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Bayer Leasing Agreement Worries West Berkeley’s Alliance Graphics

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday January 08, 2008

Bayer’s plans to close a parking lot used by artists and clients of West Berkeley’s Sawtooth Build-ing follow the company’s lease of an adjacent building. 

The German pharmaecutical giant has leased the building at 921 Parker St., and another business located on an adjacent building on the same parcel can’t get more than a year’s extension on their lease. 

And another groups of artisans who work at the adjacent building at 925 Parker fear they may have lost their shop to Bayer.  

Howard Levine, general manager of Alliance Graphics, said he is concerned about reports that Bayer is planning on buying the entire parcel. 

“We’ve called to try and find out more, but no such luck,” said Levine. 

The 17-year-old business is one of the few union shops in the Western states producing silk-screen and embroidered clothing, caps and other items. 

The company is a project of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA)—hence the company’s name—and all profits fund the alliance’s programs. 

Clients include a wide range of union and progressive causes, including KPFA, environmental groups and social justice organizations. 

While Levine said Alliance wants a long-term lease on their building, they’ve only been able to win a one-year renewal, heightening concerns about the future of the firm’s tenancy. 

Bayer’s closure of the lot, initially set for Dec. 31 but extended to the end of January, has sparked protests from the artists and artisans in the Kawneer Building, popularly known as the Sawtooth Building for the jagged profile of its roofline. 

Woodworker John Curl and other occupants of the landmarked building say the lot is critical to their continued success, especially for the dance and yoga studios which attract sizable numbers of visitors to their classes. 

In search of a solution, City Councilmember Darryl Moore has scheduled a meeting he will host next Monday with tenants, a representative from Bayer and representatives of the Sawtooth Building’s owner. 

The session begins at 6 p.m. inside the 2525 Eighth St. entrance to the building. 

Curl has sent e-mails seeking support for the building’s tenants and other community members. 

One possible long-term solution would be construction of a parking structure at the site of the lot, something Curl said the Bayer had endorsed—so long as the city pays part of the cost. 

In the interim, he said, options proposed have included a request to Bayer to open the lot for evening public parking, a city lease on part of the nearby Fantasy Building parking lot, adding eight parking spaces along Carleton Street by restriping from parallel to angle parking and installation of two-hour parking meters. 

Sawtooth tenants have opposed the notion of meters.  

The parking lot had been leased for five years by the city from Bayer when the company signed a long term development agreement with the city in 1991, and the agree was twice extended—the last time with the assurance from then-City Manager Weldon Rucker that there would be no further extensions. 

Bayer spokesperson Trina Ostrander said last week that the drug company needs the lot to replace spaces that will be temporarily lost due to construction of a new lab building and to house 150 scientists who are moving from a lab in Richmond to work at the West Berkeley facility. 

A call placed to her office Monday morning about the lease of the Parker Street building was not returned by deadline.