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Two groups appeal UC sports center ruling

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Two plaintiff groups have filed an appeal of 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.

Michael Kelly, president of the Panoramic Hill Association, said his organization and the California Oak Foundation filed a joint appeal with the state Court of Appeal Thursday.

Kelly said he expects a three-judge appellate panel to rule sometime in the next two weeks about whether to keep an injunction against the project in place while the plaintiffs appeal Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller's ruling.

However, it could take 10 to 18 months for the appellate court to rule on the appeal itself, Kelly said.

University of California, Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said he agrees that it could take about two weeks for the Court of Appeal to rule on whether to extend the injunction against the 158,000-square-foot project, which is expected to cost about $140 million.

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But Mogulof said, “Because of the extensive and detailed nature of Judge Miller's ruling, the university is optimistic that the Court of Appeal will very quickly clear the way for construction to begin.”

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 that 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 because it has addressed her concerns about environmental and safety issues.

However, she kept her injunction in place long enough to allow the plaintiffs adequate time to file an appeal.

The California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association filed a joint appeal on July 25. The city of Berkeley chose not to file an appeal at that time.

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.

Miller's ruling on Tuesday addressed those issues and in effect re-affirmed her July 22 ruling.

Although Miller ruled in favor of the university, the university said it won't begin work on the project until the Court of Appeal decides
whether to keep the injunction in place.

Kelly said, “We are eager to see the legal questions in this case resolved by the appellate court. Because the lower court's opinion created some serious questions marks, we are obligated to take this case to the higher court for resolution.”

Stephan Volker, attorney for the California Oak Foundation, said in a statement, “Our case is fundamentally sound and we are confident that the Court of Appeal will reverse the lower court's position.”

Kelly said high on the list of issues he hopes will be addressed by the appellate court is the legality of building a new training facility
next to the university's aging football stadium, which sits on the Hayward earthquake fault.

Kelly said other topics he wants the higher court to resolve are traffic and noise problems stemming from the project and the impact of removing oak trees from in front of the stadium.

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