Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Berkeley Daily Planet: Commentary: City, UC Goals Are One and the Same

By Leo J. Gaspardone, Sr.
I would like to respond to Hank Gehman’s charge in his Sept. 11 commentary that the University of California (UC) is duping Berkeley citizens with misinformation. While it is clear Mr. Gehman is misinformed, UC is not the source of his misinformation. He starts his article by saying that UC is proposing a new high performance center (HPC) as a diversion for the building of a new expanded stadium to hold many nighttime events. He mentions rock concerts and other events attracting 600,000 to 700,000 people annually. That would be at least one event each month with about 60,000 attendees. This is not part of the environmental impact report. There has not been a commercial event in the stadium in over 20 years. He fails to mention that the capacity of the stadium will be reduced by 10,000 seats down from the current 72,000 seats. He must not know that in the 1950s the capacity was 85,000 as there were bleachers on the east rim of the stadium. The city will have the right to negotiate the parameters of the seven events noted in the EIR.

The issue of congestion is puzzling to me as the athletes, coaches, and staffs are already housed at that location and the seating capacity will be reduced by 10,000 seats. Congestion may be further reduced if the women athletes do not have to change clothes in their cars. My daughter played lacrosse for a visiting team and said they had no place to change clothes.  Mr. Gehman is concerned about the magnified shaking, landslides and fires which will occur in a massive quake. I heard Mr. Buckwald, while being interviewed on KQED’s Forum, state that he thought the west wall of the stadium might collapse in a quake. Given this might be true, then the HPC and the stadium must be built and retrofitted to preserve the remaining grove of trees from the destruction they describe.

Is no one concerned for the safety of the residents on Panoramic? The fault runs right under the only exit from Panoramic. A quake with slides and fires would place the residents in grave danger even when there are no occupants in the stadium.  Mr. Gehman asserts the university needs a high number of events to pay the debt service for the bonds sold for the stadium retrofit. In fact, the revenue from the interest on the endowment will service the debt. Mr. Gehman wrote that the funds donated for the HPC could be used for academic programs. This is true if that was what the donors had wished. It is not. The donors wanted to support the many athletic programs in the school.

Mr. Gehman argues that the HPC is a “red herring” to distract the citizenry from the construction of a new and expanded stadium. There is in fact, a “red herring.” It is the discussion of congestion, “ancient grove of oaks,” parking garage, and Tight Wad Hill which is an effort, by some, to rid Cal of “big time football.” Some of the opponents of the retrofit have said or written the following; “Football was established by the elite in the early 1900s to train young men for war.” (Neither Japan nor Germany played football prior to World War II). “My dream is that Tedford leaves and people stop coming to Berkeley.” ( That person should be aware that Tedford is one of many fine Cal coaches going back as far as the 1920s. ) In a letter to your paper titled Muscle-Headed Jock School the writer wants Cal to become like the University of Chicago with no football. (Would she include schools such as Northwestern, Stanford, Duke, Harvard, and Michigan as muscle-headed jock schools?)

Mr. Gehman uses the term “big time football.” I don’t know if he intends this to be a derisive term. For many of us 40,000 season ticket holders, it means we can take pride in the team’s successes. Attending football games is wonderful family entertainment. I see many multi-generational families, including my own, at the games. There is a cross section of our community there. I was introduced to Cal and football in 1944 when the Longfellow Elementary School traffic patrol was the guest of the university. I sold programs and soft drinks during my Berkeley days and earned money my parents could not provide. Lots of people have those jobs today. Many people and non-profit organizations sell parking space as far as a mile from the stadium. I see restaurants full on game days and people having fun. Studies have shown that donations to the institution increase when school teams have success.

Finally, the idea of the university holding the city hostage must be addressed. Yes, the university has taken Berkeley property over the years. For example, the end of Telegraph Avenue and the end of College Avenue are now part of the campus. At the same time, the university is by far the largest employer of Berkeley residents. Thousands of students live and shop in Berkeley. Residents avail themselves of lectures, classes, musical performances, and plays all at modest cost to us. The fighting between the city and Cal obscures the missions of both institutions. Berkeley’s mission must be to provide a safe and healthy place to live for all. UC’s mission is to provide people with an education to help better their lives and the lives of others, as it did for me. We are one community. It seems to me the goals for both the city and the university are the same. It is time for us to work together to achieve those goals.

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