Plaintiffs, Campus Officials Welcome Judge’s Site TourWill Kane covers city government. Contact him at [email protected]
Friday, October 5, 2007
The lawsuits over a proposed athletic center near Memorial Stadium came home to Berkeley yesterday.
Flanked by three uniformed peace officers and an entourage of attorneys and journalists, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller toured the stadium and surrounding area as well as other locations that campus planners considered building the center.
Representatives from both sides applauded what they called a rare trip by a judge to visit a construction site involved in a court case.
“This is clearly a judge who wants to understand the facts,” said Dan Mogulof, executive director of public affairs for the campus. “She wanted to see the sites. This is very unusual.”
Miller asked few questions throughout the day, instead explaining that she was interested in seeing and allowing site representatives and attorneys from both sides to expand on their arguments.
“It was good to get an idea of it, see the layout, see the size,” Miller told the group at the end of the day.
Members of the press swarmed around the judge as she toured both the interior and exterior of Memorial Stadium in the early afternoon.
Assistant Athletic Director Bob Milano Jr. led Miller’s tour inside the stadium and along its west edge, near where tree-sitters are protesting the proposed athletic center.
Milano and attorneys from both sides pointed out how the stadium would be modified—including additions of permanent lighting and new seating structures—under the proposed development plan, giving Miller a chance to judge the possible effects of the construction.
Miller also visited the stadium’s training facilities, which campus officials say do not currently meet athletes’ needs. Members of the press were not allowed to enter the facilities with the judge.
After spending about an hour near the stadium, Miller visited a proposed alternative site for the center near Edwards Stadium on the southwest corner of campus. She was then driven to Golden Gate Fields in Albany. Lawyers and other officials traveled to the site in a campus bus marked “VIP Special.”
While putting together the project’s Environmental Impact Report, the campus considered moving the football program to the current site of Golden Gate Fields, about four miles from campus. As part of that plan, the campus would purchase land and build both a new stadium and athletic training center at the site.
Many officials noted that while the site boasts an impressive view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline, the wind would affect the games.
“We always get questions about why we didn’t build the grandstand (towards the view),” said Robert Hartman, the general manager at the field. “The wind was the reason.”
All parties seemed amicable throughout the day, frequently joking with each other and the judge.
At one point inside the visiting team locker room at Memorial Stadium, Panoramic Hill Association attorney Michael Lozeau asked where the cameras were to observe the opposing team’s whiteboard.
“No, we beat them fair and square,” Milano laughed.
Both plaintiffs and defendants said they felt the first-hand information Miller gained from her tour would benefit their case.
“We are confident the more the court understands the facts of the case, the more likely our success,” said Stephan Volker, an attorney for the California Oak Foundation, one of the plaintiffs.
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