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Mayor considers building new UC stadium

Matthew Artz Daily Planet Staffpandering to neighbors
Wednesday September 25, 2002

A proposal by Mayor Shirley Dean to consider moving the UC Berkeley football stadium from under an earthquake fault on the eastern side of campus has caused some pre-election rumblings. 

“It’s a preposterous plan,” said Tom Bates, her chief opponent in the November Election. “Where else in Berkeley can they build another football stadium,” he asked. 

Dean disagreed. 

“If there was an earthquake or a wildfire during a football game it would be very difficult to evacuate the area,” Dean said.  

In addition to safety concerns she cited traffic and distance from public transportation as reasons to consider a new stadium. 

The university is looking into a costly retrofit project for its 80,000-seat Memorial Stadium. 

Dean first floated the stadium move Sunday at a candidate forum held by neighborhood groups southeast of the campus, where neighbors have long complained about football game traffic. 

She called for the city and the university to study a plan to build a new stadium on the western edge of campus, near the intersection of Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue and near BART. 

Dean also mentioned the possibility of unearthing a waterfall and creek she said are buried under Memorial Stadium. 

Bates, however, called Dean’s proposal an outright attempt to pander to stadium neighbors. But Dean said the timing was right to consider a new football field because of the current retrofitting needs. 

Built directly above the Hayward fault in 1928, Memorial Stadium is in need of a seismic retrofit, said Bob Rose of the university’s athletic office. Rose said the university is studying different proposals, but he would not discuss the final price for stadium upgrades. 

UC Berkeley, not the city, has final say over the location of its football stadium. 

Neighbors of the stadium say that traffic and parking are so bad on the seven home game days that they feel trapped in their homes. 

“You couldn’t believe how bad [traffic] is,” said Martha Jones, who lives on Derby Street. “If you have any errands to do you have to wait until after the football game begins and get back before the game is over.” 

Dean wants the city and the university to discuss a plan submitted last year by resident Rex Dietderich to build a new 50,000-seat stadium. 

Dietderich, a former Berkeley fire captain and financial supporter of UC Berkeley athletics, said that a retrofit would cost $100 million and would not fix all of the stadium’s structural problems. 

He suggested building a metal stadium at the grass field just south of Oxford and Center streets, with a five-level parking garage under it. This would cost $150 million, he said. 

“The university could have a top-notch stadium and solve its parking problems forever,” said Dietderich. 

University officials, though, said the plan is not feasible. 

“There isn’t enough land there,” said Jackie Bernier, principal planner for the university. The water level below the site is too high to accommodate underground parking, Bernier said. 

“If you built a stadium there you would have to build a huge structure because you couldn’t dig into the ground,” said Bernier.  

Dean said the plan might not be viable, but that the city and the university owe it to stadium neighbors to consider the plan. 

Bates said he supported retrofitting the current stadium and that the city and university should offer more public transportation to the stadium on game days.