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Council OKs Brower Sculpture, Puts Bridge on Hold By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday December 10, 2004

A 175-ton sculpture honoring former Sierra Club President David Brower is coming to Berkeley, but where it will end up remains unknown. 

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the stone and bronze globe, commissioned by Brian and Jennifer Maxwell, founders of Berkeley-based Power Bar, Inc. 

In other matters, the council postponed a vote on the Foothill Bridge until Jan. 18, established a three-month rotation system for the title of vice mayor, approved an extra $727,000 to complete construction of Affordable Housing Associates’ Sacramento Senior Homes project and accepted $3 million in state grants to begin construction of sports fields along the end of Gilman Street just west of I-80. 

The Maxwell family, which is offering the sculpture free of charge, turned to Berkeley after the San Francisco Arts Commission rejected the sculpture designed by Finnish-American artist Eino. Several Berkeley residents were lobbying for the city to reject it too, arguing that the sculpture’s mass and inclusion of a figure of Brower scaling the globe weren’t a proper testament to his legacy.  

Born in Berkeley in 1912, Brower, who died four years ago, was one of the nation’s foremost environmental activists.  

Instead the council adopted a recommendation from the Civic Arts Commission to accept the work on several conditions. The Brower figure must be removed from the piece and the Maxwell estate must pay all placement and upkeep costs, the council said. Also, the future site must be professionally landscaped and include an educational component. 

The Civic Arts and Waterfront commissions now have to find a home for the 20-foot-tall sculpture. 

Councilmember Wozniak called on the commissions to find it a prominent home, perhaps in the planned David Brower Center, slated to be constructed at the Oxford Parking Lot. 

Several Waterfront Commission members have stated they didn’t want the sculpture on the city’s shoreline.  

Noting that much of Berkeley’s coast is landfill, Councilmember Betty Olds said, “If we’re talking 350,000 pounds, the first earthquake that thing is going to end up in China.” 

To which Mayor Tom Bates retorted, “It could become a traffic circle.” 


Foothill Bridge 

The council left the fate of a proposed pedestrian bridge over Hearst Avenue dangling for another month to give the three newly elected councilmembers a chance to tour the project site. 

Since construction began on the Foothill Housing Complex in 1988, UC Berkeley officials have sought unsuccessfully to build a bridge 21 feet over Hearst Avenue between Le Roy and La Loma avenues. The bridge would connect the La Loma Dormitory on the northern side of Hearst with the rest of the housing complex on the avenue’s south side. 

Tuesday was the third time this year that the council delayed a vote on UC Berkeley’s latest offer to pay $200,000 for pedestrian improvements on Hearst Avenue and give the city final say over the bridge’s design. 

Some councilmembers opposed to the bridge have expressed doubts that they could muster enough votes to deny UC an encroachment waiver. However, Jim Sharp, a bridge detractor who lives near the proposed site, said he was confident that the council would ultimately reject the bridge in the face of a threatened lawsuit from opponents. 

“I don’t think the council is willing to stick its neck out that far for the university,” he said.  

Alan Seher, attorney for the New Education Development Systems, Inc., said his client which owns 2717 Hearst Avenue, a landmarked building just uphill from the proposed bridge, has already agreed to fund litigation if the council issues the waiver. He maintained that the university could not legally qualify for the waiver according to the city’s municipal code because it would not be “substantially damaged” if the city refused the waiver, had not adequately studied other ways to improve pedestrian safety and disability access and would cause material damage to neighbors by building the bridge. 

University officials have argued that the bridge is necessary to give disabled students access to the La Loma dormitory, which is located on a steep grade, above the rest of the residence community and most of campus. 


Gilman Fields 

The council voted unanimously to accept a $3 million grant from the state Urban Parks Act program to pay for roughly half of the construction costs to build five athletic fields on the western edge of Gilman Street.  

Last year, the East Bay Regional Park District purchased the property from the Magna Corporation, owner of Golden Gate Fields. The fields are slated to be operated by the city. The $3 million grant should be enough to build three playing fields, however the park district lost out on a second grant for $2.5 million that would have paid for an additional two fields and other amenities. The district is now applying to for two separate state grants to raise an extra $2 million for the field construction. Field advocates hope the project will be ready by next fall. 

Sacramento Senior Homes 

The council voted 7-1-1 (Wozniak no, Olds abstain) to give an extra $727,072 from the city’s housing trust fund to Sacramento Senior Homes. The 40-unit project at the corner of Sacramento and Blake streets faced cost overruns when the developer, Affordable Housing Associates, had to delay construction while the city fought a lawsuit from neighbors opposed to the project. The neighbors lost their appeal of the case earlier this year.