The City Council voted unanimously to sue UC Berkeley if the university does not work with the city to solve problems expected to arise from a large development and remodeling proposal for the north side of campus.
“We are acting out of our deep concern about the impact of this project,” Councilmember Linda Maio said. “We expressed out intent to file a law suit if sufficient mitigation is not achieved in this matter.”
The council decided by an 8-1 vote to sue the university if it does not work with the city to address concerns regarding traffic increases, parking problems and city infrastructure issues, such as sewage system upgrades and the repair of roadways. Councilmember Polly Armstrong left the meeting prior to the vote. The council has until Feb. 19 to file the lawsuit.
The university’s principal planner of capitol projects, Jennifer Lawrence, did not return calls to the Daily Planet on Friday to comment on the lawsuit, but she did say earlier this week that the university has been trying to work with the city. She pointed to recent meetings with traffic engineering staff to discuss traffic impacts near proposed development.
But Mayor Shirley Dean disagreed with Lawrence’s statement. “The university has to learn to sit down with the city to see if there’s not a way that we can work these issues out to both our satisfactions,” she said.
Councilmember Betty Olds who represents District 6 where the majority of the development is proposed, said the university has gone to far.
“I usually stick up for the university because I know Berkeley wouldn’t be here without them,” she said. “But this is a far more serious problem.”
Olds said the university should work with the city to make the construction process tolerable for residents of the “quiet side of campus” by not starting construction before 8 a.m. in the morning and repaying the roadways that will be damaged by the four years of construction.
Councilmember Dona Spring said she would like to see the university initiate the Eco Pass program that would provide faculty and staff with free bus transportation.
Friday’s was the second closed session meeting the council has held in the last four days on the possible law suit. Last Tuesday, the council scheduled another meeting on Friday to see if the Regents of the University of California approved the Final Environmental Impact Report on the seven proposed projects on Thursday.
The regents also considered an amendment doubling the proposed development in the university’s 1990 Long Range Development Plan, from 333,300 square feet to 658,000. The expanded square footage will accommodate three of the seven proposed projects totaling 360,000 square feet mostly along Hearst Avenue and Gayly Road.
Councilmember Dona Spring said fighting the university is the only choice for the city.
“If we roll over on this one, there eventually won’t be any Berkeley left,” she said. “It will just be the UC Industrial Park.”