Energy snack manufacturer Clif Bar recently announced that it would be moving from Berkeley to Emeryville next year.
The company says it has outgrown its 59,000-square-foot building. The new 115,000-square-foot space at Emerytech complex includes new offices, fitness center, bike garage, kitchen, day-care center, hair salon, and theater.
An August 2006 article in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Berkeley City Council proposed changing the West Berkeley Plan to allow Clif Bar to expand, but at that point the company had already hired a consultant to look for a new spot.
Berkeley’s economic development manager, Michael Caplan, said that Clif Bar was not able to expand because the company wanted to undertake several mixed-use projects, which were prohibited by zoning laws, laws made more complicated by the fact that the Clif Bar building straddles two zoning districts.
“In one room, you could have certain zoning laws which only allowed warehouse in one half of the room, while the other half could only be used for office space,” said Caplan. “The second problem was that they had a desire to do a number of mixed-used projects. All of the proposed projects were difficult to do in that zoning scenario. Berkeley was not able to accommodate their needs. It would definitely have been a challenge for them to do what they wanted to do.”
Caplan said that company officials were not keen on staying at their current spot.
“They really wanted to be in another place,” said Councilmember Linda Maio, echoing Caplan’s comments in a phone message.
Caplan, who met with company officials to search for a new spot, said the city tried to keep Clif Bar in Berkeley, but there were no sites that suited Clif Bar’s needs. Unlike other cities, Berkeley does not have a large amount of money to allocate for redevelopment incentives, said Caplan.
“We referred them to property owners and developers,” said Caplan. “Ultimately, it was not just one thing. There weren’t any buildings that let them do what they wanted to do.”
Deputy Planning Manager Wendy Cosin said that the company had never applied for a variance to expand at their Fifth Street location in Berkeley.
Caplan added that he didn’t think Clif Bar’s move would affect the number of jobs in the area significantly. Clif Bar, which has 185 employees, reported $212 million in earnings in 2008.
“People who were employed in Berkeley are likely to remain employed in Emeryville, since they are so close geographically,” said Caplan. “I have to look at these kinds of things as regional issues. It’s an opportunity, not a loss.”
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates could not be reached for comment by press time.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that the city’s complicated zoning laws may be to blame in Clif Bar’s departure.
“Power Bar left, Clif Bar left,” said Worthington. “Certainly the city’s zoning processes are very complicated and cumbersome and sometimes contradictory.”
In August 2006, Power Bar announced its move to Southern California. Immediately after, Clif Bar made the announcement that it, too, would be looking for a new location.
Initial plans indicated that the company would move to Alameda in 2008. However, the timeline proposed by the developer, Catellus Development Corporation, did not meet Clif Bar’s needs.
Alameda’s Base Reuse and Community Development manager, Debbie Potter, said the city was disappointed but not surprised by Clif Bar’s decision not to move to Alameda.
“We were very sorry to have missed the opportunity for Clif Bar to move in,” said Potter. “Our city shares a lot of the same values as Clif Bar, such as green sustainability, fitness, and health.”
Emerytech complex building developers Ellis Partners, LLC, announced that Clif Bar’s new Emeryville facility would be redesigned with large atriums and “soaring glass-filled ceilings,” which would allow for more energy-efficient light and a data center. Clif Bar is currently applying for a LEED Gold certification, a third-party certification program that uses a national benchmark for measuring how “green” a building is.
Emeryville officials are getting ready for Clif Bar’s move.
“We couldn’t be happier to welcome Clif Bar to the Emeryville community,” said Emeryville City Manager Pat O’Keeffe in a statement. “We’ve made a deep commitment to fostering growing, innovative businesses and we’re proud to count Clif Bar among that group.”
Clif Bar, then known as Calisports Naturals, first opened in Emeryville in 1992, but then moved to Berkeley in 1996 in order to expand.