Another Volleyball Fight Brews in Berkeley
Berkeley residents filed a lawsuit against the university Friday to stop plans to build a 14,000-square- foot volleyball beach complex at Sports Lane and Dwight Way. This is not the first time the city has been embroiled in a battle over a volleyball court.
Hundreds of residents from four neighborhood groups claim that the University of California, Berkeley “illegally skirted a required environmental impact review” and violates 1979 development restrictions, according to San Francisco Chronicle reporting. The neighbors say the plan, which includes locker rooms, 40-foot lights, an amplified speaker system and four courts, would create way too much noise and brightness.
Dan Mogulof, spokesman for UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, does not concur with the residents’ assessment of the potential problems or the university’s need to have an environmental impact report prepared.
“There is absolutely nothing in our plans that will lead to new, additional impacts on neighbors who live far from, and out of eyesight of, the court location,” Mogulof said.
The budget aspect of the project has also raised eyebrows, given that UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ proposed the $30 million women’s sports upgrade initiative as academic spending took a hit in order to deal with what was a $110 million deficit. Still $40 million in the red, spending $30 million on new volleyball courts and a softball field upgrade seems frivolous to many.
Phillip Bokovoy, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods group, told the San Francisco Chronicle that university has refused to sit down and address the residents’ concerns. “We had to choice but to sue,” Bokovoy said. This isn’t the first time Bokovoy has sued UC Berkeley and it is not the first time the university and the city’s residents have been at odds over volleyball, oddly enough.
Things got violent in 1991 when the city and university attempted to install a volleyball court in the People’s Park location and protesters were met with harsh police backlash. Berkeley residents have notably tempered their resistance style in decades since, so it is not likely the riot gear will come out for this new volleyball fight. But reduced militancy has turned to increased power in general civic engagement.
The neighbors are betting they will win in the courts by forcing an environmental review that they hope will stop the project before it ever gets started. In the meantime, Mogulof says the university is charging on. We’ll have to wait and see who comes out on top, but in the history of fights between the campus and the people of the city, the people tend to win eventually.