For Immediate ReleasePress Contact: Manuela Albuquerque, City Attorney, (510) 981-6950
COURT ISSUES INJUNCTION TO STOP UC'S CONSTRUCTION OF THE STUDENT ATHLETE HIGH PERFORMANCE CENTER IN CITY OF BERKELEY SUIT
Berkeley, California (Monday, January 29, 2007) - Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller issued an injunction, late Friday, January 26, 2007 enjoining the University of California from proceeding with construction of its Student Athlete High Performance Center (“SAHPC”). The order granted the request of petitioners City of Berkeley, the Panoramic Area Association and the California Oaks Foundation that had sued to stop the project. The Court found that the petitioners had made a “strong showing of likelihood of success on their claims under the Alquist Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act and the California Environmental Quality Act to justify issuance of a preliminary injunction pending resolution of those claims at trial. City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque stated “Judge Miller’s injunction struck an important blow for public safety by stopping this ill conceived and poorly studied project. We hope her finding that the City had made strong showing that it would win its significant legal claims will cause the University to reconsider it approach to these projects.” A trial could occur as early as three to five months from now.
The City filed suit on December 19, 2007, motivated in large part by its serious concerns for public safety. The $120 million SAHPC will be structurally linked and actually partially constructed underneath the seismically unsafe California Memorial Stadium (“CMS”). The City's suit charges that the University ignored State law requirements concerning building or expanding structures located on earthquake faults, and failed to consider the serious threats to public health and safety that would result if the west wall of the Stadium, under which the SAHPC is to be built, collapsed in an earthquake. The City points out that such a collapse would endanger the persons working in or attending events at the facilities. In addition, the City stated, the neighboring Panoramic Area residents’ egress could be cut off by any disaster. Responding to such a disaster would also put a severe strain on the City’s emergency response workers, diverting them to deal with the collapse rather than attend to the disaster related needs of other citizens impacted by an earthquake.
The suit also charges that the University ignored provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act “CEQA” by: 1) describing the proposed projects in such vague terms as to make an adequate study of their consequences impossible; 2) illegally piecemealing its approval of connected projects to avoid any meaningful assessments of their cumulative environmental consequences; 3) releasing an important seismic study only after the draft after the Environmental Impact Report had been issued and commented upon, thereby preventing the public from a meaningful opportunity to comment on its inadequacy; 4) ignoring the comments of state and federal seismic experts that the University seismic study was inadequate, and 5) in general, rationalizing a pre-ordained decision to build these projects, rather conducting a good faith and careful environmental assessment of the effects of the projects, including whether the University’s legitimate goals could be obtained in manner more respectful of public safety and the avoidance of adverse effects on the environment, as state law requires.
A Superior Court Judge has now found that the City made a strong showing that it will be successful on these claims. The City hopes that the University will take this opportunity to rethink its approach to state law compliance and these projects and will go back and do the careful assessment and analyses that state law requires, especially of the City’s serious seismic safety concerns. The University has claimed that an injunction would result in exposing 75 of its staff housed at CMS to seismic dangers, however, UC moved these staff into the CMS in the nineteen eighties and nineties when it knew full well that CMS was dangerous. UC has not moved them elsewhere in the intervening years even though it could have done so. It admitted in court that it not allocated any funds to seismic safety to protect these staff but had required the staff to raise their own funds for this project claiming that sports were “ancillary” to the University’s mission. UC also admitted that it has not tried to raise funds to make CMS safe because only a new SAHPC is attractive enough to draw private funds. We hope that the University will not barrel on ahead to trial but will rethink its approach to these projects and follow applicable law.