UC Berkeley Building Projects, Lawsuits on Regents’ Agenda

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 24, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM

University of California regents last week made key votes on three major Berkeley campus building projects. 

On the consent calendar agenda for the board’s Committee on Grounds and Buildings were approvals for: 

• The radically modern $155 million to $175 million Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive building. 

• A $90 million “infill” building for the School of Law. 

• The $266 million Li Ka-Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, which will replace Earl Warren Jr. Hall. 

The first of the three votes scheduled at the committee’s session at UC Santa Barbara was approval of the $12 million preliminary planning of the art museum. 

The strikingly unconventional structure designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito will rise along the western side of Oxford Street between Center and Addison streets. 

The committee raised the $3.5 million in donor funding approved in January to $12 million for completion of the preliminary planning process. 

According to the budget amendment, fundraising efforts have already collected $12.4 million in cash and $15.6 million more in pledges, leaving a balance to be raised of $127 million to $147 million. 

Action on the new health science building was needed to authorize a budget increase for the 110,000-square-foot structure that will rise on the eastern side of Oxford Street not far from the new museum. 

In addition to covering $9.5 million in inflationary costs for construction, the funds will also cover radiation decontamination and disposal of materials contaminated by radiological equipment used at labs in the old building and window sill tiles that were discovered to have elevated levels of natural radioactivity. 

The funds also cover temporary relocation of the exhaust system of the facility’s underground animal testing facility. 

Unlike the funds for most new construction, which come primarily from public and corporate donations, $52.7 million of this structure’s budget comes from state funding, plus an additional $20.2 million from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which was supported by state voters, who passed an initiative backing stem cell research. 

Action on the law school expansion building consisted of approval of an addendum to the university Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) 2020 as well as approval of the design. 

Earlier in the morning, the committee met in closed session to hear updates on five lawsuits challenging projects they have already approved—four of them in Berkeley. 

Two of the suits challenge projects at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a third challenged approval of the lab’s 2025 LRDP. 

The fourth action is the ongoing legal battle over the proposed gym west of Memorial Stadium and other projects in the southeast quadrant of the main campus.