An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday to lift a February 2007 injunction against UC Berkeley that prevented the building of a new athletic training facility next to Memorial Stadium.
The controversy over the new facility centers on its location. In order to build the structure next to the stadium, the university plans to clear 44 trees from a grove of about 80 oaks, redwoods and other trees. The university has met with opposition from the city of Berkeley as well as the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hills Association, who claim the project violates state environmental and earthquake regulations.
In addition to the opposition inside the courtroom, the university has also faced resistance from protestors who have taken up residence in various trees throughout the grove for the past 19 months. Over 150 “tree sitters” have rotated through the oak grove, but the number dropped substantially after the university erected barriers preventing supporters from supplying the protestors with food and water.
The university has since come to an agreement with the protestors stipulating that their supporters may deliver one bag of food per day in addition to the energy bars and water supplied by the university.
Though the protestors are illegally trespassing on campus property, university officials have been hesitant in the use of force to remove any of the individuals, said Dan Mogulof, spokesperson for UC Berkeley.
“The arborists hired to dismantle the protestors‘ structures were told not to remove any of the protestors themselves unless it was absolutely necessary,“ Mogulof said. “So far, there has only been one incident where we had to physically remove a protestor and this was after the individual attacked one of the arborists.“
Though the judge ruled that UC Berkeley can commence with construction, the university still has some barriers to face before the new facility can become a reality. On Friday, both the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hills Association filed for an appeal to put a new injunction in place. The decision concerning whether a new injunction will be implemented will likely be announced in the next few weeks, Mogulof said.
Meanwhile, the four remaining tree-top protestors say that despite the outcome of the ruling, they will continue their presence in the grove.
“Our response is the same as it was on day one,” said an individual named Ayr, a spokesperson for the protestors, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “We‘ll leave after the university signs something legally binding to protect the trees in perpetuity. [The remaining protestors] are not coming down until this sacred and beautiful grove is protected.“
Mogulof declined to comment on what specific action will be taken to remove the protestors if they continue in their refusal to leave the grove, but he said officials are looking at several different options. The removal of the protestors is in the best interest of everyone, he said.
“These protestors have voluntarily put themselves in a very dangerous situation,“ Mogulof said. “Already, at least two protestors have been injured after falling from a tree. The protestors are not protecting ancient, irreplaceable trees. These trees were planted by the university and the university intends to replace each tree it cuts with three more in its place. It is not worth anybody getting hurt.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.