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UC Berkeley Web Feature

Q&A about Memorial Stadium-related construction projects

Trees west of Memorial Stadium

Q. How many trees are going to be removed for the Student-Athlete High Performance Center? Where are they?
A. Generally, the trees to be removed are in the upper grove, closest to the west wall of the stadium. The trees in the lower grove, closest to Piedmont Avenue, will remain.

There are 139 trees, of various varieties and sizes, on the site. Of these, 91 will be removed and 48 will be preserved. Much of the public attention has focused on 70 mature or significant trees, known as "specimen" trees. Of these specimen trees, 42 will be removed, 27 will remain, and 1, a healthy redwood, will be relocated.

Q. What kinds of trees will be removed?
A. Of the specimen trees that must be removed, 26 are coast live oak and the remainder is a mix of trees, including bays, pines, and cedars.

Q. How many will the campus replant?
The plan calls for 142 new trees to be planted around the stadium. Of those, 61 trees are to be planted at the site of the student-athlete center.

Q. What kinds of new trees will be planted?
A. A variety of trees are proposed by the landscape architects. They include coast live oak, American yellowwood, Canary Island pines, Italian stone pines, Japanese cedar, and western redbud, among others.

Q. Why can't you just move the oaks?
A. We've looked into that, but the arborists tell us that the chance of survival isn't good. They advised that it is better to plant healthy young trees than to try to move the older oaks.

Q. Is this an old-growth oak grove? How old are the oldest trees?
A. No, this is not an old-growth oak grove. As part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the campus had an historic landscape report done. It found that most of the trees in the area were planted when the stadium was built in 1923. Before that, the site was part of a residential garden, a cultivated landscape. Four trees on the site — three oaks and one redwood — are believed to pre-date the stadium.

Q. Are the trees healthy?
A. Generally yes, though one of the oldest oaks is showing signs of distress and is to be removed. Two of the oldest oaks, both of which are healthy, will remain.

Q. What is the campus going to do with the trees that remain?
A. Maintaining the health of the remaining trees is a high priority. In the coming months, the campus will prune their roots, feed them, and take other steps to protect the health of the remaining trees. Sustaining these trees has also been part of the design plan for the student-athlete center; for example, the center was designed to preserve the original water flow and drainage patterns that nurture the grove.

Q. Why is it important to build the center there? Can't you find another place to build it?
A. A high priority was put on placing the center close to where student-athletes train, practice, compete, and study, more effectively integrating their athletic and academic endeavors and ensuring efficient use of their time. In recent years, the university looked extensively at other sites; these included Witter Field, below ground east of the stadium, the site of the athletic ticket office at 2223 Fulton St., near Golden Gate Fields in Albany, and within the current west wall of the stadium. The selected site best serves students and best meets the goals of the project. It also solves important issues of access and circulation around the stadium by creating a broad plaza atop the student-athlete center.

Q. Why not put the center on Maxwell Family Field?
A. Future development of Maxwell Family Field will address parking and sports field needs identified and approved in the campus 2020 Long Range Development Plan. Further, Maxwell Field is intensively used by students for organized sports and for pick-up soccer and other games.

Q. The stadium was just placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Will that change the tree plans?
A. No. In the application for the designation — supported by the campus — the landscape around the stadium contributed to the attributes under consideration, but it was not considered significant enough to be eligible for the Register itself. This is because over the years many trees have been replaced and other changes have been made to the landscape plan in the area.

Student-Athlete High Performance Center

Q. What will be in the center? How big is it?
A. The 142,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art training and sports medicine center for student athletes will serve 13 of the 27 Cal intercollegiate sports, including football and 12 Olympic sports.

Q. How much will it cost? And where is the funding coming from?
A. Approximately $125 million. All of it will come from private fundraising.

Q. Why can't you design it so it doesn't require that the trees be taken down?
A. There are always competing interests for land use on campus. The campus has made great efforts to plan the Student-Athlete High Performance Center by balancing the multiple goals of life safety, integration of academics and athletics, access, and historic and natural preservation.

The center is designed to save the trees in the lower grove and to help make sure they remain healthy. It is also designed to preserve the historic west wall of Memorial Stadium and promote access to the stadium. The design has been commended by the State Historic Preservation Office for its sensitivity to the historic nature of the stadium and its natural surroundings.

Q. How much of these plans, really, are to make the football coach happy, to keep him from leaving? Would you be building the center if weren't for him?
A. The planned center is about improving conditions for the success of our student-athletes, integrating their athletic and academic experiences, and ensuring the life safety of the students and staff who use the stadium 365 days a year.

Q. Doesn't state law, the Alquist-Priolo Act, say you can't build on an active fault? How can you build the student center there?
A. Geologists have concluded that there is no evidence of an active fault in the footprint of the proposed student-athlete center. The Alquist-Priolo Act is designed to prohibit new construction on active faults and encourage retrofits of existing structures that are on faults. The campus will take the steps necessary to fully comply with the act.

Q. How are you addressing the seismic safety concerns related to the stadium?
A. By building the student-athlete center first, we are addressing the most significant life-safety threat by moving the students and staff who train and work in the stadium every day into a new, safe building. It is the necessary first step in future plans to renovate the stadium.

The Hayward Fault does run through part of Memorial Stadium, and the second phase of the master plan for the stadium addresses seismic safety and other improvements to the stadium.

Q. Wouldn't it be safer to build the student-athlete center someplace else?
A. UC Berkeley — and much of the Bay Area — has to deal with building near earthquake faults. The structural engineer for the project reports that the design requirements for seismic safety for a building on this site are no different than if the building were in downtown Berkeley. Haas School of Business was built just across the street from the stadium, and UC Berkeley's newest, most modern science building is just down the street, also close to the fault. Proximity to faults — and designing to mitigate the hazard — is a reality of living in the Bay Area.

Tightwad Hill issues

Q. Fans who watch the games from Tightwad Hill say plans for the eastern side of the stadium will block their views and destroy a treasured tradition. They want you to make sure that doesn't happen. What will you do?
A. We don't have designs for the eastern side of the stadium yet. It is too early to tell what impact the stadium improvements will have, if any, on the view from Tightwad Hill.

EIR process and possible challenges

Q. The City of Berkeley has already voted to sue the university if the Regents approve the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). What is the campus's reaction?
A. The campus has been communicating its plans to the local community and beyond throughout the EIR process, meeting with Berkeley's mayor, city officials, neighbors, student groups, and others. The campus held public meetings on the draft EIR and responded to hundreds of comments sent by the public, various agencies, and the city. UC Berkeley believes that the final EIR thoroughly reviewed all of the issues raised and meets the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Q. What happens if the city does sue?
A. The city, or anyone else, has 30 days after an EIR is certified to challenge it in court. If a suit is filed, a judge will decide if the EIR meets the requirements of CEQA. The campus believes its EIR meets those requirements, but if a judge rules otherwise, some aspects of the EIR would have to be reexamined and revised.

Project timeline and cost

Q. When is construction to start on the student-athlete center?
A. The campus hopes to begin as soon as the project has all of the appropriate approvals.

Q. When will the center be completed?
A. Currently, the project manager's schedule calls for general construction to run from March 2007 to August 2008, with site and landscape work scheduled to be completed in February 2009.

Q. What happens to the next few football seasons? Will Cal be able to play at Memorial Stadium?
A. Yes, the team will continue to play at Memorial Stadium. We plan to sequence construction so that no home football game will be displaced while the center is being built.

Q. How much is this all going to cost?
A. The first phase of the project is the student-athlete center. That will cost approximately $125 million. We don't yet have cost estimates on the other aspects of the stadium renovation or on the others elements of the larger southeast-quadrant plan.