To state regulators, they’re Meade Street Operable Units 1 and 2; to Russ Pitto, they represent opportunities for long-term investments, and for state Assemblymember Loni Hancock, they represent everything that can go wrong with the regulatory process.
Campus Bay and the Bayside Research Campus are the two adjacent properties in South Richmond that Pitto hopes to develop, one as a major housing complex and the other as a corporate/academic research park.
But for Hancock, their history—and especially that of Campus Bay—is the reason her staff is busily writing up two pieces of legislation she plans to introduce by Feb. 18.
The first prong of her legislative effort will target problem areas in existing legislation while the second will establish an overall framework for deciding which agencies will handle which cleanups, said Gayle Eads, legislative aide to the Berkeley assemblymember.
There has been a battle over the oversight of the Campus Bay property, where 1,330 units of housing are planned atop a buried mountain of waste generated from a century of chemical manufacturing.
Complaints by area residents led to a legislative hearing, called by Hancock, at which jurisdiction over most of the site was transferred from the Regional water Quality Control Board to the far more rigorous state Department of Toxic Substances Control, a process completed in December.
As the law now stands, developers can pick their own regulator, a process that Hancock’s legislation would end. Eads said the law would impose an overall state plan guaranteeing public participation, transparency and accountability.
“Everyone would be able to understand what’s going on, including the developer,” she said. “It would make someone responsible and stop agency shopping.”
Pitto’s role at Campus Bay has long been public knowledge, but his role as the prospective developer of a major research park at the former Richmond Field Station has only recently come to light.
The Marin county developer, who is backed by a multinational investment firm, had been forced to abandon plans for a research park at Campus Bay when the market for biotech stocks nose-dived after 9/11.
Pitto says a research and development facility next door that is part of the university stands a much better chance.
“Stanford Research Park, another cooperative effort, is a great success,” Pitto said, “and UC San Francisco has had incredible success with their Mission Bay Campus. Berkeley had not taken that step into public/private partnership, and now they are.”
The site will continue to house engineering research and a library facility, among other current uses, he said.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for the university and an incredible opportunity for private industry,” Pitto said. “It’s an incredible piece of property and the university has an incredible pool of talent. If we built it on our own it wouldn’t say the same thing as something done in connection with the university system.”
Pitto and the university have yet to sign a deal, but negotiations are currently underway.
Meanwhile, excavations have stopped at Stege Marsh, the waterfront portion of the Campus Bay site which has been polluted by chemical manufacturing activities.
Polluted soil was being excavated to restore the habitat for the endangered clapper rail seabird and other critters but stopped on Jan. 31 in accordance with an order from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which set the date to protect the site during the nesting season of the endangered bird.
Pitto’s firm has applied for an extension that would allow them to finish the shoreline work, and a reply is expected today (Friday) from the wildlife agency, said Curtis Scott of the Water Quality Control Board.