UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Seismic study clears site of future athlete training center

– 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 the University of California, Berkeley's Memorial Stadium. The Oakland firm Geomatrix Consultants Inc. released the results of a follow-up study of the site last week.

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, UC Berkeley requested an additional trench and several deeper borings in two small areas of the building footprint where deep fill limits geological investigation.

Artist's conception of the planned Student-Athlete High Performance Center on the northwest side of Memorial Stadium. (UC Berkeley drawing)

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 the 2007 studies.

"The Student-Athlete High Performance Center is an essential element to improve conditions for the success of our student-athletes," said UC Berkeley Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. "The safety of our students, coaches and staff are 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. With the results of this study, I am confident that we will be able to move forward with the project and will prevail when the facts of the case are presented to the court."

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.

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.

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

"We are very pleased that the results of the original and the supplementary field exploration programs provided such extensive data to evaluate the continuity of sediments beneath and adjacent to the building footprint, and to show where the active trace of the Hayward Fault passes though the south end of the stadium to the east of the training center," said Donald Wells, the engineering geologist in charge of the project for Geomatrix.

Professor Gregory L. Fenves, chair of UC Berkeley's 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 UC 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.