July 7, 2006

Jennifer McDougall, Principal Planner
Architects & Engineers Building
University of California
Berkeley, California 94720-1380     HAND DELIVERED

Re:  Southeast Campus Integrated Projects—Draft Environmental Impact Report

“There are three entrances [into the College] ... from the general direction of San Francisco. One of these is intended to be approached by a projected street railroad, and also by a direct avenue from the proposed steamboat landing at that point of the bay which is nearest to the property. The second approach is through the midst of the village. The third is by a new road which I recommend should be laid out as a pleasure drive from Oakland ... reaching the vicinity of the College without entering the village, as shown upon the plan. Such a road would ... lay open a most desirable region for residences all along the foot of the mountains ... The main features of the plan have thus been sufficiently explained ... to offer inducements which will draw about the College a neighborhood of refined and elegant homes ... The second requirement ... should not be of a character to draw about your College a noisy, disturbing commerce, or anything calculated to destroy the general tranquility of the neighborhood ... As a further protection, when it shall be found necessary, the property may be enclosed and gates established at the entrances, so as to exclude from the lanes whatever it may be thought undesirable to admit. This precaution would probably be unnecessary, however, for many years to come.”

Report Upon a Projected Improvement of the Estate of the College of California, Near Oakland, Frederick Law Olmsted, 1866

Dear Jennifer McDougall:

Since its incorporation in 1974, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) has consistently been an interested party responding to the University’s various project proposals whenever the community’s shared historic resources were at stake. The proposed Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP) raise questions of real damage, foreseen and unforeseen, to both the natural and the historic built environment. The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) analysis of the SCIP describes a project that does not appear to meet one of the SCIP’s own objectives, namely, "to enhance remarkable historic places" within the campus environs, nor does it appear to meet the stewardship policies of the University’s 2020 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). An adequate analysis of the potentially detrimental effects upon the surrounding historic residential neighborhoods is virtually ignored.

BAHA’s first question pertains to the immediate plans to remove the grouping of specimen Coast Live Oaks from the grove of native California trees on the western side of the California Memorial Stadium in order to make way for construction of the Barclay and Sharon Simpson Student Athletic High Performance Center (SAHPC). This grove is an ecologically important natural resource, deserving consideration beyond the conclusions made in the California Memorial Stadium Historic Landscape Report (January 2006). While the grove may have lost some integrity as regards its formal design in 1923 by MacRorie & McLaren, it is successful in softening the interface between the Stadium’s monumental presence and the historic residential district laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1865. More significant, however, is its standing today as a mature coastal woodland reminiscent of the once adjacent wild gulch at the mouth of Strawberry Canyon. To reduce this established presence, thriving in the midst of an already overdeveloped area, would seem to be in direct conflict with the SCIP’s stated goals and would rob the general public of an invaluable legacy of natural space.

Since the DEIR did not adequately analyze the impacts of the SAHPC, several questions are in order concerning alternative sites:

  • Why is the SAHPC not a project separate from the Stadium rebuild when it has sports programs not solely dependent upon the location?
  • Why would it not be possible to locate the offices and collections that are now within the Stadium in a temporary surge space or in other campus facilities?
  • How necessary is the SAHPC plaza for sports-related fund-raising activities?
  • Is the SAHPC designed to support the foundation of the as-yet-incomplete schematic for the Stadium?
  • Will the SAHPC not aggravate daily noise and traffic problems on historic Piedmont Way and in the Berkeley Property neighborhood?
  • Will the SAHPC not contribute to increased hazards in the event of a major earthquake?

The next inquiry of BAHA’s relates to the revelation in the DEIR that the design of the Stadium will change significantly so as to accommodate sports/entertainment­styled events and up to seven, yet undefined additional “capacity” events each year. Following such plans, the Stadium would be altered enough to lose both relationship to its surroundings and its classic proportions. Furthermore, the impact of tens of thousands of additional ticket holders streaming into the area is sure to result in irreparable physical changes to the surrounding neighborhoods, including the Berkeley Property tract and Panoramic Hill, both districts of historic and architectural importance recognized well beyond the borders of Berkeley.

  • Is the SCIP using only private financing for each proposed project?
  • If the Stadium athletic program is not eligible for public funding and, therefore, if the Stadium project if being undertaken only with private funds, is there a financial reason to attach other education related projects to a Stadium retrofit?
  • What will be the financial benefit of accommodating up to seven additional events in the Stadium every year?
  • Can the University legitimately apply its educational and public responsibility (even if no public funds are used) to seismically retrofit the Stadium as a license to develop commercial enterprise?
  • If the SCIP is being financed with private contributions only, why is the University entitled to be exempt from land-use and zoning restrictions?
  • If the University is using private funds for the Stadium and all the other SCIP projects, shouldn’t the lead agency for the SCIP environmental review be independent of the UC Regents, the project developers, in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?
  • Does not the increase of Stadium use put the public welfare at risk for the loss of life should there be a severe earthquake?
  • Does not the increase of Stadium use put the public welfare at risk for financial responsibility should there be a severe earthquake?
  • Why would is it not obvious to the University that if it intends to rebuild the Stadium for any additional capacity events it must find an alternative location?

It is difficult for BAHA to understand why the SCIP’s South East Campus and Piedmont Avenue Landscape Improvements, as presented in the DEIR, offer little except further degradation of historic Piedmont Way (now Piedmont Avenue). This project is a glaring example of the serious inadequacies of the DEIR as it pertains to community needs and values. The University consistently limits its responsibility of stewardship to those historic resources that serve its own interests. A steadfast blindness is exhibited regarding historic resources that benefit the public at large. While Piedmont Way is part of the City domain, the Improvements project links Gayley Road only with a segment of Piedmont Way between Bancroft Way and Gayley Road, where it is bordered by the Projects East and the Projects West. In the Piedmont Avenue Landscape Final Historic Landscape Report (January 2006), the integrity of Piedmont Way as a whole is ignored.

It is worth noting that the importance of Piedmont Way as a significant American streetscape—the centerpiece of Olmsted’s seminal suburban neighborhood plan, the Berkeley Property tract—came to light only recently. Because the value of the street as both a landscape plan and a residential plan would appear to be of national as well as of local and state significance, its neglected, blighted, and over-used condition deserves serious reevaluation and new high standards for protection. Thus, the following questions seem apt:

  • Why is the Piedmont Avenue Landscape Final Historic Landscape Report limited to only one block of the streetscape and not to the whole resource?
  • Why does the Piedmont Avenue Landscape Final Historic Landscape Report not make recommendations for a preservation plan in accordance with the University stewardship policies of the 2020 LRDP?
  • Why did the DEIR fail to recognize the impact of the SCIP upon the residential character of Piedmont Way, including its properties of architectural significance?
  • How can two sets of traffic lights on Piedmont Way be considered a mitigation for intensified SCIP traffic, including for the Maxwell Family Field Parking Structure, when they will significantly alter and further degrade Piedmont Way?
  • How does the construction of the Parking Structure at the end of the Piedmont/Gayley corridor, further interrupting the waters of Strawberry Creek, serve as a model of “resource conservation and environmental stewardship?” — including consideration of an expensive price tag?
  • Why would the continuation or increase of large AC Transit buses not further degrade Piedmont Way?
  • Why would not the higher volume of delivery trucks and commercial vehicles not further degrade Piedmont Way and its residential surroundings?
  • How can Piedmont Way itself take the increased load of the expected massive congestion—including Berkeley residents traveling North and South—in the event of a major earthquake?

The two separate historic structure reports (March 2006) for the Cheney Houses, 2241 and 2243 College Avenue, are documents of great interest; however, they are as good as tomb stones if the Cheney Houses are allowed to be destroyed. These excellent examples of turn-of-the-century domestic architecture were built for Warren Cheney one of the most important figures in Berkeley’s history. It is BAHA’s opinion that the DEIR is dismissive of the Cheney Houses and fails to offer adequate options for their preservation.

  • Why do the 2241 College Avenue Structure Report and the 2243 College Avenue Structure Report fail to fulfill the LRDP commitment to recommend a preservation alternative?
  • If the University-owned Fox Cottage—also a small, irreplaceable residential property—was moved during the first phase of the Underhill Projects, why can not the Cheney Houses be moved?
  • Is there a specific planning reason the Cheney Houses would not be considered for in-fill on the Anna Head property facing People’s Park, where they would complete the line of significant buildings surrounding the Park?

In regard to the Connection Building, in the SCIP Projects West, BAHA asks:

  • Why is the Connection Building a part of the SCIP?
  • Is there an obvious need to inspire a relationship between the Stadium and the academic fields of law and business?
  • How many auditoriums already exist in the Projects West area, including Wurster Hall, and what is the capacity of each?
  • Would the size of the Connection Building effect views?
  • Why would the event activities of the Connection Building not be as well served in Downtown Berkeley?
  • What will become of the University Art Museum property located near by on Bancroft Way?
  • What is the relationship of the vacancy of Bowles Hall to the Connection Building programs?
  • Is not the potential use of Bowles Hall for an MBA program a further environmental impact, as yet undisclosed?
  • Because the use of Bowles Hall is currently being considered for expanded construction, is it not a piecemealing of the SCIP not to reveal the full extent of an added project?

In summary, BAHA fails to understand how the University’s policy of “resource conservation and environmental stewardship” to maintain the “image of the campus and preserve our historic legacy of landscape and architecture” legitimizes any of the SCIP projects other than the responsibility to complete a Stadium retrofit. The SCIP DEIR also raises questions about land-use privileges historically bestowed upon the University for purposes of an educational mission that now appears subverted via projects whose purposes appear to be for financial gain. BAHA urges the University to reconsider the SCIP in light of the numerous serious issues raised above.

Thank you for your attention and consideration given to BAHA’s continuing questions and concerns.

Sincerely,

Wendy Markel, President

Enclosures:
The BAHA Newsletter, No. 119, Summer 2005, “Stadium Number,” pages 4–11
The BAHA Newsletter, No. 120, Winter 2006, “Stadium Projects Number, pages 6–11
BAHA Tour Booklet: Panoramic Hill, Living with Nature, Paths, Steps, Gardens, Redwood Hillside Houses, and Bay Views, Woven Together into an Idyllic Sylvan Retreat, Right in the Middle of Town, 2005
BAHA Tour Booklet: Frederick Law Olmsted’s Berkeley Legacy—Piedmont Way and The Berkeley Property Tract, including 2 page addendum, 1995
BAHA Tour Booklet: The Making of a Streetcar Suburb, Classic Berkeley Houses in the Kearney Tract on the College Avenue Electric Line, 2002
BAHA Tour Booklet: Claremont Court, Berkeley’s Fashionable Residential District, Revised edition, 2005
BAHA Tour Booklet: Around the Claremont Hotel, 2001


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