Holding Pattern

June 23, 2008

No way will I attempt to replicate the reporting done by CGB. Frankly, it is a lot easier to pull that off with a blog that has multiple authors and community features. On the other hand, I can do what most blogs tend to do, peddle reactionary commentary to the self loathing Cal masses.

Last Wednesday, Judge Barbara Miller ruled that, for the most part, the University of California complied with CEQA and Alquist-Priolo. Most importantly, the SAHPC is a separate entity from California Memorial Stadium (CMS), the University adequately took into account biological and anthropological consequences, and the SAHPC is not located on a fault line.

Despite the University’s almost total compliance, Judge Miller did find that three elements to the SAHPC constituted alterations to CMS and the University did not provide an adequate explanation for the need to stage more non-football related events at CMS.

With regard to the alterations, the University must file a Writ of Mandamus to determine whether the valuation of the three proposed alterations exceeds 50% of the value of CMS.

The Plaintiffs allege (1) the proposed alterations will cost the University in excess of $200 million and (2) that CMS is worth nothing. The University on the other hand says the alterations will actually cost around $250 thousand and CMS is worth nearly $600 million. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that Judge Miller would disagree with the University’s alleged cost of the alterations, all they have to do is provide the price quotes they have already received from their contractors.

The debate is whether the University is worth anything at all. Common sense would say of course the University is valuable. In fact, a strong argument could be made that CMS is priceless given its placement on the National Register of Historic Places. Moreover, even Judge Miller tipped her hand by (1) discounting any application of replacement cost as a valuation method and (2) indicating that California Evidence Code (CEC) section 820 may be more appropriate. Specifically, CEC 820 measures the cost of replacing the existing improvements less whatever depreciation or obsolescence the improvements have suffered. While the former method would without question support the University’s position, the later method is not prohibitive either.

Given the strong likelihood that the University will provide an adequate valuation method showing they have complied with Alquist-Priolo, the real impediment to the project is that the injunction preventing Cal from breaking ground is still in place. As of today, although University officials remain optimistic that the injunction will be lifted any day, some commenters have pointed out that an all out appeal might result in a stay, again prolonging the project for at least another year.

The prospect of delay should strike fear into the hearts of every Cal football fan. Already the costs of delay have resulted in prolonging the embarrassment that are Cal’s facilities. The scariest aspect of delay is the potential departure of Jeff Tedford. The University’s failure to break ground may leave the ever patient Tedford with no choice but to move on to a more hospitable environment (i.e. anywhere but Cal). And, honestly, who could blame him for moving on if this project is delayed 12, 18 or 24 months?

There is however yet another glimmer of hope: the prospect of settlement. The City of Berkeley simply cannot afford a drawn out appeals process. Most likely, neither can the Panoramic Hills Association and Save the Oaks. While there is probably nothing the University can do to appease the tree sitters, they can provide carrots to the other plaintiffs (i.e. limiting the number of non-football events at CMS and giving the City money that would cover their legals costs and then some). Whatever the University chooses it has to be expedient. As important as Sandy Barbour is to Cal athletics, Jeff Tedford is exponentially more vital.