New Construction, New Debate

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Campus officials said yesterday that they hope to begin the seismic retrofitting of UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium sooner than originally anticipated, possibly setting off another legal battle over development at the site.

The campus hopes to begin construction on the stadium - which straddles the Hayward Fault - before a controversial athletic center is finished in 2011, said Bob Milano, Jr., the campus's assistant athletic director of capital planning and management.

Under the original plan, the campus would have waited until the center was complete before updating the stadium.

Milano said the campus considered accelerating the timeline for the stadium because a court delayed the construction of the center for more than 20 months. Even under the new plan, Milano estimated that the retrofit could not begin for another 18 months.

In December 2006, three groups - the city of Berkeley, the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association - sued the university to prevent construction of the center.

They presented a variety of concerns including seismic and safety issues.

In July, however, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller ruled in the campus's favor.

But Mike Kelly, president of the

association, said his organization may be forced to sue the campus again if the remodel plan is accelerated without properly considering the consequences in a new Environmental Impact Report.

"They are putting us in a position where they are going to force us to sue them again," he said.

Jennifer McDougall, a principal planner for the campus, said she did not anticipate the campus developing a new report for the retrofit project because the project was covered in a report approved in December 2006.

But Kelly said he felt it was necessary for the campus to draft a new report.

"We don't have an objection to the university doing (the retrofit)," he said. "But we are certainly concerned."

In order to retrofit the stadium, Milano said the campus would have to find an off-site location to house student athletes who use the facility.

Milano also said the football team would likely have to spend a season playing their home games away from Memorial Stadium. He said athletic officials were looking into using the three major stadiums in the Bay Area: Monster Park and AT&T Park in San Francisco and McAfee Coliseum in Oakland.

Before the retrofit can begin, the campus will have to decide on the financial value of Memorial Stadium, something that was controversial during the trial in Miller's court.

If the campus determines the cost of the retrofit will be more than half of the stadium's value, it may be prevented from proceeding with the plan due to a 1972 earthquake zoning law.

Before the retrofit could proceed, the campus would have to present a plan to the UC Board of Regents for their approval and funding. Milano said he knew of no plans to present anything to the regents at their meeting at UC Irvine next week.

The next meeting will take place in San Francisco in November.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said he was excited that the campus had agreed to accelerate the retrofit, something he had been requesting since the project was first presented to the public in fall 2006.

But Bates said he could not yet say if he totally approved of the plan.

"The devil is in the details," he said. "We'll have to see what they present."

Tags: UNIVERSITY, MEMORIAL STADIUM, DEVELOPMENT & CAPITAL PROJECTS


Will Kane is the city news editor. Contact him at [email protected]



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