Page One

City Council approves outside council to challenge university

By Judith Scherr Daily Planet staff
Wednesday October 03, 2001

Dissatisfied with the university’s draft Environmental Impact Report on the various construction projects proposed for the northeast quadrant of the UC Berkeley campus, the City Council voted unanimously in executive session Tuesday to seek outside legal counsel to advise them on how best to respond to the environmental document. 

Fifteen people addressed the council before the closed-door session, called to explore whether the city ought to sue the university over the EIR for its proposed Northeast Quadrant Science and Safety Project. 

Speakers, many of whom live near the proposed project – to include the demolition and reconstruction of Stanley Hall and Davis Hall North, and the addition of a new building next to Soda Hall – argued the construction would keep Hearst Avenue closed for four years, forcing traffic onto adjacent streets. The noise and dust would be intolerable, they said. 

Some 460 employees are to be added to those who now work in this area of the campus, the “farthest away from public transit,” argued neighborhood activist Doris Willingham. 

Pamela Sihvola, co-chair of the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste and L.A. Wood, a commissioner on the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, expressed concern over toxic residue from laboratories that would be dismantled and reconstructed. “The final EIR for the NEQSS should list the inventory of all the radioisotopes and hazardous chemicals that have been used in Stanley Hall during its life time,” and other buildings under consideration for demolition, they wrote. Studies then should be made of the soil and groundwater “to determine the degree of contamination of all NEQSS sites.” 

Others pointed out that a major earthquake fault runs near the site, which is, therefore inappropriate for laboratories using hazardous materials. Northeast Berkeley resident Jeannie deVries argued the university should put the labs at its Richmond facility. 

Opponents of the project – there were no supporters who spoke at the meeting – pointed to the University of California at San Francisco whose growth was limited by legislative action. Similar limits were placed on the growth of the Oakland airport, they said, arguing that the legislature should place limits on UC Berkeley expansion. 

No university spokesperson was available to respond after the late afternoon meeting. In past interviews, the university has argued that it has no choice but to upgrade the buildings to make them earthquake safe. The projects “are proposed to facilitate new research and teaching efforts in the public interest,” an introduction to the draft EIR says.