Study confirms no active faults under site planned for new Cal student-athlete training center
May 31, 2007
BERKELEY - An independent geologic consulting firm has found no active faults under the plannedbuilding site of a student-athlete training center slated for construction west of the University ofCalifornia, Berkeley's Memorial Stadium. The Oakland firm Geomatrix Consultants Inc. released theresults of a follow-up study of the site last week.
Last October, Geomatrix gave the site a clean bill of health after extensive exploration that includedtrenching and numerous borings, and the campus hoped to begin construction early this year. Afterreviewers from the California Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey suggested additionalfield exploration to confirm these conclusions, UC Berkeley requested an additional trench and severaldeeper borings in two small areas of the building footprint where deep fill limits geologicalinvestigation.
The new explorations turned up no active fault traces in the planned construction area, confirming thecompany's earlier conclusions. Geomatrix's conclusions were also supported by the seismic consultingfirm William Lettis & Associates Inc., which conducted peer reviews of the 2006 and the 2007 studies.
'The Student-Athlete High Performance Center is an essential element to improve conditions for thesuccess of our student-athletes,' said UC Berkeley Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. 'The safety ofour students, coaches and staff are of utmost importance, and the Geomatrix findings confirm our beliefthat the center will be built on a site in full compliance with Alquist-Priolo statutes. With theresults of this study, I am confident that we will be able to move forward with the project and willprevail when the facts of the case are presented to the court.'
The Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Zoning Act is a California law that prohibits the construction of newbuildings on an active earthquake fault. Three lawsuits currently are challenging construction of thecenter, alleging that it would violate provisions of the act. While the Geomatrix study removes onepossible barrier to construction of the center, the pending lawsuits challenge other aspects of theproject.
The Student-Athlete High Performance Center, a 132,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art strength andconditioning and sports medicine center, will serve 13 of Cal's 27 intercollegiate sports, includingfootball and 12 Olympic sports. The center is critical to future plans to renovate and retrofit thestadium, which straddles the Hayward Fault and is in seismically poor shape.
Last October, Geomatrix submitted to UC Berkeley its seismic study of the site, concluding that noactive fault traces run through the planned construction site. The report was included with theenvironmental impact report (EIR) submitted that same month to the UC Board of Regents. The Regentscertified the EIR and approved the project in December.
Nevertheless, the city of Berkeley filed a lawsuit in December alleging that the student-athlete centerwould be unsafe in an earthquake. In January, two other lawsuits were filed alleging the same thing andchallenging plans to cut down trees to build the center. Alameda County Superior Court Judge BarbaraMiller combined the original lawsuit with the lawsuits by the Panoramic Hill Association and aconsortium that includes the group Save the Oaks at the Stadium. On Jan. 26, she issued a preliminaryinjunction barring any construction or preparation for construction until the lawsuits could be heardin trial. No hearing date has yet been set, but one is expected in late summer or fall.
In her decision, Miller alluded to the city's challenge that UC Berkeley's plans would violate theAlquist-Priolo act. Although the first Geomatrix report concluded that there were no active faultsunder the planned building site, the campus asked Geomatrix to conduct additional trenching and boringto confirm that fault traces were not present beneath the sediment and fill along the easternmost partof the planned footprint of the building.
'We are very pleased that the results of the original and the supplementary field exploration programsprovided such extensive data to evaluate the continuity of sediments beneath and adjacent to thebuilding footprint, and to show where the active trace of the Hayward Fault passes though the south endof the stadium to the east of the training center,' said Donald Wells, the engineering geologist incharge of the project for Geomatrix.
Professor Gregory L. Fenves, chair of UC Berkeley's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,reviewed both Geomatrix reports and has concluded that the design is in complete compliance with theAlquist-Priolo act. The building will be built with the most modern structural engineering technologyto protect UC Berkeley athletes from the ground motion expected during a large magnitude Hayward Faultearthquake, he said.
'Seismologists and engineers know from studies of past earthquakes that the level of ground shaking isapproximately the same right next to a fault as it is anywhere else within two miles of the fault,'Fenves said. 'Thus, the new student-athlete center is unlikely to experience ground motion higher thanany other building on campus or in downtown Berkeley should a major earthquake occur on the HaywardFault.'
In contrast, Memorial Stadium, where student-athletes train on a daily basis, is in dire need ofseismic retrofitting. That retrofitting cannot begin, however, until the student-athlete center iscompleted.