UC Regents Approve Training Center,

By Richard Brenneman and Judith Scherr
Tuesday November 14, 2006

Despite promised lawsuits by the City of Berkeley and project neighbors, UC Regents voted Tuesday to approve a massive athletic training center along the western wall of Memorial Stadium. 

Berkeley City Councilmembers voted unanimously in closed session Tuesday night to sue if the project is approved, with only Kriss Worthington absent from the meeting. 

But the regents withheld one key approval needed before the project can move forward—certification of the environmental impact report (EIR) that includes the Student Athlete High Performance Center, major stadium renovations, a nearby 912-car underground parking lot, an even larger new building joining functions of the UCB law and business schools as well as streetscape changes for Piedmont Avenue/Gayley Road. 

Any suit challenging the EIR and the project it covers must be filed within 30 days after regents adopt the document, a move which could happen as early as the first week in December in a telephone conference among the Board of Regents’ Committee on Grounds and Building. 

The committee voted unanimously to approve the project, simultaneously urging UC Berkeley officials are to see if a compromise on EIR issues isn’t possible—though officials said approval of an EIR in time to allow for bidding to begin in January so excavation at the building site could be completed before the start of the fall football season was deemed an essential feature to avoid a year’s delay in construction. 

The other would-be plaintiff is the Panoramic Hill Association (PNA), which is comprised of residents who live on hillside homes to the east of the stadium. 

PNA member Michael Kelly told the Regents Tuesday “the only road left to us is legal action,” and said the association has been advised that “there are elements of the current proposal which have serious flaws” 

But the regents approved the $112 million project budget, all to come from corporations, organizations and individual donors, $12 million in potential standby financing if needed during fund-raising and plans for the 142,000-square-foot training and office facility. 

Four stories tall in places, the building would fit beneath the base level of the landmark stadium building. 

When it came time for a City Council vote Tuesday, Councilmember Betty Old said, “The trees are enough to make me vote for it,” referring to the 40 Oaks that were among the trees slated for destruction if the project goes through.  

The new parking lot added to her determination. “Nine hundred cars to too much to put on Gayley Road,” Olds said. Gayley is the two-lane nationally landmarked roadway that leads to the Stadium. 

The city has hired Harriet Steiner of Sacramento-based McDonough 

Holland & Allen to work on the lawsuit, which will be filed within one 

month, according to Olds. 


Fault issues 

One objection cited by the city and neighbors is contention that the projects embraced by the EIR include structure on or near the Hayward Fault, and thus are susceptible to provisions of the Alquist-Priolo act, a law governing buildings on or adjacent to active earth faults. 

While acknowledging the Hayward Fault runs under Memorial Stadium itself, UC Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor Ed Denton and Associate Vice Chancellor for Project Manager Rob Gayle insisted the training center is exempt from the law because it is not or sufficiently near the fault. 

UC Berkeley officials who addressed the regents dismissed claims of neighbors and the city that the project would impair emergency response times for the surrounding city neighborhoods.