An open letter to those who oppose the UC Berkeley Performance Center

I’m a reasonable man and understand that my opinion is just that.  I respect that others have other opinions and allow them their right to express it.  What I do take exception to is liars, hypocrites, blame-shifters and those who won’t take the time to understand an issue that they’re willing to dump hundreds of hours into protesting against.

And that is exactly what those of you who are being vocal about their disagreement with this project are being.  To prove my point, I will list each of the arguments you’ve made:

1. This project hates trees and trees are good
2. This project is seismically unsafe
3. This project will increase traffic on Piedmont Avenue
4. The project can be put somewhere else

Let’s go through these one by one:

#1: This project hates trees and trees are good

When I see signs like “Mommy, what did trees look like?” I know that I’m dealing with someone who is being disingenuous.  I’ve never met anyone who has a desire to make trees go away entirely.  People like trees.  Just about everyone does.  Some don’t mind cutting down trees here and there for a project, but in every building project I’ve ever seen new trees have been planted.

This isn’t because of pressure from environmentalists but because people like trees.  They add shade and beauty.  I’ve seen housing complexes go up where not a single tree was cut down for the project but just about every house built had 2 or 3 trees planted.  Why?  Because people like trees.

Similarly, this project will end up planting far more trees than it will cut down.  Anyone who has seen the artistic renderings of the project know that the inclusion of planting new trees was not just a move to pacify environmentalist but a move to increase the beauty of the facilities.

I will give some quarter to those of you who believe that old trees are worth keeping around simply because they are old.  I heartily disagree, particularly to the degree many of you take the argument, but I’ll accept that it can be an internally consistent perspective.  However, that’s not what your protest signs say.

As I said, I’ve got no problem with you disagreeing with me.  However, I do insist on honesty.  If you really believe that old trees shouldn’t be cut down, say that.  Don’t come up with bogus excuses to cover your true motives for political expediency.

But instead of being honest, since you know that nobody holds the extreme views you do, you resort to other disingenuous arguments to try to win.

That’s called being a liar.

#2: This project is seismically unsafe.

Anyone who thinks about this one for even a minute knows how stupid your argument is.  Memorial stadium was built before we had a good understanding of the Hayward fault that runs through the middle of it.  It was also built before building technologies existed that would withstand incredibly large scale earthquakes.

Every weekday a significant group of people go to work in Memorial stadium.  In that sense, they are daily at risk of a large earthquake ending their lives.  Additionally, about 10 times a year 50,000 or more people sit in memorial stadium for an event.  For those hours a much larger group is put at risk including me and my children.

When the Performance Center is built, it will be built using the latest seismically safe building technologies.  All of the people who work in Memorial stadium will have their offices moved to the Performance Center.  They will be far safer in the new building.
Additionally, once those who work in Memorial Stadium have their offices moved, it will free up Memorial Stadium for its own seismic retrofit without having to further compromise the stadium while people are working in it.

Once the entire project is completed, everyone will be far more seismically safe than they are today.  To argue that this project is seismically unsafe is in fact arguing to leave people in seismically unsafe situations.

That’s called being a hypocrite.

#3: This project will increase traffic on Piedmont Avenue

This part of your argument centers on the parking garage that will be built where Maxwell field currently is located.  Of course it is true that if you add parking, it will increase traffic.  However, your underlying point is not that it will increase traffic but that it will do so in a place that already has too much traffic.

I spend nearly two hours every football game day getting in and out of Berkeley.  I come to the Rockridge BART station and take the bus in from there.  From there I sit in stop and go traffic on College Avenue to the stadium.  I get to do the same in reverse on the way home.

The issue is not the streets surrounding the stadium.  The issue is the City of Berkeley.  They made a conscious decision to purposefully make Berkeley a difficult city to drive in.  They blocked off streets and refused to widen the few remaining thoroughfares.  They refused to add turning lanes and other traffic easing measures as well.

The traffic getting to and from this new parking garage will be just as horrible as you suggest.  However it has nothing to do with the project, particularly considering the project includes widening Piedmont Avenue around the stadium.  It has everything to do with the surrounding City of Berkeley policies.

This is called being a blame-shifter.
#4: This project can be put somewhere else

This isn’t an argument of its own right but a justification for other arguments.  That’s fine in its own right.  If there is indeed a solution that meets the needs of the project that has less downside, then it is worth pursuing.

However, I balk at this proposal for two reasons.

The first is that I think you’re being disingenuous.  This project has already gone through years of public meetings and design work.  While there were complaints during that time, no one seriously proposed these locations at that time.  Now that the project is nearly ready to start, I find it all too convenient that this is the time the alternatives start coming out of the woodwork.

Additionally, there is a long history in Berkeley of protests against any new University projects independent of where on campus they are proposed.  You’ve already proven yourselves to be liars, hypocrites and blame-shifters to me.  I believe that these proposals are nothing more that attempt to buy time.  Any other location would be just as unacceptable to you.

However, despite the fact that I feel comfortable in dismissing these alternatives as merely distraction techniques, I for some odd reason feel compelled to respond to them.
The first proposal for a gym on the other side of campus is easy to dismiss.  It’s on the other side of campus.  It’s a big campus.  The coaches and staff need quick access to their practice facilities that just happen to be at Memorial Stadium.  It just doesn’t make sense to put it a long way from the stadium.

The second proposal is to put it where Maxwell field is.  Well, that would be great if the project didn’t also include a parking garage.  Other than the time lost for the design changes, I’m sure the University would be happy to cut down the oak trees for the parking garage and instead put the Performance Center where Maxwell field is.

These proposals show that you really don’t care that appropriate facilities are built for the University.  At the very least it shows you won’t take the time to understand all of the requirements for this project despite the fact that you’re willing to dump hundreds of hours protesting against.

In conclusion, I find you to be liars, hypocrites and blame shifters who are unwilling to spend the time to understand the project before jumping on the protest bandwagon.

Ken Crawford
Cal Bear Season Ticket Holder

9 Responses to “An open letter to those who oppose the UC Berkeley Performance Center”

  1. Rick Crawford Says:


    I see these conflicts as power struggles rather than legitimate discourse about how to make progress. People who oppose this project are motivated by exerting power. It’s not about trees, traffic or earthquakes. As you have articulated, these arguments are not valid.

    The city will sue the university and lose. At the next election, the incumbents will tell voters how they have fought to protect them from the evil University. Most probably, they will get re-elected.

    It’s about power, not logic.

  2. Josh Says:


    Great post. Reminds me of story from when I was a student at Berkeley over 10 years ago. After finals, my roommates and I wanted to throw a little party to blow off some steam and have some fun. We lived on southside, on Derby street near Andronico’s. Before said party, we walked around to all of our neighbors and said we were going to have a party and if they had any problems with noise, etc they should come knock on our door and let us know personally and we would handle it. Every house we went to responded kindly and respectfully. They appreciated that we took the time out to come and let them know what was going on. All, that is, except one: a middle-aged gentleman with a sour disposition. When we went to his door to explain about the party, his immediate reply was to inform us that upon hearing ANY noise whatsoever, he would call the police. He was sick and tired of unruly college kids ruining his life and it was high time he did something about it.

    Fast forward to the party. Of course, there was noise. And our friend complained to the police. When the police came to the door, I spoke with them and told people to leave. But I wasn’t doing it fast enough for our friend’s taste: he decided to slap a citizen’s arrest on me and my roommates for disturbing the peace. Though they disagreed, there was nothing the policemen could do. The had to issue me a summons.

    To cut to the chase, the Berkeley DA dropped the case and sent it to the Berkeley Dispute Resoultion service. My roommates and I met with our friend across the street at our scheduled appointment in front of a trained mediator. We told our side of the story, said how we were sorry, that we ended the party and that we’d rather settle this like men over a cup of coffee at our house. When it was his turn to speak, out friend from across the street when into a tirad about how the city of Berkeley has been taken hostage by the University and homeowners like him have no rights and no protections from the yearly onslaught of hedonistic college students. It was unbeliveable. Nevermind that this fellow chose to purchase a home 6 BLOCKS FROM A UNIVERSITY WITH OVER 30 THOUSAND STUDENTS!!!

    The moral of my longwinded story is that some Berkeley citizens just hate the university. What they fail to realize that thier precious homes and city would be nothing without the University. Berkeley would not be Berkeley without the University. These simple minded NIMBYs will never learn.

    Sorry for rambling.

  3. Matt Says:

    Ken i your absolutly right about the fact that the protests are not about saving trees, but about saving old trees. While that argument may have a lot of significance in old growth forests i fail to see the relvance of saving 20 old trees in the middle of city

  4. Ken Crawford Says:

    That’s particularly true considering that all of these trees were planted themselves, Matt. I didn’t bring it up in my letter because it wasn’t really critical to the argument. I have a problem calling anything the University planted “old growth”.

  5. GoBears Says:


    If you have the time, maybe you can turn this post into a petition on, get some signatures and send it over to the city. I would be more than happy to add my name. Go Bears, Beat Berkeley City Council.

  6. Seth Says:

    Ken this is pathetic. I really appreciate you writting out about this crap, I can’t tell you how much it angers me. Ken, I have been thinking, would you be willing to organize a counter protest with me? Or do you perhaps know anyone interested in the idea? With our blogging community as big as it now is, we could probably outnumber the tree protesters easisly. I could also bring along friends who are sympathetic to our cause. I am serious Ken, we need to do something!

  7. Ken Crawford Says:

    As much as I’m one to organize “the troops” I think this is the wrong instance to do so. The best thing that can happen is for the controversy to go away. It’s similar to the “for every terrorist killed, two more are initiated in the dead one’s memory.”

    Trust me, a big counter protest is just going to make the nutcases come out of the woodworks. There are plenty in the woodworks in Berkeley so there will be no shortage if we put up a big stink.

    We’ve already got the EIR approval from the UC Regents, all that can stop us now is a judge blocking the project. The less controversy he hears the less likely he is to block it.

    Let the 5 screwballs in the trees freeze while getting soaked up there wasting the next half year of their life while no one is watching.

  8. Seth Says:

    Ken, your wise sense again appears to make sense in this case. You are right, people in Berkeley would support the tree people just to support them. They hate the University and especially the football team. I feel helpless Ken, just helpless. I hope the tree sitters catch influenza!

  9. Michael Says:

    I consider myself an enviornmentalist. I’m a moderate liberal who always votes democratic and I don’t drive an SUV.

    That being said, these people are reeeaaaallly causing me greif. At this point, I don’t care how much of a faceless steamroller the university is, I think the City of Berkeley, the frankly stupid (why buy a house next to a stadium if that’s a problem for you?) NIMBY’s on the hill, and these rediculous tree people need a good solid kick in the pants, and I am cheering the university on in meting out said kicking. Cal football brings so much money into the local area, and believe it or not by association makes our academic reputation shine a bit brighter, too (not all of that money goes to sports, neither will every facit of this project).

    As a Cal grad, I hope and pray that this project goes through and isn’t stalled/ruined by these horrible obstructionists who don’t realize the only good thing about the place they are living/working in/tree-hugging is the university. Without it Berkeley would be a slummy crime ridden suburb of Oakland that people drive through with their windows up and doors locked.