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UC Releases EIR For New StadiumComplex

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday May 09, 2006

The half-billion-dollar set of projects planned around California Memorial Stadium carry “unavoidable significant impacts” in at least 14 areas, according to a draft environmental impact report (EIR) released Monday. 

The document outlines the impact of the demolition of existing landmarks, the construction of 451,000 square feet of new buildings, and such factors as the project’s impacts on views, traffic aesthetics and noise. 

Seismic impacts are also addressed—an essential, considering that at least t hree of the principal structures sit atop or are immediately adjacent to the Hayward Fault, which federal geologists have identified as the most likely site of the Bay Area’s next major earthquake. 

Berkeley Planning Manager Mark Rhoades said the universi ty gave the city “a couple of hard copies of the two-volume report” Monday, and said the planning department has begun working with the city manager’s office on a city-wide review. 

“It’s a very large project in a very sensitive part of the city and we will be playing very close attention,” Rhoades said. 

The combined projects include: 

• A seismic retrofit and refurbishing of California Memorial Stadium. 

• A 158,000-square-foot Student Athlete High Performance Center along the stadium’s’ western wall.  

• A 911-space semi-underground parking lot just north of the stadium, and  

• A “Law and Business Connection Building” just across Gayley Road from the stadium. 

Together, the projects would add 386 new employees to the university’s payroll, and account for 20.2 percent of the university project’s square footage growth through the year 2020. 

The net gain of 300 new parking spaces accounts for 24 percent of the projected growth in that area through the end of the century’s second decade. 


Unavoidable im pacts 

Among the unavoidable adverse impacts listed in the report—issues that would remain significant despite proposed mitigations—are: 

• “The risk of loss, injury or death resulting from rupture of a known earthquake fault” and “strong seismic ground s haking” resulting from an earthquake on the fault, even without a significant rupture. 

• Creation of the new buildings could lead to “increased demand on wastewater collection systems and construction of new or altered collection facilities, with temporary, potentially significant unavoidable construction-related impacts.”  

• Addition of up to seven more day- and nighttime events at the stadium could “result in substantial periodic ambient noise increase in the project vicinity,” as will demolition and construction activity while the project is being built. 

• The project “would contribute to the future, cumulative projected unacceptable delay at the all-ways stop-controlled” intersections of Durant and Piedmont avenues and Piedmont Avenue and Bancroft Way, with an eight percent projected increase in peak morning traffic. 

• The first phase of seismic retrofit and improvements at Memorial Stadium “would cause a significant adverse change in the historic significance of the CMS” as would the later phases, in which changes in seating would be made within the stadium and an elevated structure would be constructed along the stadium’s western edge adding a press box and luxury sky boxes for deep-pocket donors and corporations. 

• Construction of the additions to the stadium “could substantially adversely affect limited scenic vistas from the Panoramic Hill neighborhood,” which was recently declared a national historic district, a move undertaken by residents worried about impacts of the stadium projects. 

• Demolition of the Calvin Laboratory and two landmarked homes on College Avenue to make way for the Law and Business Connection Building “would constitute a significant adverse effect to three historical resources” and their landscape features. 

• Landscap e changes to Piedmont Avenue itself—a city landmark laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central Park and the preeminent name in American landscape architecture—and the change in the surrounding landscape would cause a substantial adverse changes to the landscape of two historic homes on Piedmont used by the university for classes and offices. 

• Construction of the parking facility at the site of Maxwell Family Field would lead to ”significant adverse change” to the Gayley Road streetscape and to a unique concrete grid form restroom at the site. 

The report also provides a 15-page table listing these and other impacts, along with proposed mitigation measures.  


Comments sought 

The university is now taking comments on the massive two-volume document through July 7, for inclusion in the final version of the report.  

City Planning Director Dan Marks was on vacation and unavailable for comment Monday but, on Jan 2, he had issued a scathing 19-page critique of the project that was approved by the city council and sent out under the signature of City Manager Phil Kamlarz. 

Marks specifically charged that university officials had failed to offer meaningful specifics that would allow the city to prepare detailed, meaningful comments for consideration during preparation of the EIR. 

His concerns included traffic impacts (both during and after construction), the university’s plans to rely on the broad traffic, air quality and other analyses in the LRDP rather than site-specific project examinations, th e wisdom of building directly over the Hayward Fault, and impacts on officially recognized landmarks (including the two College Avenue buildings slated for demolition). 

Marks also argued that the EIR should be expanded to include Bowles Hall, a landmarked residential hall immediately north of Maxwell Family Field which is one of two possible sites the business school is considering to house a non-credit program for business executives. 

Planning Manager Rhoades said his department’s staff and others in the city will be looking at the draft EIR “in the context of Dan’s letter and with a fresh set of eyes.” 

Rhoades said the report will be referred to at least three city commissions—Planning, Transportation and Landmarks Preservation—for comment. 

The ent ire document is posted at the UC Berkeley website at and is available for review at the Main and Claremont branches of the Berkeley Public Library and on campus at the Environmental Design Library, 210 Wurster Hall, and at the Office of Physical and Environmental Planning in Room 1 of the A & E Building. 

Comments for consideration in the final EIR may be addressed to Principal Planner Jennifer McDougall, Capital Projects—Facilities Services, 3900 A& E Building, UC Berkeley 94720-1382..››