The Baggins End Domes, a student housing co-op created in 1972, has been a staple to the UC Davis community for almost 40 years. Housing up to 25 students at a time, Baggins End is a place renown for its uniqueness, centered around eco-friendliness, sustainability and a passion for “creativity, inspiration, initiative, personal growth and diversity,” according to the Baggins End Vision Statement.
In July 2011, The Domes were deemed uninhabitable due to supposed safety issues and a lack of compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Student Housing indefinitely closed The Domes, despite residents’ wishes.
From Thursday to Sunday, the Baggins End Domes underwent renovation and restoration, an endeavor made possible by the Davis community, students and the Solar Community Housing Association (SCHA). The bulk of the expected work was finished by Sunday evening, according to organizers, and the rest will be completed in the upcoming months.
SCHA, a local 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was approached by members of the Domes community earlier this year and decided to take on the project.
“After looking at the project and determining the feasibility of it, it felt like it was a great investment in our community,” said Ben Pearl, the SCHA project manager.
SCHA is in the final steps of a process that would grant it a lease to manage the Domes property for the next five years.
“Our mission is to create environmental consciousness for the provision of affordable, cooperative housing. We’ve been licensed by the university to perform the necessary renovation work for the Domes co-housing community here,” Pearl said. “I think the Domes are at the root of the environmental consciousness movement. It provides the first opportunity for a lot of people to live a more sustainable, low-impact lifestyle.”
The project was supervised by licensed contractors and building professionals who guided members of the community and student volunteers in various tasks, from creating an entirely new ADA-accessible path to painting or gardening.
“Everything needs to be updated at a certain time. Change is notable and transient. If you let things deteriorate, the beautiful experiences of a community that are really intangible can deteriorate too,” said Anne Litak, a senior English major. “It gives you a second chance to renew a place and set an intention for the next version of it.”
Litak was accepted to live in the Domes shortly before they were closed down, and volunteered in order to demonstrate how important it is to her.
“These efforts are going to provide a bridge for the next five years, while this community does what it calls ‘Designing Domes 2.0,” said Carl Boettiger, a graduate student in the population biology program who volunteered all four days. “Domes 2.0 is going to be a collaboration between academics on campus, students and members of the community to create a volunteer-driven, sustainable living and learning center.”
Boettiger also works with SCHA, who owns both the Sunwise and J Street co-ops in Davis.
Doug Walter, a UC Davis alumni who received his master’s in Community Development, came out to volunteer despite having never lived at the Domes.
“There’s nothing like having people living in a place to really get to understand it. I think that’s something that would be lost if we didn’t renovate the Domes,” Walter said.
“It has been a great incubator for people who were taking whatever it was that they were studying, whether it was the sciences, arts, social sciences, and integrating it into an agricultural context and into a broader social context.”
SIERRA HORTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.