UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium will get local landmarks status as designated June 1 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, a unanimous City Council said Tuesday night.
In an Oct. 24 report to the council, city planning staff had called for a delay of the designation, calling for the question to be sent back to the commission. However, in an 11th-hour reversal, planning staff asked the council to uphold the commission’s designation of the stadium as a local landmark.
Landmarks status is critical at this time, according to advocates of the designation, because the university is planning a number of controversial building projects in southeast Berkeley where the stadium is located, which will include remodeling the stadium. UC Regents are expected to vote on the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects at their Nov. 15-16 meeting.
The council unanimously supported the recommendation, made orally by Deputy Planning Director Wendy Cosin.
The local landmarks status had been called into question by Irene Hegarty, UC Berkeley’s community relations director, who pointed out discrepancies between the local and national applications for landmarks status. The City Council called for a public hearing to resolve the discrepancies.
While the half-dozen members of the public who addressed the landmarks question at the public hearing favored the staff reversal, they asked why the designation process did not happened months earlier.
Janice Thomas, a resident of Panoramic Hill, next to the stadium, noted that the Landmarks Preservation Commission made its decision on June 1 and asked “Why the delay? The public would like answers.”
While Councilmember Kriss Worthington voted to support the staff reversal, he objected to the process, in which the council was being asked to make a decision based on an oral report.
During the council discussion, City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque responded to an e-mail she received that afternoon from former Mayor Shirley Dean. Dean argued that the council had not taken correct steps in scheduling the public hearing on the landmarking decision.
“As the Council did not ‘certify’ the action there is no appeal before the council at this time,” Dean wrote.
In a her written response to Dean, Albuquerque said Deputy City Attorney Zach Cowan had “listened to the tape [of the council meeting] and it was absolutely clear that the council was asked to (and did) set this for hearing, in order to resolve discrepancies between the city’s … and National Register designation.”
The Daily Planet is waiting for a city staff explanation on how and why the last-minute reversal came about.