Berkeley Lab LRDP Released

By Richard Brenneman
Friday January 26, 2007

UC Berkeley’s building boom has chalked up plans for still more construction, with the unveiling this week of the final draft of another Long Range Development Plan (LRDP)—this one proposing to add nearly a million square feet of new construction by 2025. 

The newest LRDP covers plans for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility in the Berkeley Hills managed by the university. 

Dan Krotz, a lab spokesperson, said the document is mandated by the University of California Board of Regents, and will supersede the existing LRDP, adopted in 1987 and last updated 10 years ago.  

Also released was the draft environmental impact report (EIR) on the LRDP, a crucial document which must be adopted before the LRDP can take legal effect. 

“We hope to go the regents for review and approval in the fall,” said Krotz. 

The lab is now taking public comments on the EIR through March 23, with a public hearing planned for Feb. 26 at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 

Once known as the Radiation Lab, LBNL houses a variety of research centers, including a program for developing more efficient forms of solar energy and a Molecular Foundry for so-called nanotechnology. 

The lab also features the Bevatron, once the world’s largest accelerator of subatomic particles, which is now slated for demolition after a losing fight by Berkeley preservationists to save the massive but aging structure. 

The LRDP under review calls for: 

• 980,000 square feet of new construction, along with demolitions of 320,000 square feet of existing buildings, making for a net increase of 660,000 square feet; 

• addition of between 375 and 500 new parking spaces, the number to be determined by development of alternative transportation programs; 

• the addition of 1,000 new employees above the current base of 4,375. 

“That’s less than they originally planned, but that’s still a lot of development to put up on that hill,” said city Planning and Development Director Dan Marks, who has yet to receive a copy of the documents. 

“If you were going to chose a more difficult place to put a major development, you’d be hard pressed,” Marks said, noting the presence of the Hayward Fault along the base of the slope, along with steep terrain and ongoing fire hazards. 

“They were a lot more responsive to our concerns than the campus, and they did agree to scale back somewhat on the buildings and parking,” he said. 

Marks said he will prepare the city’s response when he receives the documents. 

The lab’s plans have come under fire from neighbors who were already energized by their losing battle to save the Bevatron and earlier comment periods after the release of the first LRDP draft more than three years ago. 

Major concerns raised during those fights were further congestion of streets north of the campus, possible contamination by waste being trucked out of the site and the danger of traffic accidents from increased movement of heavy equipment through narrow neighborhood streets. 

Both the LRDP and draft EIR are available for review on the LBNL website at www.lbl.gov/LRDP. 

Another UC Berkeley LRDP remains the bone of political contention as well as litigation—the LRDP 2020, adopted for the main campus and the university’s proposed addition of more facilities off campus in the city center.