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Judge deals setback to Cal's stadium plans

January 30, 2007|From the Associated Press

BERKELEY — Citing environmental and seismic concerns, a judge blocked construction of a $125-million sports center at the University of California that would mean felling an old oak grove.

The plan to renovate Memorial Stadium and build a training center and parking garage had been challenged by neighbors and city officials. They say the plan is environmentally flawed and too dangerous to build so close to the Hayward fault, which runs under the stadium.

Plans to cut down about three dozen oaks stirred the most visible protest, with activists taking to the trees last month and remaining at their perch through December rains and even some minor earthquakes.

In issuing a preliminary injunction, made public Monday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller said opponents' environmental and seismic-related arguments were strong enough to justify a preliminary injunction until a trial can be held.

Campus officials, who maintain the project is seismically safe and is a big improvement over the current situation, said they are considering appealing the injunction. If a trial is held, which attorneys on both sides said could be this summer, Cal officials say they expect to win. "We consider this only a temporary setback," said Nathan Brostrom, campus vice chancellor, adding that the planning process will continue.

But at a news conference staged in the oak grove, attorney Stephan Volker of the California Oaks Foundation said, "This is an extremely dangerous site. Furthermore, this is a grand old stand of ancient oak trees. It symbolizes much of what we cherish about California's ecological legacy and I think it ill befits this university to chop down its cathedrals in order to promote a student gym."

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