Rich Robbins of San Rafael-based Wareham Properties won one more victory at City Hall Tuesday, when the City Council voted 5-1-3 to demolish structures at Robbins’ property at 1050 Parker St.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington voted in opposition; Councilmembers Linda Maio, Max Anderson and Dona Spring abstained.
It wasn’t the demolition of the old structures on the property that concerned Rich Auerbach of the West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC). It was the fact that, along with the demolition, mandates for the property to be used for warehousing, production, distribution and repair also disappear—and with it, Auerbach says, the possibility for decent jobs for persons without advanced education.
“All we ask is that protections be kept on the site [uses],” Auerbach told the council.
The council debate focused on a disagreement between staff, which said the property had not been used for warehousing or manufacturing in the near past and therefore the city was without obligation to maintain those uses and WEBAIC, which says the property had been used for production between 1987 and 1991 by West Coast Awnings
Auerbach said he could prove the use on the site by showing staff the business license. But Land Use Planning Manager Debra Sanderson said she was unable to establish that there had been industrial uses at the property.
“We checked out the information but did not find records,” she said, noting that there was a business license that was “applied for but not finalized.”
Auerbach pointed out the irony, given that the city had just released a report showing that the future was in “green collar” jobs, but indicating that industrial land for production was difficult to find.
Auerbach told the Planet on Thursday that the council ruling was “pretty astonishing.”
Despite the West Berkeley Plan’s protections, land use for production, distribution and repair is shrinking in West Berkeley, he said. “This is directly in contradiction to community goals,” Auerbach said.
Wareham Properties also owns the former Fantasy Building at Tenth and Parker streets, and is negotiating to buy other parcels in the area, according to Wareham spokesperson Tim Gallen. Gallen said Wareham may create a large campus that would include businesses that are ancillary to the filmmakers at Fantasy, such as editing and audio production. Wareham also owns property used for laboratories in the part of southwest Berkeley near the railroad tracks and owns extensive properties in Emeryville.
Gallen noted that, although headlines were made when Wareham raised rents at the Fantasy Building, only about 10 percent of the filmmakers left the building at the time.
The Planet will report on other council decisions in its Tuesday edition.