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Town vs. Gown at Berkeley

February 24, 2005

The city of Berkeley, Calif., and the University of California campus there have for decades had a symbiotic relationship that helped make both famous. Wednesday, they became town-gown combatants.

City officials sued the university Wednesday to block its plans to expand significantly over 15 years.

The lawsuit, filed in local court in Alameda County, charges that the university, in an environmental impact statement approved by its board last month, understated the potential damage that might be done by its plan to add 2.2 million square feet of space.

"The university has, in essence, asked us to sign the equivalent of a blank check that will allow them to build wherever, whenever and however it would like," Mayor Tom Bates said at a news conference at city hall. "This lawsuit firmly states that we are not willing to sign anything until we know what we're buying."

In a response posted on its Web site, university officials defended the quality of its planning and environmental impact statements, which are described as "strong documents that meet all requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act."

University officials said they had offered to significantly increase their direct payments to the city, but "unfortunately, city officials rejected our offer."

 

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