Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has rejected a compromise offered by Cal to scale back its stadium renovation plans. According to AD Sandy Barbour, Cal would "drastically reduce the size of a new parking garage under Maxwell Field so that we would replace only those parking spaces lost as a result of new construction." Tom Bates finds this unacceptable. "I’d be OK with 50 spots next to the stadium for coaches and a few others," he said. "The rest of them can get physical excerise like the rest of us." Well, gee, glad we have your OK on 50 spots. Thanks, Tom, we’ve got that already. In fact, you’re proposing to reduce parking by 450 spots or so! Reduce parking! There’s already nowhere to park! All we’re doing now is replacing the spots lost to construction, most of which is due to the new joint Haas/Boalt building, which the City does not (and, indeed, cannot) oppose.
More troubling, Mayor Bates refuses to back off his demand to move the training center elsewhere. This, of course, despite new data proving that the proposed site would be no more dangerous than any other site in Berkeley. Honestly, there are a lot of things Berkeley would be willing to concede to get this project done (parking, trees, lighting, money, etc.), but this is the main purpose of the project, and Cal will gladly go to court before moving the project. What does Mayor Bates have against us? He’s a Cal grad, for crying out loud! You’d think he’s support University progress. Not only that, but he used to play football while at Cal! How can he not love Saturday afternoons in Memorial Stadium? How can he not see the importance of the High Performance Center, and its role in removing offices from the stadium so that it can be renovated? I do not understand how a man with his background can be so opposed to his alma mater.
Furthermore, from a tactical standpoint, I find that the City’s position has significantly weakened in the last few weeks, and Bates would best serve his constituents by wresting a settlement from the University. Going to trial is an all-or-nothing proposition, and I can certainly imagine better uses for all the legal fees that will be generated. The Chronicle notes that "while the city is open to negotiations, the staff intends to take the matter to court." Sure, he mentions negotiations, but in the same way that Iran mentions negotiations: by naming conditions that he knows are unacceptable to the other side, and offering to meet if those conditions will be discussed.
Now, I myself am neither a negotiator nor a politician. Perhaps Bates knows what he’s doing. Perhaps by asking for the moon through media quotes, he’ll be able to strike a better bargain when the parties do sit down to negotiate. And perhaps he knows that to the radical Berkeley constituency, nothing less than a total victory will be acceptable. Perhaps any compromise will be seen by the voters as ‘giving in’, and it will be more politically acceptable to lose everything in court than to gain something at the bargaining table. Perhaps.
Again, I am not a politician. Still, if he continues on this path, Mayor Bates will quickly find himself between William Hung and Theodore Kaczynski on the ‘list of people Berkeley would rather not be associated with’. For a man who’s own biography claims that "Creating a positive and more equitable relationship with the University of California was another of [his] top agenda items," that’s not a place you’d want to be.