The Berkeley City Council added an emergency item to its agenda late Tuesday night and dispatched two city officials to the University of California, Berkeley oak grove to check on the welfare of nine people living in trees there.

Assistant to the City Manager Jim Hynes and Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong were directed to the grove late Tuesday. They were expected to report their findings back to the council later Tuesday night, although their report might be postponed to later this week if the council meeting runs long.

Since UC Berkeley stopped allowing food and water into the grove last week, many have been worried about the health and safety of the tree sitters. People have been living in trees for 18 months, protesting the university's plans to build a $140 million sports training center on the site where 44 trees stand.

University Police Chief Victoria Harrison and Vice Chancellor for Administration Nathan Brostrom sent a letter to city officials Tuesday, assuring them that "campus police are monitoring the status of the people in the trees on an hourly basis.''

"To the best of our knowledge, they possess sufficient food and water for those individuals who remain for a period of time. Moreover, we have provided and will provide both food and water for those who decide to come down from the tree and end their illegal occupation,'' the letter said. "We continue to implore these individuals to end this protest and come down for their own health and safety. In the end that they do not come down, we will take appropriate measures to maintain their health and safety. We will not, however, allow resupply from outside groups."

Still, the council decided it needed to send city officials to the grove to assess the situation. The 5-2-2 vote came about 8:30 p.m. with councilmembers Gordon Wozniak and Betty Olds opposed and Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Laurie Capetelli abstaining from the vote. Councilmembers Dona Spring, Linda Maio, Max Anderson, Darryl Moore and Kriss Worthington supported the emergency item.

The chambers were packed with tree-sit supporters and at one point Worthington spoke to a tree-sitter by cell phone. The city council can add items to its meeting agenda at the last minute, as long as there is a public health or public safety threat. Some could argue that nine people living in trees on their own accord and in violation of a court order is neither a public health or safety threat, but the council needed only a majority to push the item through.