Public Comment

Debate Without Facts Serves No One

By UC Berkeley’s Seismic Review Committee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:03:00 AM

We, the members of UC Berkeley’s Seismic Review Committee (SRC), write to rebut and fully refute the recent Daily Planet op-ed, “UC Berkeley Ignores New Earthquake Safety Report.” 

The SRC did, in fact, initiate and fully review a new draft report on seismic ground motion as part of our obligation to ensure that new data have no adverse implications for campus construction projects, including the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC). After the review we took no action related to the SAHPC for one simple, compelling reason: the study’s results found that the expected ground motion during the maximum credible earthquake would actually be less than originally estimated. So, the existing SAHPC design not only meets, but exceeds the new requirements. The article’s statement that “it is unknown whether or not the proposed structure would meet the updated standards” is categorically false. 

The authors’ claims regarding the removal of a grade beam beneath the west wall of the Stadium are also without substance. This change was recommended by David Friedman, the structural engineer of record for the SAHPC, peer-reviewed by Structural Engineer Loring Wyllie, and then, independently reviewed by the SRC’s own structural engineer, Craig Comartin. So, three prominent experts in seismic retrofit agreed that the deletion of the grade beam will not affect seismic safety. Furthermore, at no time did any qualified engineer inform the SRC that inclusion of the grade beam would be “prudent.” 

In their closing paragraph, the authors see fit to remind us of our obligation to act in a responsible manner. It is worth noting that since the adoption of the Seismic Safety Policy UC Berkeley has spent more than $400 million to address campus seismic safety issues. Recent studies show that these measures have cut life safety risk on campus in half. As a result, the UCB seismic program was named one of the top ten seismic projects of the 20th century in the US by Engineering News Record and the Applied Technology Council. 

Debate divorced from fact serves no one’s interests. The SRC’s commitment to safety and its advisory actions in support of that commitment are guided solely by scientific research. This approach is one of the reasons that Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller recently ruled that “the record contains substantial evidence supporting the university’s decision to build the (athletic facility) as currently proposed.” 


The University of California, Berkeley, Seismic Review Committee: 


Filip Filippou, Chair 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 


Jonathan Bray 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 


Craig Comartin 

Consultant, CD Comartin, Inc. 


Edward Denton Vice Chancellor—Facilities Services 


Rob Gayle 

Associate Vice Chancellor—Capital Projects 


Jack Moehle 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 

Director, PEER 


Nicholas Sitar 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 


Bozidar Stojadinovic 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 


Stephen Tobriner 

Professor, Architecture 


Edward Wilson 

Professor Emeritus, Civil and Environmental Engineering