Judge Affirms Order for Stadium Evidence

By Richard Brenneman
Friday January 25, 2008

Lawyers challenging UC Berkeley’s plans for a gym next to Memorial Stadium must produce expert evidence to back their claim that the two buildings are really one. 

That was the ruling Wednesday by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller, upholding a directive she issued in December. 

Attorneys for the City of Berkeley and neighborhood and environmental groups challenging the university’s plans had contested the order, which had been supported by the university’s lawyers. 

The litigation before the Hayward judge addresses the question of whether or not UC Regents acted legally when they adopted the environmental impact report for a range of stadium-area projects and approved funding for one of the projects, the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC). 

Challenging the regents are Stephan Volker, representing the California Oak Foundation and City Councilmember Dona Spring, Michael Lozeau for the Panoramic Hill Association, and Sacramento attorney Harriet Steiner for the City of Berkeley. 

“We’re confident that the further evidence we will present in response to Judge Miller’s order will show that the SAHPC “is both an alteration of and an addition to California Memorial Stadium,” Volker said. 

Lozeau agreed. 

The issue is critical, because if Judge Miller finds the high-tech gym and office complex is a part of the stadium, then it would trigger cost limits imposed on additions and alterations to buildings within 50 feet of active earthquake faults. 

The stadium itself sits directly over the Hayward Fault, deemed the Bay Area’s most threatening fissure by federal geologists, and the Alquist-Priolo Act limits additions and alterations to half the value of the existing building. 

Just what the stadium’s value might be is another question altogether, with the university arguing for replacement value of a new stadium built to current building codes, while opponents say that current resale value should be the proper figure. 

Judge Miller’s order sets a deadline of Feb. 22 for submission of the experts’ declarations, with responses due by March 3 and oral arguments set for March 7. 

A final ruling on the issue should come within 30 days. 

“We welcome the opportunity to provide the court with this evidence,” said Dan Mogulof, executive director of UC Berkeley’s Office of Public Affairs. 

“We are confident that engineering experts will confirm that in no way, shape or form is the Student Athlete High Performance Center an addition or alteration to California Memorial Stadium.” 

Only Mogulof was willing to name an expert who would be presenting a statement. Among UC’s offering will be a declaration from Vice Chancellor Ed Denton. 

Denton had fought the delay caused by the court action, stating that a year’s delay would cost $8 million to $10 million.  

Asked about the additional delay caused by Miller’s decision to take more evidence after both sides had rested their cases, Mogulof said that “as frustrated as we are by the additional delay, we feel the benefits of providing the judge with additional evidence will far outweigh the costs.” 

Meanwhile, in the grove of oaks and other trees which would fall to make way for the gym, a band of tree-sitters continues their vigil high in the branches in protest of the university’s plans. The tree-sit is now well into its fourteenth month, despite its encirclement by a ring of two fences erected by the university.