Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller Tuesday issued a ruling that allows the University of California, Berkeley to begin construction of a new sports training center next to the university's football stadium.
However, two plaintiff groups who filed suit to try to stop the university from building the new facility, which is projected to cost about
$140 million, are expected to rush to the state Court of Appeal to seek a stay that would continue to stop the project while their appeal of Miller's ruling is heard.
UC-Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the substantive part of Miller's decision Tuesday is "identical" to her July 22 ruling that allowed the university to begin work on its controversial project because it had addressed her concerns about environmental and safety issues.
Mogulof said Miller also accepted the university's promise to refrain from construction activities until the Court of Appeal rules on the
expected request for a stay.
Michael Kelly, the president of the Panoramic Hill Association, which represents people who live near the football stadium, said his group will return to the state Court of Appeal to seek a stay that would bar the university from beginning construction.
"We feel like we have a strong case," Kelly said.
Referring to Miller, Kelly said, "We believe that several issues were not adequately resolved by the current judge."
Kelly said that because the football stadium sits on top of the Hayward earthquake fault, "It's urgent that we get this case resolved by the appellate court as soon as possible."
Attorney Stephan Volker of the California Oak Foundation couldn't be reached for comment.
But after a brief hearing in Miller's court on Monday, Volker said he also planned to seek a stay if Miller ruled in favor of the university
The California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association filed a joint appeal with the Court of Appeal three days after Miller's July 22 ruling.
But the Court of Appeal sent the case back to Miller's courtroom on Aug. 7, saying that several legal issues needed to be finalized before it could consider the case.
Mogulof said legal observers believe the Court of Appeal could decide on a stay within in a matter of days after the two plaintiff groups file their renewed formal notice of appeal.
Mogulof said, "This arrangement means that if and when the Court of Appeal decides not to impose a new injunction, the university will be able to begin work immediately."
He said, "Time is of the essence. Every additional day of delay will cost the university approximately $40,000, not to mention the additional time our student-athletes will be forced to tolerate entirely sub-standard conditions."
Mogulof added, "Given the exhaustive, detailed ruling Judge Miller has issued, we feel very optimistic that the legal coast will soon be clear."
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.
The city of Berkeley, the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association filed suit against the university in late December 2006 to try to stop the project on environmental and safety grounds.
Miller issued a preliminary injunction on Jan. 29, 2007, which temporarily halted the project. But she held additional hearings on the case late last year and earlier this year and on July 22 said the university could go ahead with the project.
However, she kept her injunction in place long enough to allow the plaintiffs adequate time to file an appeal.
The city of Berkeley considered filing an appeal, but at a July 24 meeting the Berkeley City Council couldn't muster enough votes to authorize an appeal.