While UC Berkeley planners say they must retrofit buildings for earthquake safety on the northeast quadrant of the campus, at least one local resident is questioning the need for the work and the increased traffic the remodeled buildings might bring.
Residents will have a chance to pose their questions Monday night at a 7 p.m. public hearing at 105 North Gate Hall on the campus.
The hearing will offer the public an opportunity to provide input to the university’s recently-completed Draft Environmental Impact Report, on the Northeast Quadrant Science and Safety Project. Public input will continue through Aug. 1, at which time planners will evaluate the public’s recommendations. They will respond to the recommendations before submitting the EIR to the University of California Board of Regents for approval.
The main components of the NEQSS include the demolition and reconstruction of two buildings, Stanley Hall and Davis Hall North, and the addition of a new building next to Soda Hall, dubbed the “Soda Hall Expansion.”
Other components of the plan involve the renovation and seismic retrofitting of Cory Hall, Davis Hall South and the Naval Architecture Building, as well as the placement of additional parking spaces atop the Lower Hearst Parking Structure, a space presently set aside for recreation.
“They’re using the seismic thing as a way to produce some monster projects,” said nearby resident Jim Sharp, who holds a masters degree in city planning from UC Berkeley.
But aside from the size, the NEQSS project involves some really “backwards planning,” Sharp said. He claims the plan fails to properly account for three things in particular:
• The increased traffic that 544 new jobs would cause, particularly in the high-traffic area above the campus’ north gate.
• How the project will be rolled into the university’s “New Century Plan” - a master plan for new UC building projects - which will not be released until after NEQSS is slated to move forward.
• How the project will impact the university enrollment increases already predicted, as the babies of the baby-boomers leave home for college.
David Duncan, one of the principal planners on the NEQSS project, said that neither the traffic nor the population increases of the project are considered significant.
“As far as the 1990 Long Range Development Plan,” Duncan said, “we’re not increasing over what the projected increases are.”
But Sharp believes that, even if this is true, the university is making it very difficult for someone who’s not a city planner to have any input into what’s happening.
“The whole thing is sliding under most people’s radar,” he said. “They’ve made this project so immense, there’s no way you can analyze it unless you spend inordinate amounts of time.”
Duncan disagrees. The standard length of time for public comment on such projects is 45 days, he said, and that’s what’s been allotted.
“It’s not so lengthy a document that (people) wouldn’t be able to be read it thoroughly in that time period. That’s just my opinion.”
The two-volume document is slightly more than 1 and one-half inches thick.