uc.jpgThe construction of a sports training center next to the University of California’s football stadium in Berkeley, on a site once occupied by tree-sitters, is now “well under way,” according to UC spokesman Dan Mogulof.

Mogulof said today the $153 million Student Athlete High Performance Center is “completely on schedule and completely on budget” to be finished in the summer of 2011.

But a legal challenge to the project is due to resurface Wednesday in the state Court of Appeal in San Francisco at a hearing on an appeal by the California Oak Foundation.

The Oakland-based foundation is the only remaining group of three that originally challenged the construction of the center in 2006.

The others were the city of Berkeley, which chose not to pursue appeals, and the Panoramic Hill Association, a neighborhood group that reached a settlement with the university in April.

The foundation is appealing a ruling in which Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller allowed the project to proceed in 2008.

The group claims the seismic safety of the project wasn’t adequately studied under state earthquake zoning and environmental laws.

Its lawyer, Stephan Volker, said, “The issue is protecting the safety of students, staff and the public from a catastrophic failure of the California Memorial Stadium should the Hayward Fault unleash a powerful earthquake, as is expected in the next 30 years.”

The foundation contends the project is subject to the earthquake zoning law because the center qualifies legally as an “addition or alteration” to the stadium, which lies above the Hayward Fault.

The university’s lawyers have argued in court papers that the law doesn’t apply because the center is separate from the stadium.

But in any case, the attorneys contend, “the university’s extensive geologic investigations” support Miller’s conclusion that the law doesn’t prohibit the construction of the center.

The case will be argued at a hearing lasting 30 minutes to one hour before a three-judge appeals panel, which will then have 90 days to issue a written ruling.

In previous action on the case, the appeals court refused in 2008 to grant a stay of Miller’s ruling or to allow an expedited appeal.

An epic 22-month vigil in which tree-sitters sought to protect live oaks and other trees in the construction area ended in Sept. 2008, when the appeals court declined to block the project, the last tree-sitters descended and the university began cutting down trees.

The next phase of the university’s stadium upgrade plans is the seismic retrofitting of the stadium itself, recently approved by the Board of Regents.

Mogulof said a separate lawsuit has been filed to challenge that project, but that case is still in a preliminary stage in Alameda County Superior Court.

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