In Anticipation of Citywide Events Scheduled for July 25, 26, and 27 that Could Impact Your Neighborhood
Important Note: Please read the following about events that could result in traffic problems for most neighborhoods in Berkeley, and please once again, we ask that you distribute this to your own neighborhood and personal e-mail contacts. BNC would like everyone to let us know what you experience during these events, even if you experience nothing that is unusual. Just tell us your location (by street not address), the dates and times. We’ll tally up the results and if there are problems, we will work for better planning in the future. Send your comments by e-mail to email@example.com. We will publish a follow up to this article in our next regular eNEWS.
Our eNEWS readers will remember that in April, Panoramic Hill neighborhood representatives wrote about their negotiations with UC regarding the parking structure under Maxwell Field. That story expanded to the news that UC was planning to turn Memorial Stadium into Sproul Plaza East with lots of new activities including a new Visitor’s Center that will alone host 150,000 to 160,000 people annually. We can only guess that the driving force here is that someone has to help pay down that $400 million debt to renovate the Stadium!
Then along came the information about the construction of the Maxwell Family Field Parking Structure and Replacement Field that will be higher than it had been in the past, and even though this was recognized as having an adverse environmental affect, the project was approved anyway. Again, BNC can only guess that the driving force here is that all those cars coming to this area, day after day, have to have somewhere to park besides peoples’ driveways. BNC recalls that when the parking structure was first proposed the City of Berkeley, planning folks and the City Council had a lot of negative things to say about such a proposal. Then the project seemed to go away. Recently, when it came back, we haven’t heard a peep out of any of the Council Members or Staff.
Along with all of this news, it was announced that Sandy Barbour, UC’s Athletics Director for about 10 years will “step-down” from her post in mid-July, and Michael Williams, a former UCB student athlete will take her place. In making the announcement, UCB Chancellor Dirks is quoted as saying:
After numerous discussions with Sandy, we came to the conclusion that the time was right for her to pursue a different set of professional interests, which she has long harbored and which we have spoken about for several months.
Whatever that means, we understand that she will work on the development of an academic program in sports management in Berkeley’s Extension Program. We are tempted, but will make no comment here.
The big, big news, however, is that the University is scheduled to host one of the games of the Guinness International Champions Cup, Inter Milan vs Real Madrid, at 3:00 pm on July 26, 2014 at California Memorial Stadium (CMS). A practice game will be held the day before on July 25th. While not as big an event as the World’s Cup, this is a soccer game between two of the world’s biggest clubs and is expected to draw a capacity crowd and be televised internationally. (See our May eNEWS for more background information on this soccer game.)
We posed several questions about what was going to happen and on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 representatives from the City and campus held an informational meeting with residents. On hand were members of the City and UC Police Departments, the City Fire Department, the City Manager’s Office, Council Member Gordon Wozniak, and representatives from UCB sports facilities. This is what people were told:
- The practice game scheduled for July 25th and originally planned to be held on Maxwell Field will be held in the Stadium instead. (BNC note: Other documents say that the practice game will be limited to 10,000 spectators but we don’t know if tickets will be sold for this event or whether and how this limitation will be honored.)
- The game will be held on real grass that will be laid down over the artificial turf of the Stadium. The sod will take a day and a half to install and require 40 truckloads of grass. After the game, it will be removed and trashed — unless somebody steps up and claims it. (BNC understands that a plastic cover will be placed over the synthetic turf. Plywood will be placed over the plastic, and the sod will be laid on top of the plywood. We can’t get any information on what happens to the plastic and plywood afterwards. So much for sustainability and climate action plans.)
- The game is expected to be over by the end of the day, but day maintenance for the game can begin at 6:30 am and end by 11:00 pm.
- UCB has hired a firm to measure noise produced by the soccer game which will provide data on the impact to the surrounding neighborhoods. Some number of years ago when the Stadium hosted a Paul McCartney concert, the noise complaints came from as far away as Montclair. (It will be good to know just how noisy the soccer game will be, but BNC fails to understand how this will help during the game should the noise get out of hand.)
- UC Police will have a force of 35 officers in attendance and state they will work with the City Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Terrorism Task Force to provide security. It was also reported that “an outside contractor will be brought in to pat down and search every attendee prior to the game.
- Four Berkeley police officers will be dedicated to parking enforcement, one of which will work exclusively on Panoramic Hill. (Note: The Maxwell Family Field Parking structure now under construction will not be completed until November.)
- Gayley Road and Piedmont Avenue will be closed at 1:00 pm on July 26th. Centennial and Stadium Rim Way will also be closed. ( Note: BNC still doesn’t see any evidence of a written traffic plan that will get people to and from the Stadium through so many neighborhoods, no matter what part of the City you live in.)
- Berkeley, Piedmont and Alameda County will contribute ambulances and two fire patrols will be on duty.
- Signs will remind people about fire hazards and the University will trim vegetation.
- Should there be a disaster such as an earthquake during the game, UCB says it has an egress plan from the Stadium and the City says it will monitor the emergency and act accordingly to determine the best response.
The University states that the project is exempt from CEQA rules because it is an existing facility and it consists of use of an existing structure involving the type of use anticipated at the time the structure was approved and because a capacity sporting event at CMS is similar to activities for which the Stadium has been used for more than the past 3 years.
Up to this time, the City Council has been silent on all of this. On July 8, 2014 a delegation of neighbors went to the City Council meeting and spoke during the time reserved for items not on the agenda. They requested that the City enforce the City’s Professional Sports Event License Tax. BNC remembers that this ordinance was approved back in the 70’s when it was proposed that CMS would be used by the Oakland Raiders. The ordinance established a annual license tax of 10% on gross receipts for professional sports events. We believe that the tax was challenged in court by the Raiders, and the City was upheld. The neighbors from Panoramic Hill said they came to the meeting to make their request public so that everyone would know. While Brown Act regulations provide that no action can be discussed or taken on items not on the Council’s agenda, it has been common practice for a Council Member to request that the City Manager look into whatever subject has come up and report back to the Council. That very action was taken by a Council Member when another speaker raised the issue of foxtails in Cesar Chavez Park. However, in the instance of the tax on the upcoming professional soccer game, there was no referral to the City Manager or other comment from any of the Council Members.
Now, just to make things a bit more complicated, today, we received a computer notice from the Berkeley Police Department that the Berkeley Kite Festival will be held on July 26 and 27th. As this is a major East Bay event, BPD is warning about traffic problems on University and around the Marina on July 26th! We haven’t received anything from BPD about the soccer game on that same day, but maybe the best advice is to go to the grocery store on the 24th, stock up on whatever, lock the door and stay home!