twenty years, you’ve sort of already made your decision,” she said.

A small chunk of Friday’s pickings will come from that stash.

But most of the heaps in the Marchant Building’s fluorescent-lit loading area look like relics from classrooms that have been given new life by innovative stacking techniques that recall homemade, kitchen chair jungle gyms and table forts. Wire bins hold half-full notebooks and 3-ring binders, full of secret confessions and long-forgotten calculus homework. But in the middle of the disarray – couches on their sides, upside down tables – is a startling sight: perfect rows of classroom table-and-chair units. Perhaps even the movers who threw everything together in a hurry couldn’t bring themselves to violate some memory of classroom orderliness.

The giveaway begins at 9a.m. on Friday, Oct. 23, and lasts until 3 p.m. The Marchant Building is located at 6701 San Pablo Ave. in Oakland.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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