As a University of California Berkeley student and an avid supporter of the Cal Football team, I support the plan to construct a new training center for our student-athletes and to seismically upgrade Memorial Stadium. I believe that the successful completion of this project will benefit the school and the city. A highly successful athletic program brings in more money to the university, and the subsequent development of the area can help the city by potentially increasing the tax base.
However, as a student in a planning class, I realize that some of the points that the city presents are valid concerns. The Alquist-Priolo Act that has been referenced in different articles does indeed require specialized testing for the presence of active fault zones. The use of this act in court to try and halt the development, though, seems ineffective; the university has already conducted testing in the area as part of their environmental impact report. The act does not prohibit any development as long as there are no active fault areas inside the zone. If the additional testing that is required proves that there are no fault traces in the development area, the city will only have wasted the taxpayer’s money by spending the time in court and caused an inconvenience to the university.
The other issues that have been brought to bear against the project are little more than an attempt to confuse the issue by groups that want to get their way. The Panoramic Hill Association is against the project because they feel the additional activity would inconvenience them. However, the project plans for the stadium at this time actually call for fewer seats; there could be as many as 10,000 fewer fans attending each game. Also, the inclusion of a parking garage near the stadium will mean less parking on the street around the stadium. Although traffic may be slower for a few hours, the streets will potentially be less crowded overall. As such, Saturday afternoons would likely be less congested than they currently are if the new plan goes through.
The other issue that is hotly contested is the proposed redevelopment of the oak grove to the west of Memorial Stadium. The tree-sitting groups claim that the coast live oaks are an essential part of the ecosystem. However, the university has plans to replant more trees than it will remove. In addition, the majority of the trees in the existing grove were planted after the stadium was constructed, and are not ancient and irreplaceable. The city’s attempt to use their coast live oak moratorium to halt the removal of the trees is invalid. While the trees are technically “within” the city’s borders, they are planted on California state property. Since the state is a higher level entity than the city, the states rules should take precedence over any city rules. The university is therefore not subject to this city law, and there is really no issue that prevents the redevelopment of the area.
In the interest of continued healthy relations between the city and the university, it would be most beneficial for the two groups to meet outside of court and resolve their differences. The construction of the training center is vital to the continued success of the university’s athletics. I believe the remaining tree-sitters should be removed for trespassing on state property, and that the city should allow the training center to move forward. The university, in return, should study other potential sites for the parking garage, in an attempt to ease traffic concerns. There is no need for this to degenerate into a long and bloody battle.
Colin Hawley-Snow is a UC Berkeley student.