I would like to clarify just a few of Mr. Katz’s misstatements that relate to the David Brower Center:
Mr. Katz’s May 26 commentary begins by acknowledging that the Brower Center/Oxford Plaza development project is indeed two separate projects, The David Brower Center (non-profit offices/conference facilities/restaurant/gallery) and Oxford Plaza (affordable family housing), but the ensuing torrent of mischaracterization fails to distinguish between the two projects. The distinction is quite important because each of these worthy projects has separate ownership, developers, management, mission, and financing.
Psuedo-ecological name: Really? The Brower Center project was discussed with and approved by David Brower himself before his death in 2000. Ken Brower, David’s oldest son, is a board member of the David Brower Center, which is the project’s non-profit owner. Shirley Richardson Brower, Executive Director of the South Berkeley YMCA, has appeared at numerous times at public events to speak in support of the Brower Center. Indeed, all Brower family members are in full public support of the project.
Greenwash by making exaggerated claims: The Brower Center is on track to be built at a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum Standard, the highest possible Green Design standard established and monitored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC is an independent certifying authority and there are only a handful of LEED Platinum buildings in the entire USA. Please visit www.browercenter.org for detailed information about the innovative green design features planned for the David Brower Center.
Land for free: An offer was made to purchase the property from the city, in which case the city would have had cash but no parking lot, and no control over the development. The City Council decided instead to retain control through a Development and Disposition Agreement (DDA) that has resulted in attracting over $22 million of downtown investment for the Brower Center alone ($10 million of private philanthropic donations, which leverage $12 million in conventional financing, tax credit financing, and program related loans from Foundations) while also creating employment opportunities, conference facilities that support the entire non-profit sector, and a vibrant center that will attract international attention while serving the progressive non-profit community through the coming decades, plus Oxford Plaza’s 96 units of sorely needed, cost-effective affordable/workforce family housing. In addition, the city also gets to keep its parking lot. Mr. Katz seems to believe that just having a parking lot is a better deal.
Greedy developers: Mr. Katz characterizes the Brower Center owners as greedy developers pulling hidden strings for their own enrichment. So who are these demons? The building owner is the David Brower Center 501c(3) non-profit, which in turn is controlled by its board of directors. A visit to www.browercenter.org will give interested parties the complete list of board members and their biographies. What you will find are dedicated individuals who have devoted their working lives to improving environmental and social conditions for the whole community, which includes Mr. Katz. Apparently the few computer keystrokes required to call up that website were beyond the effort or imagination of Mr. Katz.
The mission of the David Brower Center is to inspire and nurture current generations of activists and to build a foundation for future generations. That’s what we agreed with David Brower to do, and that is what we are building. Building for the future.
Peter K. Buckley is the chairman of the David Brower Center.