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Council may challenge huge northside project

Jim Sharp Berkeley
Tuesday December 11, 2001



Next month - on 17 January 2002 - the University of California Regents are expected to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Northeast Quadrant Science and Safety Projects, arguably the largest construction initiative ever attempted by UC Berkeley. That meeting takes place in Los Angeles. 

You may already know that: (1) NEQSS is truly colossal in scale. Its seven project elements will add some 360,000 gross square feet (over eight acres!) of space to Central Campus and environs. (2) NEQSS has received very little public scrutiny. Verbal public comments (at the scoping session on 26 February 2001 and the Draft EIR Hearing on 9 July 2001) total less than two hours. (3) During construction, NEQSS projects will adversely impact pedestrian and traffic safety along many Berkeley corridors. The Draft EIR mentions a worst-case scenario of 45 construction-related trucks per hour. (4) Following construction, NEQSS projects will exacerbate congestion on campus and nearby. In addition to 544 new jobs in the Northeast Quadrant, 895 staff and faculty members will shift into NEQSS buildings from elsewhere on campus. An estimated 234 more households will be competing for scarce housing. (5) NEQSS projects, especially the Stanley Hall Replacement Building, will bring additional hazardous and radioactive materials into an area adjacent to the Hayward Fault. (6) NEQSS planning resembles a runaway train which is racing ahead caboose first. It also lacks several critical “railcars” – a transportation plan for the area, input from UCB’s New Century Plan, a Long Range Development Plan Update which considers “Tidal Wave II” enrollments, and cumulative impacts as noted in Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s 2002 Long Range Development Plan EIR.  

The Berkeley City Council has scheduled a closed session to consider whether to initiate litigation challenging the anticipated approval by the UC Regents of NEQSS and the accompanying Amendment to the 1990 Long Range Development Plan. The meeting will be held on today at 4:30 p.m. on the sixth floor of the Civic Center Building at 2180 Milvia.  

The Brown Act requires that the meeting be preceded by a ten-minute period for public comments. Later, at its 7 p.m. regular meeting in the Council Chambers, the City Council will consider whether to ask that Chancellor Berdahl, Vice Chancellor Denton, and the UC Regents redraft and recirculate the NEQSS EIR. As usual, 30 minutes will be allotted for the Comments from the Public lottery, probably beginning by 7:30 p.m.  

Jim Sharp