UC Berkeley on Friday began tearing down oak trees next to Memorial Stadium as the first step in a project to build a news sports training center adjacent to the stadium, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said.
Mogulof said that the university would only be “pruning” trees in the wake of a court ruling on Thursday that allowed the university to go forward with the project after a 20-month legal battle.
But at a news briefing Friday next to the football stadium, Mogulof said the university actually began tearing down trees and plans to tear down a total of 42 trees by the end of the day Monday.
Videographer LA Wood, who has filmed activities at the grove of oak trees since a UC Board of Regents committee approved the project December 2006, said at least six trees have been taken down so far.
Michael Kelly, the president of the Panoramic Hill Association, which is one of three groups that filed suit to try to stop the project, said he thinks at least a dozen trees had been removed.
Wood accused UC officials of issuing a “misleading” statement about their plans for today.
“They didn't prune trees – they killed them,” Wood said.
Four tree-sitters remained in a single tree near the stadium and at least 50 supporters had gathered near the site to watch the trees being cut down.
Wood said he thinks the university wouldn't have cut down the trees today if there had been a larger group of protesters.
Mogulof said the university will plant three new trees at the site for every one it removes.