Another delay for UC Berkeley sports center

July 25, 2008 5:19:08 PM PDT
The University of California, Berkeley has been hit by a delay of another 20 days in its bid to build a news sports training center next to its football stadium, which sits on an earthquake fault.

But UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said today that the 20-day delay "was completely expected" and was automatically triggered by appeals filed on Thursday by two groups who have filed suit seeking to stop the university's 158,000-square-foot project, which is projected to cost $140 million.

The delay means that an injunction that currently bars the university from starting work on the project will remain in place until at least Aug. 13, Mogulof said.

A UC Board of Regents committee approved building the sports training center on Dec. 5, 2006.

Shortly afterward, a group of people began living in a grove of oak trees next to the stadium to protest the project because it calls for tearing down most of the trees. Four protesters remain at the site, according to Mogulof.

In addition, the Panoramic Hill Association, which represents people who live near the stadium, the California Oak Foundation and the city of Berkeley filed suit against the project.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller issued a preliminary injunction on Jan. 29, 2007, which temporarily stopped the project.

But Miller issued a ruling on Tuesday that allows the project to go forward, stating that the university has addressed most of her concerns about the project. However, Miller kept her injunction in place for another seven days, until next Tuesday, to give the plaintiffs in the case time to file an appeal.

Work on the project could have started on Wednesday if a stay wasn't granted by an appellate court.

The Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation filed a joint appeal of Miller's ruling on Thursday.

But the Berkeley City Council on Thursday night couldn't muster the five votes necessary for it to file an appeal at this time.

Mayor Tom Bates said after the meeting that the city still has 57 days to file an appeal if it chooses to do so, but he's hopeful that the city and the university can reach a compromise that addresses the city's concerns without further litigation.

Bates said the city's biggest concerns are public safety, noise and parking.

Mogulof said, "We're pleased with the city's decision not to file an appeal at this time and we look forward to having collaborative discussions with them."

Michael Kelly, the president of the Panoramic Hill Association, said today, "This is a really important case, so any time the process slows down that's good."

Kelly said, "It's always good for things not to happen in a rushed way."

Mogulof said that after Aug. 13 the state Court of Appeal will decide whether to keep the injunction against the project in place while the appeal is litigated.

The appellate process is expected to take up to 15 months.


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