Hate crime vandalism at UC president's Berkeley mansion is under investigation

Police say the Claremont Boulevard home was spray-painted with "racial slurs, profanity and other miscellaneous words and symbols."

Hate crime vandalism at UC president's Berkeley mansion is under investigation
The University of California president's house in Berkeley was papered over temporarily to cover racist graffiti and slurs that were part of a hate crime vandalism, May 16, 2023. Frances Dinkelspiel

University of California police are investigating a hate crime involving the vandalism of the UC president's home in Berkeley earlier this month.

Details from the university have been slim, but authorities confirmed this week that a hate crime had been committed at the home, at 2821 Claremont Blvd. in Berkeley's Claremont neighborhood, on May 15.

On Wednesday, in response to an inquiry from The Scanner, the Berkeley Police Department confirmed that the front of the mansion had been spray-painted with "racial slurs, profanity and other miscellaneous words and symbols."

Investigating officers found additional vandalism to walls and items in the backyard.

The graffiti included the date of Jan. 6, 2021, marking the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Michael Drake. UCOP

UC President Dr. Michael Drake, who is Black, and his family were not home when the hate crime happened, campus officials said.

"The University is working with investigators to apprehend the individuals responsible and, once found, to prosecute them to the full extent of the law," said Roqua Montez IV, spokesman for the Office of the President, in a prepared statement.

The president's house is managed by the University of California Office of the President, authorities said.

The University of California San Francisco Police Department is now handling the investigation. The Scanner has asked UCSF police for further details but had not received a response as of publication time.

Local author Frances Dinkelspiel was in the Claremont neighborhood on May 16 when she noticed large pieces of paper covering portions of the front wall of the president's mansion.

She asked around to find out what happened and later posted on Twitter that the home had been "tagged with graffiti" — even though the university had recently completed the construction of a sturdy metal fence around the property.

It was Dinkelspiel's tweet that originally alerted The Scanner to what had taken place. No one else appears to have reported on the incident to date.

Surveillance footage may have captured intruder

Berkeley Police Department records online show a call for service about a vandalism report in the 2800 block of Claremont just before 10:45 p.m. on May 15.

Shortly before 11 p.m., the University of California Police Department also responded to the block to assist BPD, according to UCPD's online log.

According to dispatch recordings reviewed by The Berkeley Scanner, BPD originally received an alert about a video alarm at the president's home that night.

A dispatcher told officers that the footage showed a white man with a large build who appeared to be wearing a gray jacket over a white hoodie. The man was seen walking across the property outside.

The dispatcher did not mention the president by title or name but advised police to be aware of "extenuating circumstances" due to the home's resident.

When police arrived, they found an open gate.

"It looks like the property's been vandalized," an officer reported over the radio.

Officers then checked the interior of the home and determined that it was clear.

The UC president's home in February before the new security fence was constructed. Google Street View

In this week's statement, the Office of the President said that the University of California condemns all hate crimes.

"We will continue doing everything possible to create a safe and welcoming university community for all," Montez said.

Shortly after publication, a community member told The Scanner that several buildings on Benvenue Avenue and near People's Park, in the neighborhood south of campus, had also been tagged with the date of Jan. 6, 2021.

That vandalism happened on the same night that the president's home was targeted, the community member said.  

The city of Berkeley has already received at least 15 hate crime reports this year.

From 2016 through 2020, the city logged an average of about 15 hate crime reports in total throughout each year.

Hate crime reports in Berkeley spiked to 41 in 2021 and 36 in 2022, according to department data.

About a year ago, someone tagged the president's Claremont neighborhood home with graffiti in support of a UC Berkeley co-op, Dinkelspiel wrote in April 2022 on Berkeleyside, where she worked at the time.

At the time of her story, the home, which was designed by architect Julia Morgan, had recently been repurchased by the university after decades of private ownership.

"Using private funds, the UC system bought 2821 Claremont Blvd. in December for $6.5 million," she wrote in April 2022. "Some artwork and furnishings original to the 1928 house were included in the sale. UC had owned the house for decades, but sold it in 1991."

In recent months, the University of California has erected a new fence around the president's home on Claremont Boulevard following several protests and demonstrations outside of it, the Daily Californian reported in March.

The Daily Cal said the university had declined to share the cost of the fence or other details about it "citing security concerns."

The Berkeley Scanner is 100% member-supported. That means no ads, no spam and no distractions. Help ensure timely, accurate public safety news for Berkeley by signing up now.