Commentary: A New Partnership in Berkeley By TOM BATES, LINDA MAIO, LAURIE CAPITELLI and MAX ANDERSON

Friday June 03, 2005

The agreement we recently approved with UC Berkeley does much more than simply end a lawsuit. It welcomes a new era of cooperation between our city and the campus. 

Thanks to good-faith resolve on everyone’s part, the pact we signed both defends our city’s right to control development inside our borders and allows the university to advance its academic mission. The key: closer partnership and better cooperation. 

Although it was tense at times, the agreement takes a giant step forward towards a lasting and equal partnership between one of the world’s great universities and one of its most livable and progressive cities. 

Several years ago, the mayor and City Council set out to establish a new partnership between the city, our community, and the campus—a partnership built on mutual respect and substantive collaboration.  

We were deeply disheartened in January when the campus unveiled a Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP) that rebuffed our efforts to be a true partner. For months, we had worked hard to get the chancellor and UC Regents to modify the 15-year plan. Having exhausted all other options, we felt the only way to demonstrate our seriousness and to ensure a fair outcome for Berkeley residents was to take the step of filing a lawsuit to halt the LRD P. 

Specifically, we raised concerns in three areas: 

• Insufficient Voice in Planning. The campus’ plan gave the university unilateral control to build whatever it wanted, wherever it wanted, with virtually no opportunity for community input. 

• Too Much Parking. The 15-year plan relied too much on building new parking spaces that would add to our traffic congestion, and too little on workable alternatives to single-passenger automobiles. 

• Too Little Compensation. We said the city should be fairly comp ensated for services it provides to the campus.  

The agreement we reached last week—the best agreement ever between any public university campus and its host community in the state—is vastly improved in all the areas we identified: 

• On planning, the agreement calls for the city and university to work together to develop a Downtown Area Plan that will guide all new development projects. This plan—which will be developed and implemented by our commissions and approved by the City Council—guarantees that the city will maintain its control over the zoning process, ensures public input, and requires a new environmental impact report. (UC has already agreed to limit development in the Southside per a similar plan developed by the community, the city and the university.) The university also agreed to prioritize new development on properties that are already off of the tax rolls, which will significantly limit expansion into the city.  

• On parking and traffic, we reduced the number of new parking spaces allowed through 2015 without additional review to 1,270 from 2,300—a 45 percent reduction from the university’s original proposal.  

• On finances, the university has agreed to more than double its annual direct compensation to the city from $500,000 to $1.2 million plus a 3 percent annual cost of living adjustment. Beyond this annual payment, the university will work to develop a “use tax” program we expect will direct an additional $200,000-$500,000 in new revenue to the city each year. In total, the city w ill likely receive well in excess of $20 million over the life of this agreement. 

Beyond these core issues, the agreement spells out a number of new joint efforts. These include working together to increase local purchasing by the campus, efforts to hire Berkeley residents for university jobs, and create new incentives for businesses resulting from UC research to locate in the City of Berkeley. 

Is the deal perfect? No. Is it a much better outcome for our city than we were likely to achieve in the courts? The answer clearly is yes. Let’s consider the principal issues that have been raised. 

Some ask why the city didn’t hold out for more money. We do not dispute that the agreement falls short of full compensation for services the city provides to the camp us. But even if the city had prevailed in court, no court could have compelled the university to pay a penny to the city for basic services. In fact, the $500,000 we currently receive as part of the 1990 agreement would have been lost. 

The state Constitu tion explicitly exempts UC campuses from nearly all local laws and taxation. Until the Constitution is changed—for which the City Council continues to advocate—even the courts are hamstrung. In the meantime, the only way to win more resources for our community is through direct negotiation with the campus and by working together to find new ways to generate revenue for the city, like the use tax recovery program we’ve agreed to work on together. 

Some say the public should have had a chance to review the deal before it was adopted. We agree. Early in the process, the city entered into a confidentiality agreement with the campus to prevent the university from using items discussed in negotiations against us in a subsequent trial. This is a common and prude nt means to protect the public interest in high-stakes negotiations. Once a tentative settlement was reached, the City Council unanimously asked the campus to suspend the confidentiality agreement to allow public review. Regrettably, the university said it would not do so until after UC Regents voted on the proposed settlement and that the Regents could not vote until the City Council approved the agreement.  

Ultimately, the choice was to take the best agreement between any city and UC campus or to roll the dice on a multi-year series of angry court battles in an effort to impose “solutions” to our concerns. Given these constraints, we believe it was far better for the city and the university to find creative new ways to work together as partners rather than dig in our heels as adversaries. 


Tom Bates is the mayor of Berkeley. Linda Maio, Laurie Capitelli, and Max Anderson are members of the Berkeley City Council.