Appeal Rejected in Case Regarding Student Athlete Center

Photo: A four-year legal struggle, including the oak grove tree-sit, may have reached its final stage after a California First District Court of Appeals judge rejected an appeal of the last of three lawsuits filed against the UC regents.
Victoria Chow/File
A four-year legal struggle, including the oak grove tree-sit, may have reached its final stage after a California First District Court of Appeals judge rejected an appeal of the last of three lawsuits filed against the UC regents.


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An appeal by the California Oak Foundation seeking to prevent construction on UC Berkeley's Student-Athlete High Performance Center was denied Sept. 3 by the California First District Court of Appeals, concluding a four-year legal struggle between the UC and opponents from the city and surrounding neighborhood.

This appeal marked the last of three lawsuits - filed in 2006 by the city of Berkeley, Panoramic Hill Association and the foundation against the UC Board of Regents - that took issue with the environmental impacts and possible seismic vulnerability associated with the center's construction.

The court upheld a 2008 lower court ruling that awarded the regents $51,442.63 in litigation costs divided equally between the three original plaintiffs. The city paid their share after the 2008 decision and did not seek an appeal, and the neighborhood association settled their appeal with the university in April of this year.

In its appeal, the foundation contended that the regents violated the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act, which prohibits the construction of structures across or within 50 feet of an active fault line. Since Memorial Stadium was in existence prior to May 1975 and the athletic center is not considered an addition to the stadium, the construction is legal, according to the court's opinion.

The court also stated in its opinion that the Environmental Impact Report prepared by the regents "contains sufficient information regarding the project's likely environmental impacts as well as feasible alternatives to or mitigation measures for those projects to avoid or minimize the identified impacts" despite the foundation's assertion that the report lacked the specificity required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

According to Kelly Drumm, an attorney in the UC Office of General Counsel, the foundation can still appeal the decision in the California Supreme Court, though she said she does not know if that is a likely possibility.

"We're very pleased with the decision, and we believe the court reached the correct conclusion," she said.

Stephan Volker, attorney for the foundation, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

After the three original suits filed in 2006 and a preliminary injunction against the center's construction enacted in February 2007, a 129-page court decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller allowed construction to continue in June 2008.

The foundation and association subsequently filed two appeals. In April, the association came to a settlement with the regents in which the regents agreed to pay $75,000 and promised to limit the noise activity in the new stadium, among other provisions.

Litigation costs for the UC have totaled over a million dollars, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof. Campus officials were not surprised by the ruling's upholding of the Superior Court's findings, Mogulof said.

"Clearly it's really good to put all this in our rear-view mirror," he said. "It generated a lot of work to deal with the challenge of the lawsuit, and we were required to spend a great deal of resources we would have used elsewhere."

Another lawsuit filed by Stand Up for Berkeley! and the Council of Neighborhood Associations and represented by Volker is currently pending in the Superior Court regarding seismic renovations to the stadium.

Tags: CALIFORNIA OAK FOUNDATION, STUDENT-ATHLETE HIGH PERFORMANCE ATHLETIC CENTER


Contact Alisha Azevedo at [email protected]



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