Bill Allows Stadium Retrofit to Proceed

Photo: Construction signs at Memorial Stadium caution passersby to avoid the area. The renovation of California Memorial Stadium has been allowed to proceed with a new bill that exempts it from a previous bill against fault line construction.
Annie Marie Schuler/Staff
Construction signs at Memorial Stadium caution passersby to avoid the area. The renovation of California Memorial Stadium has been allowed to proceed with a new bill that exempts it from a previous bill against fault line construction.

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A new California state bill solely exempts UC Berkeley's retrofitting and renovation of California Memorial Stadium from a current state earthquake zoning law, despite ongoing opposition from various environmental groups.

While the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act prevents buildings used for human occupancy from being placed on top of active faults, the new bill maintains an exemption for construction to the stadium, which straddles the Hayward Fault. The bill provides more specificity about exemptions to the act, as per Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's request.

In October 2009, Senate Bill 113 established exemptions to the act for certain state-owned or -operated buildings, which raised concerns that the language of the bill was too ambiguous about which buildings were exempt. The new bill, Assembly Bill 2133 - authored by Assemblymember Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks - retracts earlier exemptions under the act.

According to Emily Currin, legislative director for Niello, the bill seeks to clarify the intention of SB 113. The University of California has sponsored both SB 113 and AB 2133 in order to facilitate the progress of construction on the stadium.

"Absent the kind of clarification provided in this bill, we were looking at being locked up in lengthy, expensive and endangering litigation - endangering in the sense that the longer we have to wait to renovate, the greater the risks in the case of a seismic event," said Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley spokesperson. "Given the budgetary concerns facing the university, we had an obligation to get some clarity and reduce risk of litigation."

But opposition groups such as Save Strawberry Canyon are concerned not only with how the campus will be able to fund the $321 million project, but also how the renovation will ultimately impact neighborhood communities.

According to Lesley Emmington, president of the organization, while AB 2133 was adjusted to nullify SB 113, it is continuing to undermine the safety of the communities because of the stadium's location atop the fault.

"There are many unanswered questions for Berkeley and the university," Emmington said. "Liability questions remain unanswered, there is a lack of scrutiny, et cetera. We have no idea what we are now being subjected to. Even the city council has shut off facilitating discussion."

But Staff Director for the state's Standing Committee on Local Government Peter Detwiler said the university has taken all necessary precautions to make sure the stadium will be in accordance with safety codes.

According to Detwiler, the committee not only met with university officials to discuss the stadium plans but also spoke with city officials to ensure the plans proposed by the university were acceptable.

"If you look at the bill analysis, no one is hiding the bacon," he said. "I think it would be fair to say that Assemblymember Niello's bill is more surgical than the exemption that was previously enacted. The wording is more clear."

Mogulof said supporters of the bill believe it is consistent with one of the act's primary purposes - to assist in retrofitting historical buildings.

"One thing the bill does not do is jeopardize health and safety," Mogulof said. "The right thing to do is ... to make the building safe for generations to come and to preserve every attribute that has made it a landmark and one of the most beloved places on campus."

Tags: MEMORIAL STADIUM, SAVE STRAWBERRY CANYON


Contact Katie Nelson and Aaida Samad at [email protected]



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