Berkeley Hills Firestation Proposal Survives Couple’s Legal Challenge

Friday November 07, 2003

Proponents of the proposed Berkeley Hills firehouse scored a victory Wednesday when an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled against two homeowners suing to stop construction. 

The firehouse, funded through Measure G, a 1992 $55 million dollar city bond issue, has been mired in the litigation since early this year. 

The firehouse was initially proposed after the Oakland/Berkeley Hill fire tore through the area destroying 3,000 homes, and it had won the support of many neighbors before Peter and Andrea Cuckor filed suit. 

According to Zach Walton, an attorney with Neighbors for Fire Safety—the association formed to help develop the plan—the Cuckors’ suit disputed language in the bond measure that required the new firehouse to be mutli-jurisdictional. Two governmental entities, the City of Berkeley and the East Bay Regional Parks District, are partnered in the station, but the suit questioned whether two participants indeed qualified as “multi.” 

In a second lawsuit, the Cukors are challenging a proposed land exchange between the city and the parks district that must be completed before building can commence on the new site. While most of the building will sit on East Bay Water Company land, the front yard and a path to the building are on park district property. 

The Cukors brought their challenge under Measure L, a Berkeley law that says buildings can’t be erected on public park land or open space without voter approval. 

Walton said that because the proposed property doesn’t yet fall under city control, Measure L does not apply. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for next month. 

Neighbors say they are happy to see progress and hope the station will be completed soon. 

“This is one more legal hurdle out of the way, we are thrilled,” said Barbara Allen, one of the members of Neighbors for Fire Safety. “We need the station for our protection, but we also need it for the protection of all the hill residents for medical and earthquake protection.”