Permanent Lighting Plan Put on Hold





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The university has postponed plans to install controversial permanent lighting in Memorial Stadium and is instead "seriously exploring" the possibility of retractable lights, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl said yesterday.

The original plan, in which the university would have constructed nine permanent light structures rising up to 120 feet from the stadium rim, is indefinitely "on hold," he said at a rare press conference.

Residents surrounding the stadium had protested that plan, saying the lights would impair their view.

"I would like to see us reach a compromise solution that would be accommodating to the residents of Panoramic Hill and the university," the chancellor said.

Permanent lights improve television coverage of football games, generating revenue for the university, he added.

"We can't be the only team in the Pac-10 that doesn't have a lighted football stadium," he said.

Developed by a Panoramic Hill resident several weeks ago, the new plan requires permanent poles of an undetermined height and width, said university spokesperson Marie Felde.

"It's the banks of lights that are retractable, so when we need the lights during games, they would be in place, and on other days, they would not be in place," Felde said. "The poles, however, would be there permanently."

The announcement came after Berdahl met with Councilmember Polly Armstrong, who spearheaded a committee to work for a compromise. By telephone from Massachusetts yesterday, she said she was happy to hear of the new development.

"I was thrilled to see the university had listened to what I had to say, and was willing to pull back for a year," Armstrong said. "Right here, right now, the plan looks good for the city and the UC."

To her knowledge, retractable lights have not been used for a stadium, and thus further investigation is needed to determine their feasibility. The university plans to continue working with neighbors to find an agreeable option, she said.

If the university goes ahead with the retractable light plan, the earliest the lights would be installed is for the 2001 football season. The stadium will continue to use temporary lights for the upcoming season, Felde said.

Michael Kelly, a member of a neighborhood group lobbying against the lights, said the university had initially said there were no alternatives, and that it took his research to find the new proposal.

"I'm glad to hear they are looking at the new lights, but I would feel better if I didn't have to do the research for them," Kelly said. "If I can find an alternative in five minutes of research on the Internet, where were they looking?"

Robert Breuer, president of the neighborhood group, said he welcomes Berdahl's announcement and looks forward to working with UC planners to find an appropriate solution.

However, Breuer said it took the threat of a lawsuit from the neighbors and the city attorney for the university to look at alternatives. The threat aimed to pressure the university to conduct an environmental impact report for the original project. Any new lights would still require an impact report, he added.

City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque, under the City Council's direction, found that any exemption to the impact report would be illegal. The lawsuit, however will not be filed in light of the new development.

Breuer added that the group was also concerned that permanent lights would lead to increased night use of the stadium, which is not what football fans - such as himself - nor the city want, Breuer said, and would increase traffic on the Southside.

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