Casa Zimbabwe, commonly referred to as CZ, is a student housing cooperative in Berkeley, California housing 124 residents. It is the second largest housing unit of the Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC) network, behind Cloyne Court Hotel.
Located at 2422 Ridge Road, the house is a block from the center of the northern edge of the University of California, Berkeley campus. The yellow stucco fortress overlooks North Gate, and the two accessible roofs provide a view of San Francisco, the East Bay, the Berkeley Hills, and most of campus. It sits on Northside atop Holy Hill, the area in the vicinity of a five-way intersection surrounded on all sides by churches and seminaries. The BSC central office and central kitchen are located within the Casa Zimbabwe building, but they only connect to the main residential area by a few doors.
The residents of Casa Zimbabwe are affectionately referred to as Czars, though the pejorative term of Krackistani is not without use.
When CZ opened in 1966, it was known as "Ridge Project" since it shares its lot with Ridge House, another BSC cooperative. Ridge Project residents referred to themselves as "Projectiles". Ridge Project was one of the first instances of co-ed housing on the Berkeley campus.
In 1987, the house residents successfully petitioned to change the house name to its current one. The name "Casa Zimbabwe" was first proposed in 1983. At that time, the USCA had a Minority Affairs committee that was looking to increase the number of minorities at Berkeley in general and in the co-ops in particular. The word “project” had a negative association with public housing. An additional issue was the frequent confusion between Ridge Project and Ridge House. No satire was intended with the name "Casa Zimbabwe". White minority rule had recently ended in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, and many believed that Zimbabwe would become a prosperous western-style democracy.
In the spring of 2001, the residents voted during house council to change the house name to Krackistan (though this has never been recognized by anyone outside of the house).
The residents of CZ are the members of the cooperative. In the bylaws that govern the house, boarders are also considered members and have equal say in house affairs. Each resident pays rent in addition to contributing five hours of work per week. Each boarder only pays for food, and his/her work contribution per week is dependent on how many meals s/he eats at CZ. CZ holds a weekly council meeting, usually on Sunday at 6PM, where members gather to discuss house business.
While every other BSC house was a pre-existing structure eventually converted into a co-op, CZ is unique in that it was built with the specific intent of being used as a cooperative living space.
The house is divided into three segments. Residents' rooms are located in the east and west wings (known as the "10s" and the "100s" for the room numbering scheme used), both of which are connected in the middle by two stories of wide open common space. The west wing was originally intended to be all male and the east wing all female. The first room on the first floor of the east wing was known as "Heidi's Room", Heide Wolgemuth having been the housemother when the building opened. The segregation of the wings by gender ended in the 1970s.
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