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UC Berkeley Athletic Center Appeal Ruled 'premature'

This story was written by Jacqueline Johnston, Daily Californian

A California appellate court dismissed an appeal from the petitioners in the University of California athletic center lawsuit last Thursday, saying that since the case has not yet concluded in trial court the appeal is "premature."

The court also denied the petitioners' request that the injunction preventing UC Berkeley from starting construction of a student athletic center near Memorial Stadium remain for the duration of the appeals process since there is no longer an appellate case pending.

But because the injunction that has been in place since January 2007 was set to be lifted Wednesday, the court decided it should remain until Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller decides to modify it.

The court's dismissal of the appeal comes after what many thought was the conclusion of a 19-month legal battle between UC Berkeley and a coalition of local groups comprised of the city of Berkeley, the Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation over construction of the center.

Miller issued a preliminary ruling in June which said the university was mostly in compliance with California earthquake zoning and environmental quality laws, but asked them to clarify a few issues before she would allow construction of the athletic center.

She issued what many believed was a final ruling on the case in July, saying the university had cleared all legal hurdles and setting the injunction to expire a week after the ruling.

Miller also said in her July ruling that the university could decide to put back into the athletic center construction plans the aspects of the project that could potentially violate earthquake laws if they could prove the plans are actually in compliance with the laws. She gave them 30 days from when her ruling was released to decide to do this.

Two of the suing parties, Panoramic Hill Association and California Oak Foundation, filed an appeal of the ruling two days after its issue. Their appeal request automatically extended that injunction for 20 days in order to give an appellate court time to review the case.

The petitioners also requested Miller throw out her current ruling and grant a new trial.

The appeals court said because Miller must still decide whether to grant another trial and because the 30-day window the university has to alter their plans has not yet ended, there has been no "final determination of the rights of the parties" and the case is not ready for appeal.

Most likely, this means the current injunction will remain until at least Aug. 25, when Miller will hear the petitioners' request for a new trial and after the 30-day period the university has to change their plans expires on Aug. 21.

The petitioners said they believe the turn of events will have a positive impact on their case.

"This delay presents us with a golden opportunity to try to establish a genuinely cooperative process between the community and the university," said Save The Oaks spokesperson Doug Buckwald.