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The trees come down

Posted by Alex | September 5, 2008 at 12:20 am | In Facilities | 1 Comment

In a ruling released today, the injunction request by the people in the oak trees has been denied.  As a result, Cal may begin cutting the trees immediately.

Stadium saga over?

Posted by Alex | July 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm | In Facilities | No Comments

Edit: The City of Berkeley has decided not to appeal the ruling.  This puts Cal one step closer to being able to build with no further problems.  The other plaintiffs say they will still file an appeal, but they have yet to actually file.

The stadium saga is possibly over with Judge Barbara Miller’s ruling today. In her ruling, she declared UC Berkeley the prevailing party in the stadium lawsuit, and will lift the injunction on building in a week. If the plaintiffs decide not to file an appeal, the lawsuit will be over and Cal will be free to build. If the plaintiffs do file an appeal, they would have to reapply for an injunction which may or may not be granted. See a full news article here.

Judgment day

Posted by Eric | June 18, 2008 at 9:12 am | In Facilities | 3 Comments

Judge Barbara Miller of Alameda County has exhausted her 90 days to make her ruling — the decision’s deadline is today.  If UC wins, the injunction preventing the construction of the new facilities needed desperately by Cal Athletics should be lifted.  If UC loses, the student-athlete high performance center and stadium renovation projects will be again delayed.

There are reports from the “front lines:” protesters camping out, news vans swarming, and UC lining up equipment trucks to finish removing the tree-sitters and begin construction immediately after the ruling. As a side note, Cal has had the authority to remove the tree-sitters for some time but has waited until yesterday to begin the removal process.

Updates will follow throughout the day.

9:30am: Confirmed sightings so far: cherry picker (a big crane).   Possible sightings: excavators (!)

9:45am: If you’re interested, you can access the court documents here (case number RG06301644).

3:25pm: No word from the judge yet — most speculation is pointing to a 5pm (court closing time) decision.  Meanwhile, the UC crews are reportedly cutting down the support lines between the trees, as the protesters scream threats and obscenities.  Here is a short YouTube clip of the scene.

5:15pm: “There are no judgments.”  No word yet.  Apparently, Cal may have a press conference at 7pm.  The suspense is killer.

Spring update

Posted by Eric | March 17, 2008 at 1:07 am | In Coaches, Facilities, Players/Alumni | No Comments

Originally scheduled to begin today (Monday, March 17), spring practice has been delayed until March 31 and will run through April 26. J. Okanes singles out RB James Montgomery and DT Derrick Hill as players who will benefit from the extra time to recover to 100% strength:

“Coach Tedford thought it would be most beneficial for the team to delay the start of spring practice. It will give some players some time to recover from injuries so they can participate fully in spring ball.”

Meanwhile, the CC Times reports that Coach Jeff Tedford has reinstated “Tedford Law” during conditioning:

“At some point we lost our confidence,” Cal linebacker Worrell Williams said. “We lost the fun in the game. So (Tedford’s) bringing a whole new attitude.”Tedford is drawing on some of the team- and morale-building skills he used six years ago when he arrived in Berkeley and took over a demoralized group coming off a 1-10 disaster. …

“Coach Tedford’s on us harder than he’s ever been,” [LB Zach] Follett said. “He’s reinforcing the ‘Tedford Law’ around here. When I first got here, I saw how it was. Then two years went by, and I saw how much lenience was being allowed.  He kind of recognized that. That’s the No. 1 change that he’s been making. That’s helping our team.”

Follett said he welcomed the return of a tougher, more demanding Tedford. After what happened last season, it’s not surprising that Tedford’s players are receptive to anything that will help them avoid a repeat.

Finally, the courtroom battle over the construction of the new athletic facilities is still raging on. A final hearing was originally scheduled for last Friday, March 14, but the presiding judge has delayed the hearing without giving a reason. The judge previously asked for expert testimony about the specifics of the project, and it appears that UC made a stronger case. This Scout.com article covers some of the background and recent news of the situation.

Movement in the trees

Posted by Steve | February 20, 2008 at 2:24 pm | In Facilities | 10 Comments

As a fan of Cal Football, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the renovation of Memorial Stadium. The renovation plans would be a great boon to recruiting, as the current dilapidated state of things is not that impressive to visiting high school athletes. As the date approaches for the judge’s final ruling on the tree-sitter’s lawsuit, many of the protesters have started to dissipate, with only a handful of die-hards still in the trees. Yesterday morning, UC Berkeley Police began to take minor actions against these individuals, sending an arborist into the trees to dismantle excess platforms and cut down the ropes the tree-sitters are using to travel from tree to tree. It’s a minor step, as none of the tree-sitters were removed and they are already scrambling to repair their ropes, but at least it’s a positive step forward in preparation for what will hopefully be a favorable ruling.

For those that don’t know the specifics of the lawsuits, the second half of the article above has a brief summary of what’s going on.

The law in the restraining order ruling

Posted by Alex | September 13, 2007 at 10:56 pm | In Facilities | 6 Comments

(Note: I am a second year law student. By no means am I saying that I am a full expert on the law or that I am completely accurate. It means that I know some about the law, and that I have studied injunctions and restraining orders which are along the lines of what Cal has requested against the tree-sitters. This is just my interpretation of the events.)

On Wednesday, a judge denied Cal’s request to remove the tree protesters. What makes this case interesting is that Cal requested quick action, which makes the standards of winning the immediate injunction a bit more difficult for Cal. From what I can gather from the Chronicle article and from the Scout.com article, Cal wanted an immediate injunction because propane tanks have been spotted up in the trees for cooking purposes, and there have been human excrement spills from the trees. This is based off a broader request for an injunction to remove the protesters.

To get an injunction immediately, Cal has to show that its case is much stronger than the protesters’ case. This is determined by comparing four factors on a sliding scale basis. This means that if one factor is very strong, and the other factors are mediocre, the one strong factor will win out. If all are factors not really in favor of either side, then there will probably not be an injunction granted. The factors are:

    1. The applicant is likely to be successful on the merits of the case

    2. The applicant will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction

    3. The harm to the opposing party (protesters) from the injunction is outweighed by the harm to the applicant without the injunction (balancing of the harms)

    4. That public interest favors the injunction.

I will try to give my own analysis and then compare against the court’s ruling.

On factor 1, it seems as if Cal has a good chance of winning an injunction based off of the merits of its case. For one, it is clearly Cal property that the protesters are on. Also, there is a health and safety issue involved with with the propane tanks and the human excrement falling from the trees. From my perspective, Cal should have no problem winning the overall injunction and thus are likely to be successful on the merits of its case.

2. This is a weak one for Cal. Cal’s strongest claim that they will suffer irreparable harm is that there will be a fire caused by the propane tanks and that the trees will burn down. However, the likelihood of this seems pretty slim as the protesters clearly want the trees to remain. Plus, Cal does want to remove the trees, so will it really be harm to them if the trees burn down? Kind of… only if there is damage elsewhere.

3. This is the one that probably wins it for the protesters. They have a much greater chance of being harmed by an immediate injunction than does Cal if an injunction if not granted. The protesters currently are living in the trees. Their lives and their possessions are there, and they fear that if they abandon the trees, Cal will immediately cut them down. While I am not saying that I believe that Cal would do so, the protesters do believe it. If the trees are indeed cut down, then the protesters will have lost all that they have been fighting for, hence causing great harm to them. Cal on the other hand, would have the fear of fire in the trees for an extra month. Seems like the protesters clearly win this one.

4. Public interest in this case is pretty split. There is the City of Berkeley and the protester supporters that want the protest to continue in the trees. On the other hand, there is Cal and its students fighting to take the protesters out of the trees… pretty much a wash.

After considering the four different factors, it seems like a close split. Cal clearly wins factor 1, but the protesters clearly win factor 3. The other 2 factors are pretty much neutral. With a pretty even split, the court probably chooses to side on the conservative side and to let the status quo stand.

Hence, though it seems unfair that Cal cannot have court approval to remove the protesters from the trees, it may not be just a bias against Cal; it is probably well-rooted in law. Chances are at the actual trial coming up in October, Cal will win an injunction against protesters and will be able to remove them with full court support. Even now, Cal has the law on its side as the protesters are on Cal property. However, with Cal seeking every peaceful measure involved, it will simply have to wait another month for the court injunction.

The court itself does say that Cal has a decent chance of winning its case. However, it simply did not show enough of a danger from fire or from the human excrement. As a result, the protesters are not removed immediately. Seems spot on to me.

So why does this neutrality tilt towards the protesters? This tilt is to protect their due process rights to be heard. Basically Cal is asking for an injunction against the protesters without their side being fully prepared to argue their case. This would bypass their due process rights. To justify the bypassing of the protesters’ rights, Cal must show an overwhelming case of harm, which it simply does not have.

AD: Trial set for September 19

Posted by Eric | June 18, 2007 at 6:44 pm | In Facilities | 2 Comments

Athletic Director Sandy Barbour has delivered some good news about the Memorial Stadium and Student-Athlete High Performance Center plans in a letter to Cal supporters:

On Thursday, June 14, the judge presiding over the legal challenges to the project agreed to our request and signaled that she is ready to set a firm trial date for September 19. Although later than we would have preferred, the date is more expeditious than the October and November dates that the judge had been considering.

She also asserts:

With the facts firmly on our side, we are eager to have our case heard by an impartial judge and are completely confident that we will prevail. At the same time, pre-construction planning is continuing apace so that we will be ready to hit the ground running as soon as the injunction is lifted. … You should also know that we remain interested in and open to reaching settlement agreements with the plaintiffs. I firmly believe that Berkeley taxpayers and the campus can find better uses for the money that will be spent on litigation.

Barbour concludes with these additional statements:

…We will be making a concerted effort during the summer to take our case to directly to the public, civic leaders and local elected officials. The need for informed debate is ill-served by misinformation. Oak trees planted by the university in 1923 cannot be considered an “ancient grove.” A building site that is clear of active fault lines cannot be labeled as unsafe. A center that will serve the pressing needs of 13 intercollegiate teams cannot be described as benefiting a single sport.

With cautious optimism, I am beginning to believe that things should begin rolling very soon. Our AD is doing an excellent job.

Study: no active faults under HPC site

Posted by Eric | May 31, 2007 at 3:42 pm | In Facilities | 1 Comment

According to Cal’s official website, a study has confirmed that there are no active faults on the proposed site for the Student-Athlete High Performance Center:

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. …

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.”

EDIT 2007-06-01: In addition, Professor Fenves has written a very nice article published in the SF Chronicle about the matter. An excerpt:

With top geologists now reaffirming that there are no active faults under the proposed center, the city’s allegation is unfounded from our perspective as earthquake engineers. In fact, the city’s lawsuit, filed last December, has the potential to jeopardize the safety of Cal athletes by delaying and possibly derailing the first step of a critical project to seismically retrofit the 83-year-old Memorial Stadium.

This is a major step forward for the stadium construction project, as it addresses the Alquist-Priolo objections completely. Still, Cal must fight the City of Berkeley’s public access claims and the bogus Save the Oaks tree issue.

However, this finding should contribute greatly to overcoming the preliminary court injunction issued early this year that is preventing the project’s progress towards stadium modernization and safety.

Good news for Cal in construction court battle

Posted by Eric | February 11, 2007 at 1:34 pm | In Facilities | 2 Comments

The Bear Insider is reporting some good news despite the court injunction being issued against the construction of Cal’s new sports facility.

Petitioners argued at a hearing on Thursday, February 8th, that because Cal’s EIR was being contested in court and had not yet been approved, Cal should not be allowed to make any changes (whatsoever) to the physical environment of the project site, and should also not be allowed to enter into any contacts in furtherance of the project, even- for example- for schedule planning that would involve no physical changes at the site.

The judge ruled against both requests. Marie Felde of Cal’s Media Relations called this ” … an important victory for the university.”

This allows Cal to go ahead with the bidding/contracting process and also gives the University the ability to ensure public safety if needed (with police action, temporary fencing, etc). According to a recent report from campus police, the tree people are being tolerated but are regularly told that they are breaking the law. A few key points from the article:

1. The protesters are breaking the law, both by trespassing and lodging on campus. Individual street people who sleep on campus are customarily promptly removed, often with just a warning and sometimes with assistance in finding shelter. Repeat violators are cited, and sometimes face jail time.

2. Campus police regularly patrol the tree-protest area to be sure that no public safety issues occur beyond what is already occurring.

5. Campus police have been careful to not take any action that would prejudice or adversely affect Cal’s efforts in court.

7. “The protestors have not developed the swell of support they wanted, and in fact the support may even be tapering off.”

11. “Of course they have to go, no question about it. But it will be at a time - and with methods - of our choosing,” said [Chief] Celaya.

Training Center construction put on hold

Posted by Steve | January 29, 2007 at 12:28 pm | In Facilities | 7 Comments

Earlier this morning, a Judge issued a preliminary injunction temporarily preventing the construction of the training center next to Memorial Stadium. While tree-sitters have been protesting mainly to save the oak trees in the area, the legal basis for their argument is violations of the Alquist-Priolo Act, a state law which prohibits new buildings on earthquake faults. Multiple fault tests had been taken, and while most of them came back as being safe, two of them were inconclusive.

This is a huge hit to Cal football, as construction will now have to be delayed a year, if not indefinitely, as the trial will not begin until this summer, and starting construction directly after then would interfere with the 2007 Football schedule. While an appeal to the injunction is being considered, school officials are confident that they will win out in court if the issue ever even makes it to trial. Let’s hope that the stadium plans eventually get approved, and does not have much affect on recruiting or even Tedford’s long-term plans on staying at Cal.

EDIT by STEVE: 1/30/2007- At least for now, it appears that we don’t have to worry about Tedford getting frustrated and leaving:

“Anybody who’s asking those questions is very uneducated to my feelings to Cal and this program,” Tedford said. “My commitment is unwavering. My commitment is 100 percent to Cal. I’m not panicking. I’m not fazed by this at all.

“I want those statements to be clear to our players, our recruits and anyone else who is wondering.”

In Tedford’s new contract, however, there have been no changes from the previous one regarding the stadium plans. The UC, confident that the stadium plans will eventually be approved, are moving ahead with the bidding process and any site preparation that the injunction may allow. With signing day only a week away, hopefully this confidence will be enough to sway any borderline recruits that may have been put off by the injunction and current state of the training facilities.

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