The lawsuits aimed at saving the grove at California Memorial Stadium are consuming a few trees of their own as the blizzard of paperwork continues in the leadup to an eventual courtroom showdown.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in another suit triggered by university expansion plans are generating some more paperwork of their own, filing an appeal of their lawsuit against the City of Berkeley challenging the City Council’s settlement of a lawsuit suit that had challenged the university master plan for projects through 2020.
The pulp friction that’s headed for the first courtroom showdown centers on the university’s grandiose building plans embodied in the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects, an architectural extravaganza that will result in three new buildings and expansion of the stadium, with a total new build-out equivalent to a third of the size of the Empire State Building.
The immediate issue is the Student Athlete High Performance Center, a four-story high-tech gymnasium and office planned along the western wall of the venerable stadium.
During a court conference, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller confirmed the Sept. 19-20 courtroom date for hearing the case, and set dates for depositions and submissions of paperwork in the case.
The California Oaks Foundation, Panoramic Hill Association and the City of Berkeley are all challenging the university’s plans for a series of massive development projects at and around California Memorial Stadium, a city landmark and an entry on the rolls of the National Register of Historic Places.
Approval by the UC Regents of the environmental impact report on the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP) last December was followed a month later by the lawsuits, each challenging the regents’ action on similar grounds—though reflecting the somewhat differing interests of tree advocates, neighbors living near the project and a cash-strapped city.
The gym is the first of the projects slated for construction, and the lawsuits forced at least a year’s delay, which UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor Ed Denton has said will cost the school at least $8 million to $10 million.
Construction had been planned to commence with the demolition of the grove of Coastal Live Oaks along the stadium’s western wall, which triggered both the lawsuits and an ongoing tree-sit that continues into its seventh month.
The logging operation would have been followed by excavations for the four-story gym and office complex. Both were halted by the lawsuits and a subsequent injunction granted by the judge.
A since-completed university-funded seismic study contends there are no active earthquake faults under the gym site, so the university argues that construction should commence. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say they are challenging the study’s adequacy and also say the presence or lack of a fault immediately under the gym site is only one of several key legal issues.
Meanwhile, Stephan C. Volker, the attorney who is representing the California Oaks Foundation in the SCIP lawsuit, has filed a notice of appeal in an earlier action against the city of Berkeley and the university of California because of their settlement of the city’s suit under the California Environmental Quality Act, which led to the ongoing city-university effort to create a new downtown plan.
In that lawsuit, a coalition of plaintiffs, including Daily Planet Arts and Calendar Editor Anne Wagley, had sued both the City Council and the university to challenge the adoption of the university’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) 2020, which includes the SCIP projects.
The plaintiffs lost that lawsuit in the trial court, but they are now appealing.
Volker’s notice of appeal, filed with the court June 7, challenges the ruling of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jo-Lynne Lee, who filed her final judgment on the case May 1.