For Immediate ReleasePress Contact: Manuela Albuquerque, City Attorney, (510) 981-6950
CITY OF BERKELEY PUBLIC STATEMENT REGARDING LAWSUIT AGAINST UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
Berkeley, California (Tuesday, December 19, 2006) - The City of Berkeley filed suit today against the Regents of the University of California challenging the University’s approval of the Student Athlete High Performance Center (“SAHPC”). The $120 million SAHPC will be structurally linked and actually partially constructed underneath the seismically unsafe California Memorial Stadium. 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 Center 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.
The University is not scheduled to begin construction of the project until June 2007. Yet, it has threatened to immediately cut down historic groves of oak trees and move water lines in December and January. The City is seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo and stop all work on the project pending a judicial determination of the merits of the City’s claims. The City’s application for a TRO is scheduled to be heard in Department 518 of the Alameda County Superior Court at 10:00 am on Thursday, December 21, before Judge Jo-Lynne Lee. The City’s petition and moving papers have been posted on the City’s website. The case number is Alameda County Superior Court No. RG06302934.
For further questions contact Manuela Albuquerque, City Attorney 981-6950.