We received a letter from Stand Up for Berkeley requesting donations to support litigation against the university’s plans for Memorial Stadium and the Student-Athlete High Performance Center. As longtime Berkeley residents, we are equally concerned about maintaining our quality of life. But we do not believe these projects will adversely affect our neighborhoods and feel it is time to move on.
With so much public information available on these projects, it is difficult to understand why there continues to be such gross misrepresentation of the facts. We can understand and accept that reasonable, well-informed people can wind up on different sides of these issues. But we cannot accept an effort to solicit additional support based on falsehoods and distortions. For example:
• The description of the stadium project in the “fact sheet” is profoundly misleading. On the east side, there will be permanent lighting to replace the temporary lighting that is currently brought in for late afternoon games, but the university has worked closely with consultants to ensure these are slim vertical elements, not “huge prominent” towers such as are seen at the Oakland Coliseum. On the west side, a new low, press box would replace the existing temporary press box–is this what the “fact sheet” refers to incorrectly as “two additional stories above the current rim”? The stadium plan does not include VIP luxury boxes. The stadium already has a “subterranean concourse” that would, in a final phase of the project (depending upon funding availability), be extended to the entire perimeter of the stadium to provide improved disabled access, add bathrooms, and remove the dozens of “porta potties” lined up along Rim Way and Centennial Roads for every game. In each instance, the “fact sheet” misleads and fails to explain the real “fact”—that existing facilities at the stadium are substandard and need to be upgraded.
• These projects will not change the character of use at the stadium or “commercialize” its use. For nearly 20 years university chancellors have agreed to limit the use of the stadium in consideration of the community. The university has already stated flatly that the stadium will not be used for rock concerts and the university will not be installing a sound system that would support such use. The new system would direct sound down and towards the field and away from surrounding areas, an improvement over the current system. While the university has limited the number of “capacity” events to no more than seven events beyond football games, the definition of “capacity” is any event that would draw more than 10,000 attendees. In addition, the campus has offered to discuss with the city parameters and protocols concerning future use of the stadium.
• There will be some disruption and truck traffic due to construction, but we will get through it. This is unfortunate but unavoidable if the stadium is to be retrofit for the safety of athletes, staff, and fans, which we feel must be done. The City of Berkeley has undertaken many large-scale projects to retrofit historic public buildings or to build new ones—the main library, Berkeley High School, City Hall, and the Brower Center, to cite a few. These have disrupted traffic flow for a period of time, but the results are well worth the temporary inconvenience. The alternative to renovating an historic structure like the stadium is to let it deteriorate or tear it down—Is that really what we want?
• The project will not make the area more dangerous; in fact, it will provide better emergency access and reduce the capacity of the stadium by 10,000 seats. As part of the project, a portion of campus property at the southeast corner of the stadium would be dedicated to the city to widen the roadway and improve pedestrian safety and emergency access. Removing the portable bathrooms along the roadway will also improve access and open Rimway and Centennial during stadium events.
• The trees that are removed will be replaced three to one, with one substantial tree for every specimen tree removed. Although the city passed a moratorium on the removal of coast live oaks in 2006, the ordinance does not apply to state agencies. On the other hand, most individual property owners do not have the resources or opportunity to replace oaks as the university has pledged to do. An interesting fact: There are more oak trees on campus property today than there were 100 years ago.
• The stadium and student-athlete center will be built with private funds. Why should the community care how the university raises these private funds?
• There will not be additional demands for police or emergency services due to the stadium/high performance center projects. The university pays the city for any damage to city infrastructure caused by its construction projects. The university pays the city for police services associated with stadium events and pays the city annually for fire services and equipment. In the event of a major earthquake we will all depend on our fellow Californians and the federal government for assistance. The university will be working alongside local, state, and federal agencies to provide emergency response and shelter.
Whatever the court’s decision on the current lawsuit, it does not benefit the city, the university, or the community to continue this adversarial relationship. It’s time to move on and work together, as one community. We would rather spend our dollars on projects to help the poor, support our schools, or protect the environment than to waste them on more lawyers. We ask our neighbors to join us.
Sandy and Dick Bails, Hilde and Robert Clark, Fred Conrad, David Drubin, Karin Cooke, David Schlessinger, John Gage , Linda Schacht, Edward and Alexis Kleinhans, Martin and JoAnn Lorber, Bruce and Judy Moorad, Fred Nachtwey, Jenny Wenk, Jeff Williams, Michael Wilson, and Jacqueline Peters Hammond.