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 One potential barrier to construction of a new Student-Athlete High Performance Center near Memorial Stadium has been removed by a supplemental seismic study showing no active fault traces on the site. (UC Berkeley)

No active faults exist under site planned for new student-athlete training center
Shaking from a major quake won't be any worse there than it will be miles away, says civil-engineering chair

| 06 June 2007

An independent geologic-consulting firm has found no active faults under the planned building site of a student-athlete training center slated for construction west of Memorial Stadium. The Oakland firm Geomatrix Consultants Inc. released the results of a follow-up study of the site two weeks ago.

Last October, Geomatrix gave the site a clean bill of health after extensive exploration that included trenching and numerous borings, and the campus hoped to begin construction early this year. After reviewers from the California Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey suggested additional field exploration to confirm these conclusions, the campus requested an additional trench and several deeper borings in two small areas of the building footprint where deep fill limits geological investigation.

The new explorations turned up no active fault traces in the planned construction area, confirming the company's earlier conclusions. Geomatrix's conclusions were also supported by the seismic consulting firm William Lettis & Associates Inc., which conducted peer reviews of the 2006 and 2007 studies.

The Student-Athlete High Performance Center, a 132,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning and sports-medicine center, will serve 13 of Cal's 27 intercollegiate sports, including football and 12 Olympic sports. The center is critical to future plans to renovate and retrofit the stadium, which straddles the Hayward Fault and is in seismically poor shape.

Said Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour, "The safety of our students, coaches, and staff is of utmost importance, and the Geomatrix findings confirm our belief that the center will be built on a site in full compliance with Alquist-Priolo statutes. I'm confident we will be able to move forward with the project."

The Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Zoning Act is a California law that prohibits the construction of new buildings on an active earthquake fault. Three lawsuits currently are challenging construction of the center, alleging that it would violate provisions of the act. While the Geomatrix study removes one possible barrier to construction of the center, the pending lawsuits challenge other aspects of the project.

Last October, Geomatrix submitted its seismic study of the planned construction site, concluding that no active fault traces run through it. The report was included with the environmental impact report (EIR) submitted that same month to the UC Board of Regents, who certified the EIR and approved the project in December.

Nevertheless, the city of Berkeley filed a lawsuit in December alleging that the student-athlete center would be unsafe in an earthquake. In January, two other lawsuits were filed alleging the same thing and challenging plans to cut down trees to build the center. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller combined the original lawsuit with the lawsuits by the Panoramic Hill Association and a consortium that includes the group Save the Oaks at the Stadium. On Jan. 26 she issued a preliminary injunction barring any construction or preparation for construction until the lawsuits could be heard in trial. No hearing date has yet been set, but one is expected in late summer or fall.

In her decision, Miller alluded to the city's challenge that Berkeley's plans would violate the Alquist-Priolo act. Although the first Geomatrix report concluded that there were no active faults under the planned building site, the campus asked Geomatrix to conduct additional trenching and boring to confirm that fault traces were not present beneath the sediment and fill along the easternmost part of the planned footprint of the building.

Professor Gregory Fenves, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, reviewed both Geomatrix reports and has concluded that the design is in complete compliance with the Alquist-Priolo act. The building will be built with the most modern structural-engineering technology to protect Berkeley athletes from the ground motion expected during a large-magnitude Hayward Fault earthquake, he said.

"Seismologists and engineers know from studies of past earthquakes that the level of ground shaking is approximately the same right next to a fault as it is anywhere else within two miles of the fault," Fenves said. "Thus, the new student-athlete center is unlikely to experience ground motion higher than any other building on campus or in downtown Berkeley should a major earthquake occur on the Hayward Fault."

In contrast, Memorial Stadium, where student-athletes train on a daily basis, is in dire need of seismic retrofitting. That retrofitting cannot begin, however, until the student-athlete center is completed.