On Monday at noon, a big white moving truck stopped in front of the downtown offices of public radio station KPFA, 94.1 FM, and unloaded 11 nondescript boxes and a whole lot of symbolism.
KPFA’s parent organization, the Pacifica Radio Foundation, is moving its national headquarters back to Berkeley this summer after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus in Washington, D.C., a period which featured a bruising battle with its rebellious Bay Area affiliate, KPFA.
“They have come back to Berkeley,” said Valerie van Isler, director of administration for the new Pacifica headquarters at 1925 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, next door to KPFA. “This is terrifically important for the tradition and legacy we’re trying to build here.”
Pacifica and KPFA clashed in recent years over programming and local control. On the evening of Jan. 5, 2000, in the midst of the fight, Pacifica packed up its Berkeley headquarters and shipped out to Washington D.C. At the time, foundation officials said the move had been planned for three months, but KPFA staffers said they were surprised by the late-night exodus.
In December 2001, the squabble—which included a 23-day lockout of KPFA staff in July 1999—ended with a legal settlement that left local control intact and forced a reconstitution of the Pacifica board. The next month an interim board, composed of partisans from both sides of the struggle, voted to return the national headquarters to Berkeley.
Van Isler said Monday’s shipment, in broad daylight, signaled a shift away from the late-night move out of Berkeley in the winter of 2000.
“It’s an indication of the integrity we’re trying to build, the transparency we’re trying to build,” she said.
Lonnie Hicks, Pacifica’s first chief financial officer, said he opened the doors to the new office March 15. A skeleton staff has spent the last three months fixing up the space, transferring the foundation’s computer system to the new office and arranging a roughly $200,000 move of documents and other materials from Washington, D.C., to Berkeley.
Movers arrived with more than 300 boxes of Pacifica papers Monday, dropping off 11 at the new headquarters in a symbolic move and unloading the rest at a storage facility in Oakland. A second shipment is expected in late June or early July.
“This move is not just symbolic,” said Hicks. “We’re moving in a new direction.”
In the coming months Pacifica, which operates five stations around the country and provides programming to 90 others, plans to syndicate more of its shows, expand its Web-based broadcasting outfit and build the capacity for a digital signal, Hicks said.
An open house and official welcoming for new KPFA general manager and former Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport is scheduled for July 20.