Hearings This Week in Stadium, Trader Joe’s Cases

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Court hearings are slated this week in two major Berkeley land disputes, one involving the university and the other the so-called Trader Joe’s building. 

The first, at 1 p.m. Thursday in Hayward, will feature the final arguments in the battle over the site near Memorial Stadium where tree-sitters have occupied the arboreal heights for the last 16 months. 

The university wants to ax the grove west of the stadium, where it plans a four-level, semi-subterranean high-tech gym and office complex. Zachary Running wolf and others took to the branches on Big Game Day 2006, and protesters have remained in the branches ever since, much to the vexation of university officials. 

The City of Berkeley, City Councilmember Dona Spring, the California Oak Foundation, Panoramic Hill Association and others have challenged the approval by UC Regents of the environmental impact report and funding plans for the gym and other structures in what the university calls Southeast Campus Integrated Projects. 

The project has been placed on hold pending the outcome of the litigation. 

The university has only been floating preliminary plans for the gym, though the EIR also spells out the university’s proposal to build a nearby underground parking lot, a large office and meeting facility to join functions and faculty of the law and business schools, as well as other projects and renovations.  

In the case of the gym, Judge Barbara Miller must decide if the new building is an addition to or an alteration of the stadium itself. If she finds that to be the case, state law governing construction within 50 feet of active earthquake faults could severely limit the project, as well as alterations planned for the stadium itself. 

Miller’s courtroom is located in the Hayward Hall of Justice, 24405 Amador St. 


Trader Joe’s 

The second court session, at 9 a.m. Friday in downtown Oakland, will feature arguments in the lawsuit challenging the city’s approval of a five-story mixed-use building at 1885 University Ave. 

Steve Wollmer and other members of Neighbors for a Livable Berkeley Way have challenged the city’s approval of the project, which granted an additional floor in exchange for creating parking spaces for the building’s ground-floor commercial tenant. 

Developers Chris Hudson and Evan McDonald said they have Trader Joe’s, a popular German-owned grocery chain, lined up as the major tenant. 

City Staff deemed bringing a grocer to the edge of the city’s downtown a public benefit worthy of a density bonus, an increase in size beyond the limits otherwise mandated by city zoning regulations. 

Wollmer and other nearby residential neighbors challenged the project in court, charging that it would be too large and that approval was illegal. 

Concern about the city’s interpretation of zoning regulations in the Trader Joe’s and other cases prompted the Zoning Adjustments Board to form a subcommittee, later expanded by the City Council, to draft a density bonus ordinance for the city. 

That proposal is currently under discussion at the Planning Commission. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch is scheduled to hear the case in his courtroom on the second floor of the Post Office building at 201 13th St.