Searching for an Ending

Petitioners in athletic center controversy should not appeal court's decision and allow construction to begin.

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Just when we finally caught a glimpse of the conclusion to the undying battle over construction of the athletic center near Memorial Stadium, that view was quickly obstructed. With two challenges to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller's ruling, there unfortunately appears to be no ending in sight anytime soon.

Miller's decision to lift the injunction halting building of the athletic center should have been accepted by all parties involved, and the Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation should not have filed appeals last Thursday. While their stubborn fight persists in court, the extended delay only prevents the university from acting on blueprints for the athletic center, a much-needed facility for students.

Meanwhile, the city of Berkeley, another petitioner in the case, has not declared any desire to join in on the appeals madness-and their stance should remain as is. The university has already made meticulous efforts to revamped stadium restoration plans to comply with seismic regulations, which was the city's chief concern.

With the lawsuit dragging on and the injunction reinstated, the costs accumulating on each party's tab are high enough to make almost anyone wonder if that money could have been better spent elsewhere. For the university, an estimated $11 million has already been squandered on construction delays and security costs alone. And this doesn't even take into account attorney's fees, which also make up a substantial portion of the pie.

If the court lifts the injunction after 20 days, giving a second green light to begin work on the athletic center, the university should take direct action and fire up the chain saws. The tree-sitters have had plenty of opportunities to end the protest in a dignified manner, but their repeated refusals to cooperate with UCPD call for a more effective solution. The university's inexplicable tolerance of their illegal inhabitation in the oak groves for over 19 months-including taking measures to ensure their safety and to keep them nourished-must cease.

At this point, it's clear that rational negotiations with the tree-sitters and their supporters will likely be fruitless. Considering the numerous futile attempts to level with them in the past, it's not illogical to predict that any further tries will not end in more biting and tossing of fecal matter.

If there was still hope for reason-based bargaining between the protesters and campus officials, their latest act of planting an acorn sapling in Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's front yard erases that optimism. According to tree-sit ground supporter Zachary RunningWolf's explanation, the move was suppose to imitate an offering of an olive branch. But it could probably be interpreted more accurately as yet another expression of their delusional intentions.

Perhaps the tree-sitters can learn a lesson from proponents of saving Tightwad Hill. Instead of resorting to distasteful means, those who sought to preserve the free football game viewing site were able to reach a settlement with the university through civil compromise.

We urge the university to remove the tree-sitters once the injunction is repealed and for the appellants to rethink their requests. This fiasco has already wasted an inordinate amount of time and money, and will continue on the same trajectory if unimpeded permanently.


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