On Shaky Ground: A Look At the UC Stadium Project

The Retrofit Meant for Earthquake Safety is Much More Expansive And Too Expensive

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We note that UC Berkeley's vice chancellor wrote the Berkeley City Council on Dec. 14, 2009, addressing an unconstitutional exemption that UC has obtained from California's premier earthquake protection statute. He agreed the exemption was consistent with Alquist-Priolo's primary purpose: "to provide the citizens of California with increased safety." This is a contradiction in terms. An exemption from a safety-related statute cannot be consistent with ensuring public safety.

The vice chancellor thanked the council for supporting the seismic retrofit of the California Memorial Stadium (CMS), as it is a project that would benefit the community. Stand Up For Berkeley! shares his opinion. A seismic retrofit of the stadium is an excellent idea. This statement may seem surprising, because we are currently suing the University in order to try to reduce some of their construction. However, when you examine the projects, you will see that very little of the work will be for seismic retrofitting of the CMS.

In particular:

-A new super-gym for athletes, replacing a grove of mature California oaks.

-A 911-space parking garage under the existing Maxwell Field. This will be used every day by university staff, and will hugely exacerbate existing traffic problems.

-A 15,000 square ft. structure, to make access easier for football fans using the new parking garage, and improve ticketing and truck loading.

-A complete reconstruction of Witter Field, in Strawberry Canyon.

-Lowering of the CMS playing field surface an additional two feet to improve the view of the football games. This is a major construction project.

-A new, larger, press box.

Also, there is an unresolved proposal to hold additional full-capacity, possibly nighttime, events in order to pay for these projects.

Clearly, none of this work has anything to do with seismic retrofitting, and everything to do with turning the CMS into a huge Sports-Entertainment Complex. This would be reasonable if the CMS were adjacent to a freeway and isolated from residential neighborhoods. However, it is not. Access is appalling and road traffic to and from stadium events has a severe impact on neighborhoods throughout the city.

Given the above, you must surely understand why we are disturbed at the council's lack of opposition to UC plans. The project is far more than a seismic retrofit, and is well in excess of what is appropriate in this economy.

Please step back and stand up-for Berkeley!


Nigel Guest is a member of Stand Up for Berkeley! Reply to [email protected]

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