City Weighs Closer Watch on LBNL

Tuesday July 08, 2003

City Council will consider on Tuesday keeping closer tabs on Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and weigh new ordinances that would allow speedy approval of “in-law” housing units—the small backyard cottages or above-garage apartments that dot the city. 

Under a measure put forth by Mayor Tom Bates, city staff would conduct a preliminary analysis of all major planned development projects at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, a federal facility operated by the University of California. Under Bates’ proposal, Berkeley City Manager Weldon Rucker would also appoint a “lab liaison” from existing city staff to coordinate relations between the city and the national science center. 

Bates said the measure was prompted in part by the lab’s announcement this year of a plan to build a six-story, 94,000 square foot molecular foundry in Strawberry Canyon. The $85 million foundry would be dedicated to the study of nanoscience, the manipulation of materials at the molecular level. 

Community activists and city officials say they were caught unaware by the lab’s proposal to expand. 

“I feel like the city has not been prepared to deal with the larger problems,” Bates said, in reference to the project. 

City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said the late notice on the molecular foundry project is part of a larger pattern. 

“When the lab does something, we usually find out about it from the community groups protesting the lab and not the lab itself,” he said. 

But Worthington raised doubts about whether one person, the proposed “lab liaison,” could keep tabs on the entire lab, especially if that liaison has another job. 


“In-law” units 

City Council will also conduct a first reading of an ordinance that would allow for speedy approval of “in-law” units. The state legislature, attempting to address California’s shortage of rental properties, passed a law last year requiring municipalities to streamline the process for approval. 

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Old City Hall. A special meeting on the city’s workers’ compensation costs will be held at 5 p.m.