Residents irritated by seemingly endless erection of campus stadium


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Photo: The construction project on Memorial Stadium that is currently underway has bothered residents, who complain of noise and poor air quality.   

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The arrival of four tower cranes at UC Berkeley's Memorial Stadium in early April marked an end to six months of heavy demolition at the construction site while ushering in a new phase of the stadium renovation project that promises to be relatively quieter amid persistent frustration from local residents.

Erection of the stadium's concrete structure began earlier this month and should last until October, according to Assistant Athletic Director for Capital Planning and Management Bob Milano. Milano said the project is still on track to hold the first football game of the 2012 season in the newly renovated and seismically safe structure.

"The magnitude of what needs to be done is significant," he said. "Demolition was hard, but we're through the worst of the noise."

He added that the cost of leaving the stadium unused as well as potential extended project costs have pushed the campus to move as quickly as possible on the project without sacrificing quality.

The retrofit and renovation of the stadium and the construction of the Student Athlete High Performance Center - a building under construction next to the stadium that will serve as a training center for UC Berkeley athletes - has aggravated neighboring students and community members since it began last summer.

Since heavy construction began in January, workdays have lasted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the week and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

After a lawsuit was filed by members of the community group Stand Up for Berkeley! and the Council of Neighborhood Associations last February, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled in November that the addendum prepared by the university to its 2006 Environmental Impact Report did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act because the university had made changes to the report without publicly disclosing them.

In an effort to more fully disclose and detail changes that will occur to the area surrounding the stadium during construction, the campus will recirculate a portion of its second Environmental Impact Report for public comment in early May, according to Jennifer McDougall, principal planner for physical and environmental planning for the campus.

According to Sherman Hall House Manager Frances Lu, air purifiers provided by the campus for each of the cooperative's 28 rooms have significantly improved living conditions for housemates. The purifiers were delivered following several months of health complaints about the negative respiratory effects of the nearby construction site, and an ASUC Senate bill was also passed in support of the residents.

"We're still next to a construction site, and we understand that," she said. "It's not ideal. I'm thankful to see my housemates feeling relatively better, but there's more that can be done."

Lu added that the campus has yet to respond to multiple requests for ongoing noise and dust monitoring, although the campus has agreed to begin daily construction work two hours later during finals week.

"Is the air quality better? Yes. But is it up to the standard it needs to be is another question," said Alex Ghenis, vice president of external affairs for the Berkeley Student Cooperative. Ghenis said he intends to continue working with the campus to ensure that requests for monitoring are met.

Robert Breuer, a resident who has been involved with the Stand Up for Berkeley! campaign, said although he feels the campus has listened to the complaints and concerns of community members, he does not expect a lot more change.

Breuer added that he is frustrated by the road congestion and traffic that occurs as a result of the nearly 50 trucks that enter and exit the stadium each day.

"Life is one of enduring right now - the disruption is profound and relentless," Breuer said. "Construction will invariably come to an end and there will be a good quality product, but I don't see things getting any better in the meantime."


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