Public Comment

Commentary: Big Projects Need Environmental Impact Reports

By Barry Wofsy
Friday February 23, 2007

It is shocking that the massive Brower development, which includes approximately 18 commercial businesses accompanied by approximately 100 housing units, is not being required to have an environmental impact report (EIR).  

An EIR protects the community by pointing out problems such as parking, traffic, and flooding. An EIR must be done so that these impacts can be mitigated or corrected. 

The Tom Bates and Loni Hancock machine has arbitrarily decided that massive projects in Berkeley should not be made to give the same environmental protections that other cities give to their citizens. This allows the developer to maximize his profit and to create the most massive development possible and at the same time save all the money that would be needed to correct the problems that it causes for the city of Berkeley and its citizens.  

It’s obvious that this project will cause severe parking problems for the city of Berkeley that will not be corrected. You should also know that the underground parking that will be put at this site will be much smaller than the current parking and will be built very close to underground creeks and susceptible to flooding.  

Both the housing and the commercial units at the massive Brower project are being subsidized by the citizens of Berkeley. I believe that when all is said and done, the new underground parking will also be subsidized by the city of Berkeley and will be primarily for the use of those commercial and residential units. The city has already paid about two million dollars into this project. The city of Berkeley has also guaranteed approximately ten million dollars in loan guarantees for this project.  

In addition, I believe that the giving away of this property costs the citizens of this city approximately seventeen million dollars. I base this last number on the fact the city currently receives approximately $850,000 on the income from this one acre site of parking. Once the city gives this property away to the developer, they will in effect lose income of $850,000 per year. 

The City of Berkeley would need to have 17 million in bonds or cd’s in order to generate that same $850,000 per year of income.  

Who decides that an EIR is not needed? The high-level Berkeley city staff decides. These people make $160,000-$200,000 per year in salary plus benefits, each one of them. They, of course, agreed with the Bates and Loni Hancock machine that no mitigations should be considered for the community. 

This is not the only massive project that is being pushed by the high-priced staff and the Bates-Loni Hancock machine at this moment. You have probably also heard about the massive proposed project at the corner of University Avenue and MLK, Jr. Way. This enormous project will have approximately 130 housing units plus a very large Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s itself will cause massive traffic problems on both University Avenue and MLK, if it goes in at this spot.  

Unfortunately, this development also will not have an EIR and, therefore, will not be asked to mitigate the huge traffic and parking problems that it creates. This project is also being pushed by the very expensive Berkeley city bureaucrats and the Tom Bates-Loni Hancock machine. For your information, the owner of Trader Joe’s is a billionaire German industrialist who owns it outright. He will not be asked to pay for his environmental impacts on the city of Berkeley and its citizens.  

Citizens of Berkeley, you only have one week left to sign or circulate the petitions to allow the city of Berkeley to simply vote on whether or not this is wise development for this city. True environmentalism embraces an honest look at the environmental impacts of any development scheme and tries to address these impacts. This project does not do this. 



Barry Wofsy is a Berkeley resident.