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Assistant Athletic Director, Bob Milano, walks up the bleacher seats at Cal Memorial Stadium. The retrofit of the Cal Memorial Stadium is on hold until the City of Berkeley and the University can come to some agreement on some key issues. (Laura A. Oda/The Oakland Tribune)
BERKELEY — With less than a month before the trial for a city lawsuit against University of California, Berkeley, to stop construction of a $125 million student athletic center, Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau said Thursday the university is still interested in reaching a settlement outside court.

But a Berkeley city attorney said the city has yet to see a settlement offer.

"We had a settlement meeting with them, and they didn't offer anything," Deputy City Attorney Zach Cowen said. "We haven't received anything that says, 'Here's what we've decided we're going to do.'"

The city sued the UC Board of Regents last December in an attempt to halt the plan for the sports training complex because it claims it's on the Hayward fault.

The city's suit was consolidated with those of two other groups, the California Oak Foundation, vying to save 42 mature oak trees at the site, and the Panoramic Hill Association, a neighborhood group concerned about traffic and other issues.

A fourth group vying to save Tightwad Hill, a grassy area behind Memorial Stadium where football games can watched for free, will be considered separately.

The consolidated suit will go to trial before Alameda Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller on Sept. 19 in a Hayward courtroom.

"(The deadline for a settlement is Sept. 18) and we will be working with them to the last minute," Birgeneau said at his on-campus back-to-school briefing before the fall semester starts Monday.


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Birgeneau said the longer a settlement is put off, the longer student athletes and staff are in danger. Memorial Stadium, which is used by athletes for training, medical support and other activities has been rated seismically unsound.

What's more, the project — halted for more than eight months because a judge issued a temporary restraining order halting construction — is now $4 million to $6 million over budget because of rising costs of concrete, steel and other materials, said Bob Milano Jr. Cal's assistant athletic director.

Told about the university's claims about millions in rising construction costs, Cowen said, "That's what happens when we say we really don't think you should do that and here's why ...," he said.

The university has offered to make some minor changes to the center, reduce the size of a proposed parking garage to about 500 spots, and plant three replacement trees for every mature tree that is removed.

But the city is opposed to having any kind of parking garage in that location. It wants the whole project moved to a different site because of safety concerns.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Geological Survey confirmed that UC-Berkeley's proposed athletic center would not be constructed on top of the Hayward fault, according to letters from the agencies released by the university. The information is not part of the official court record because it was submitted after a court deadline.

While the city and the university will have to wait a month to wage their town-gown battle in court, a debate over the stadium already is being waged in cyberspace.

Berkeley City Council member Gordon Wozniak posted the question "Should the university build a Student Athletic High Performance Center adjacent to Memorial Stadium" on the Web site Kitchendemocracy.com, which is set up for "connecting citizens and City Hall."

As of Thursday evening, 613 people had voted. One hundred and sixty-eight votes were cast "no," while 433 votes were cast "yes," according to the site. Of the 433 yes votes, 236 of them were cast by people who say they live within a 1-mile radius of the proposed center, according to the site. Nine people cast "maybe" votes, while three said they were "neutral" on the plan.