Campus, neighborhood association settle stadium dispute

The University of California, Berkeley, and the Panoramic Hill Association (PHA) have reached a legal settlement agreement that resolves issues related to recent litigation, and establishes parameters for the use and operation of California Memorial Stadium after extensive seismic retrofitting and renovation work is completed in 2012.

Representatives from both sides said that they hope the agreement announced today (Thursday, April 8) will help form the foundation for improved, collaborative relationships between the urban campus of 35,000 students and the residents of surrounding communities.

PHA President Michael Kelly said the pact provides tangible solutions to neighborhood concerns about impacts from the use of Memorial Stadium and is a positive step in community-campus relations. He acknowledged the complex history of relations between neighborhoods and UC Berkeley and noted that, “From the community perspective, I think it was a bold and important step for the university to sign onto an agreement that is in the form of an enforceable court order. It establishes a crucial level of confidence for people.”

“As an organization, our focus is on safety and quality of life for local residents, especially from the impacts of use of Memorial Stadium,” Kelly added. “The situation with UC’s stadium is totally unique; no other stadium in the country is nestled so tightly inside a city. As a result, issues and problems come up here that just don’t happen with other stadiums. This agreement can provide a framework to move forward and work through those issues. It’s really a starting point, because impacts from the stadium are an ongoing challenge for everyone involved.”

“Beyond the welcome resolution of legal and operational issues that have created friction in the relationship with some of our closest neighbors, we believe that this agreement shows the extent of our commitment to building the best possible ties with the communities that surround the campus,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. “We look forward to working cooperatively and collaboratively with PHA on matters related to California Memorial Stadium, and on other issues of mutual interest.”

Key provisions of the settlement filed in Alameda County Superior Court include:

• A continuation of historic commitments by UC Berkeley chancellors to prohibit amplified music concerts and National Football League games at the stadium.

• Subject to further review under the California Environmental Quality Act, a cap on “capacity” events — programs attended by more than 10,000 spectators, exclusive of Cal Bears games and graduation events — of nine such events in any three-year period, with no more than four occurring in any one-year time frame, of which no more than two may exceed 30,000 spectators, through 2025.

• UC Berkeley can propose additional capacity events for rare opportunities.

• A sound engineer/ acoustics expert will develop a noise monitoring plan, to be approved by UC Berkeley and the PHA, to reduce noise levels in the Panoramic Hill neighborhood during events held at the stadium.

• The establishment by UC Berkeley of a mechanism for reporting and responding to community complaints regarding stadium use.

• UC Berkeley will assign an emergency response vehicle to the Oakland side of the PHA neighborhood at all events attended by more than 30,000 spectators.

• Non-capacity events cannot begin before 8 in the morning and must be scheduled to end by 10 p.m., and the campus will strive to program capacity events to end by nightfall.

• The university will consult with the PHA on the design and placement of permanent lighting around the stadium to minimize glare in the surrounding neighborhood.

• Traffic leaving the proposed Maxwell Family Field Parking Structure will not be routed exclusively eastward through the Panoramic neighborhood.

The new agreement also addresses issues arising from the PHA’s participation in a 2006 lawsuit that challenged campus plans to construct a new Student Athlete High Performance Center adjacent to Memorial Stadium. As part of the settlement, PHA has agreed to end its participation in an appeal of the trial court ruling that allowed the project to go forward. In addition, the association has agreed to refrain from initiating or joining any future stadium-related litigation during the term of the agreement, so long as the renovation and seismic retrofitting of the stadium and new, additional capacity events remain substantially consistent with existing environmental documents filed by the campus and the settlement agreement.

Under the new agreement, UC Berkeley will pay approximately $75,000 in PHA attorney fees, an amount roughly equivalent to what the association could have been awarded in the court ruling on its suit.

Memorial Stadium, designed by world-renowned architect John Galen Howard and co-designers G.F. Buckingham and E.E. Carpenter, was built in Strawberry Canyon on the campus’s eastern edge in honor of World War I soldiers who died on foreign battlefields. It opened in time for the Big Game of 1923.