UC Regents are scheduled to decide this morning (Tuesday) whether or not to approve the $112 million Student Athlete High Performance Center, a 142,000-square-foot building along the western wall of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.
The controversial structure, which would cost $597 a square foot, would be funded by gifts—though regents are being asked to approve up to $12 million in standby funding.
Construction would commence in January, with a completion date of September 2009—provided a threatened lawsuit by the city doesn’t toss a wrench into the university’s plans.
The controversial structure, which would be attached to an antiquated structure directly over the Bay Area’s most earthquake-prone fault, would be used by athletes from across the campus.
The regents’ Committee on Buildings and Grounds is scheduled to take up the issue during an 11:35 a.m. session at the UCLA campus, along with 15 other building projects at other UC campuses.
The committee is also being asked to certify an environmental impact report (EIR) that includes not only the training facility but renovations to the stadium itself, construction of an underground parking structure northwest of the stadium, a new building joining offices and programs of the university’s law and business schools and changes to the landmark Piedmont Avenue/Gayley Road streetscape.
Together, the projects—which add up to more than a quarter-billion dollars—are called the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP.)
The Berkeley City Council sent a letter to the regents asking them to hold off on certifying the SCIP EIR until city officials have had time to review and comment on the massive document.
“We haven’t had any response,” said City Manager Phil Kamlarz Monday afternoon. “We’re disappointed with the EIR because it didn’t address our issues, which include the high performance center, the parking structure and the stadium renovation. We have an impasse on this project.”
City Planning Director Dan Marks addressed the concerns with an earlier EIR draft in a 54-page letter in July, and Kamlarz said the university had failed to adequately address the issues raised in that document—at least from what officials have been able to glean from the final draft.
“They gave us two weeks to review over a thousand pages, and it’s impossible to give the document a rational review in that short amount of time,” Kamlarz said.
Still, Kamlarz said he wasn’t surprised at the university’s lack of response.
In a Nov. 2 letter, the city asked the regents to delay certifying the EIR until the regents meet in January at UC San Francisco. The report had been issued too late not only for the city to provide an adequate review, but for the regents as well, declared the letter.
There had been no response by Monday afternoon.
The document submitted to the regents along with the agenda for this week’s meeting—which runs today through Thursday—gave a first look at some of the specifics of the training center.
Preliminary plans and drawings cost $5.6 million, and the project is being designed under the executive architect, the Los Angeles office of the Kansas City architectural firm Howard Needles Tammen & Bergendorff (HNTB), which was selected by the office of UC President Robert Dynes in September.
HNTB’s director of business development is well acquainted with stadiums and training centers. He is former Kansas City Chiefs kicker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud.
According to the report to the regents, the proposed center’s first goal is to remove student athletes to enable a seismic retrofit for the stadium, a project which has yet to be approved.
Other goals include:
• Rectifying deficiencies in existing training programs and facilities to make UC Berkeley’s program equivalent with other “top tier NCAA Division 1 programs.
• “Integrate the stadium and its site and the campus in order to improve access to the stadium and enhance game-day experience for visitors.”
• “Improve the stadium environs, which is currently characterized by high cyclone fencing and surface parking lots.
• “Provide spaces for daily public use, while preserving some of the wooded landscape west of the stadium.”
The largest tenant of the new facility will be ºthe Cal Bears football team, occupying 50,850 square feet, with all other sports relegated to a total of 25,800 square feet. Combined training and sports medicine facilities will add another 32,300 square feet.
The first stage of construction will involve shoring up the stadium’s west wall with new underpinnings and soil cement walls.
The report states that the facility “will be designed to resist near-fault ground motion forces and displacement.”
The city and project critics charge that the project violates the Alquist-Priolo Act, which governs buildings constructed on or adjacent to fault zones, a charge the university has dismissed.
Compliance with the law has been cited by city officials as one possible basis for the suit; another includes failure to mitigate demands on city traffic and other infrastructure.
While the regents are also scheduled to hear a report on safety improvements at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), there’s nothing on the agenda about a new building planned for the site, which is a facility of the federal Department of Energy currently operated by the university system.
Jeff Philliber, the lab’s environmental planning coordinator, notified the city on Nov. 6 that the lab is preparing an environmental review of a project that calls for demolition of Building 10 at the site and its replacement with a 30,000-square-foot, three-story structure that would house offices, labs, meeting spaces.
The structure it replaces is a 15,575 sheet-metal and wood structure built in 1944. If the plans are approved, demolition would begin in March 2007 and be completed within four months, followed by construction that would begin in January 2008 and continue for 18 months.
LBNL has issued an initial study and proposed mitigated negative declaration on the project, which are available online at www.lbl.gov/Community/index.html.