UC Berkeley has found a way to evade the limitations that are imposed by the Alquist-Priolo Fault Zoning Act on new construction atop earthquake faults. UC has persuaded the California Legislature to add just a few sentences to its 61 page Omnibus Act of 2009.
Alquist-Priolo ordinarily imposes a limit on the cost of additions or alterations to buildings on faults to 50 percent of the value of the existing structure.
This session’s Omnibus Act, signed by Governor Schwarz-
enegger on Oct. 10, contains language amending Alquist-Priolo to exempt Memorial Stadium, allowing the university to sink money into the fault-laden site without the Alquist-Priolo restraints.
Omnibus acts are supposed to cover only noncontroversial topics, but UC’s proposed changes to Memorial Stadium have lately ignited considerable local controversy, including petitions, demonstrations and even lawsuits by students, alumni and neighbors.
Divided lengthwise by the active Hayward Fault, the stadium will be not only retrofitted but also “reconstructed” tothea tune of $321 million. Remaining ambiguous is whether this estimate includes the entire stadium or the western half only.
Adding in the cost of the Student Athlete High Performance Center, now under construction on the site of the former Memorial oak grove, the $136 million addition to the stadium might in combination with the stadium retrofit exceed any reasonable valuation of the stadium. Even without the cost of the training center, the cost of the stadium work alone could have exceeded the stadium’s total value.
Without the amendment to the earthquake fault zoning act, Alquist-Priolo might very well have stopped the stadium project. The university has contended that the amendment was necessary to compensate for the expense of retrofitting historic structures. A letter on Aug. 25 from the UC Office of the President to Gov. Schwarzenegger said that “renovations to historic structures are inherently more expensive than renovations to non-historic properties.” The stadium is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Although the university is now no longer limited by the cost of additions and alterations to historic structures on top of earthquake faults, the university will presumably otherwise follow Alquist. The UCOP letter says that “this measure does not exempt the university from the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act, it merely allows us to exceed the 50 percent value limitation on retrofits.”
Janice Thomas is a member of the Stand Up for Berkeley Steering Committee and vice-president of the Panoramic Hill Association.