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Tree-Sitters Get a Day in Court, Cal Bears to Move to Interim Venue

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday November 20, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM
A large metal framework adorned with an image-boosting icon is the only structure erected to date at the site of the now-removed oak grove along the western wall of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.
Richard Brenneman
A large metal framework adorned with an image-boosting icon is the only structure erected to date at the site of the now-removed oak grove along the western wall of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium.

Berkeley’s tree-sitters faced another day in court this week, and UC Regents were plotting the fate of Memorial Stadium and an interim venue for the Cal Bears. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said Wednesday the work at the stadium will require finding a temporary home for the Cal Bears, with the only question being whether the move will be for one season or two. 

“Based on current planning, it looks now like no more than one year,” he said. 

While construction of the new high-tech gym and office complex now under way immediately west of the stadium will provide new quarters for facilities now housed inside the stadium, work on the stadium itself means at least one season in an alternate venue. 

Meanwhile, an appeal challenging the stadium plans is still under way. 

On a second legal front, three of the activists who occupied the now-vanished grove outside the Berkeley stadium appeared before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Marshall Whitley. Six others avoided trial by entering guilty pleas to contempt-of-court charges after reaching a deal with the university and prosecutors. 

In exchange for the pleas, the university agreed not to seek legal costs or jail time from the six, while the defendants agreed to perform 50 hours each of community service, said attorney William Simpich. 

Among the six who had their fees waived were two of the last three tree sitters to surrender to campus police when the university completed its demolition of the grove Sept. 9. 

They are Armando Resendez, also known as Mando, 20, and Ernesto Trevino (Droog) who was the youngest tree-sitter at 18. Others who made the no-fees deal were Gabrielle Silverman (Millipede), Matthew Marks, Tristan Anderson (Cricket) and Amanda Tierney, otherwise known as “Dumpster Muffin.” 

Three defendants decided to argue their cases, but Judge Whitley found them all guilty during trials Monday. 

Zachary RunningWolf, the first treesitter to ascend the branches outside the grove on Big Game Day 2006, and Kingman Lim, who was arrested after hanging a protest banner from the stadium walls, were given five day jail sentences along with Michael Schuck (better known by his treesitter names Fresh and Shem), but the judge allowed them to be considered as served concurrently with jail terms previously imposed. 

The last treesitter to descend, Raul Colocho, 27, otherwise known as Huck or Huckleberry, and fellow treesitter Drew Beres still have pending legal issues, which may be resolved in a court hearing in March. 

Beres contends he shouldn’t be charged in the case, since he was already convicted on another charge arising from the same incident. 

Simpich said it was unlikely any of the three would do additional jail time, considering that all three have spent previous time behind bars for their actions at the grove. Most of the treesitters had been arrested multiple times, and RunningWolf still faces another criminal case in the near future, the attorney added said. 

“We’re are going to fight over attorney fees, though,” Simpich said. 

Michael R. Goldstein, who has been handling the cases for the UC Office of the President, said the university has already won judgments of between $5,000 and $10,000 against defendants in other grove cases to help recoup some of the legal fees the university has spent. 

Five more cases are pending where the university is seeking fees, he said.  


Regents to decide 

The Grounds and Buildings Committee of the UC Board of Regents was meeting in secret session Wednesday afternoon at the Daily Planet’s deadline, considering what the agenda described only as “Discussion of Seismic Plans for Individual Structures Subject to Litigation.” 

A lawsuit initially filed by the City of Berkeley, stadium neighbors and environmentalists had challenged sought to stop construction at the stadium, including the Student Athlete High Performance Center now being built where the grove once stood. 

A ruling by Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller largely sided with the university, and her earlier order barring construction at the grove expired, allowing the university’s contract arborists to level the grove and evict the last of the treesitters. 

The four-level high tech gym and office complex is the first of three planned construction phases at the stadium itself, and those projects are in turn part of a large set of construction plans collectively known as SCIP, the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects. 

Mogulof said he had no information about a report published in Wednesday’s San Francisco Chronicle which said regents would discuss the use of Candlestick Park as a venue for the Bears’ “away” season. 

Once the home of both the San Francisco Giants baseball teams and the 49ers football teams, the Giants have since moved on, leaving Saturdays potentially open for college games while the NFL pro team plays on Sundays. A city official quoted by the Chronicle acknowledged that negotiations have been held with the school. 

Meanwhile, the lawsuit challenging the SCIP plans is still on appeal, though the city has dropped out. 

A retrofit is needed, university officials say, both to bring the aging stadium up to modern earthquake codes and to provide locker rooms for women athletes. 

University plans also call for upgrading seating and adding exclusive new amenities in an elevated section to be built over the stadium’s western wall.  

In another stadium-related move, university officials finally agreed to give a group of Native Americans the stump of Grandmother Oak, the largest and most venerable of the trees chainsawed at the site of the former grove. 

The hand-over was made Monday, said Matthew Taylor, an activist who was himself arrested at the grove and who has been documenting the history of the protest.