Public Comment

What the Express Left Out of the West Berkeley Story

By John Curl and Rick Auerbach
Tuesday August 10, 2010 - 11:01:00 AM

Several weeks ago the Express published a front page article ("Factories for the Future...momentum shifts toward preservation of land suitable for light manufacturing" ) describing how Oakland and other East Bay cities are now realizing the value of maintaining their industrial production lands for the important goods, services, and jobs the companies that occupy these lands provide. 

In previous Express articles, another writer unfairly attacked WEBAIC and its efforts to do just exactly what this more recent article lauds. We say "unfairly" because for both of the two articles in which WEBAIC was singled out, the writer never made any effort to contact us to get our positions straight, and subsequently portrayed our positions 180 degrees from what they are. Even though the recent article didn't mention what is happening with the City's West Berkeley Project and WEBAIC's efforts, which are the most important industrial retention efforts currently taking place in the East Bay (and likely the entire Bay), WEBAIC appreciates the Express' acknowledgement of the enlightened direction this important issue is moving. 

Attached is WEBAIC's letter to the Express editor that was published in response to the latest article. WEBAIC understands the need to edit letters for clarity and brevity in print newspapers, but we found it interesting that the sections edited out of this letter (in italics in the attached document) and the sections edited out of a previously published WEBAIC steering committee member's letter were almost all the references pertaining to the environmentally beneficial effects of maintaining a production economy and the negative environmental consequences of forcing this economy out of the area. 

The Express is widely read by the local populace, and thus an important venue of information. Feel free to write them, help them to get the story right, and join in the dialogue on this important topic. 





Letter to East Bay Express 


The West Berkeley Artisans & Industrial Companies (WEBAIC) was gratified to see the Express front page article, "Factories for the Future", acknowledging the value of manufacturing in today's society. While other cities are now energized to reinvigorate their manufacturing base, Berkeley's farsighted, community driven, West Berkeley Plan implemented industrial protection policies in the 90's that have assured the present, successful mixed-use economy and culture in West Berkeley. By providing an adequate and affordable land base for the industrial production, distribution, and repair (PDR) sectors, the industrial protection policies addressed the three components of true sustainability -economy, environment, and equity -through: 1.) Contributing mightily to local economies through taxes and the deeply interconnected network supply chains, 2.) Providing the bulk of family-wage jobs to those without a college education (23% of all jobs in East Bayshore cities), and 3.) Providing valuable goods and services (bakeries, recycling, food & produce distribution, building and solar contractors, printers, auto repair, machine shops, cabinet makers, engravers, scientific glass blowers, caterers, etc., etc.,) to the local and regional populace. With about half of West Berkeley employment in the industrial and arts sectors and the other half in scientific, technical, professional, service, and retail, the success of this envisioned mixed-use policy is revealed. 

Not mentioned in the Express article, but highly relevant to the topic, is the ongoing multi-year community effort in Berkeley, initiated by WEBAIC, to maintain West Berkeley's successful industrial protection zoning policies in the face of forces seeking their dismantling. 

Hausrath Economics' 2008 report commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Goods Movement/Land Use Project For The San Francisco Bay Area, quantified in detail the projected growth of these industrial production, distribution, and repair (PDR) activities, the growing demand for these "goods movement" lands, and the serious, negative consequences to the economy, environment, and equity of the region resulting from East Bay shore cities not preserving this land.  

The study's central conclusion is: Due to local municipalities allowing their industrial "goods movement" PDR lands to be converted to more highly capitalized housing, office, retail, and R&D uses, the industrial companies that depend on these lands are either being forced out of business or pushed over the passes into the Central Valley, resulting in: "87,100 fewer goods movement industry jobs in East Bay shore cities by 2035; fewer good-paying blue/green collar jobs in proximity to the urban workforce residing in the central Bay Area, particularly jobs for workers with less than college educations; an additional 347,900 truck vehicle miles traveled per day on regional highways in 2035; higher emissions of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants, including VOCs, CO, NOx, SO2, PM2.5, and PM10; greater auto-truck interactions; increased health risks in the I-580 corridor; higher costs of goods and higher cost of living overall in Bay Area; greater pressures on agricultural lands; and fewer opportunities to work near places of residence." The Report concludes with a request for "initiatives to support industry’s role in more balanced smart growth" due to "a dispersed goods movement/industrial land use pattern being contrary to the region’s Smart Growth Vision." 

As even in this downturn Berkeley has the second lowest aggregate vacancy rate for manufacturing and warehouse space (lower than office) among the seven cities from Richmond to Fremont, and as we still have over 320 PDR companies providing close to 7000 family-wage jobs in West Berkeley, the effort here is centered on expanding and keeping what we have while at the same time assuring adequate space for new, clean tech R&D, particularly Lawrence Berkeley Lab spin-offs. 

To accommodate these hoped-for uses, WEBAIC has proposed opening up protections on at least 28 acres to provide millions of square feet for R&D, while keeping protections on land outside these large sites where most companies with green and blue collar jobs now live. This balanced proposal facilitates both green tech and green collar, fulfilling the mission of the Green Corridor and assuring space for the "cradle to scale" strategy described by Green Corridor director Carla Din in the Express article. 

Forces within Berkeley City government together with developers seek to limit this capacity by opening up not just large sites, but all West Berkeley industrially-protected land to uses able to pay much more for space than protected uses. This radical proposal that would displace long-contributing companies and important jobs, particularly for those who've taken the brunt of regressive federal economic policies over the last several decades, would strike a blow against our City's and region's economic and ethnic diversity and would set back efforts to create a truly sustainable, local serving economy. 

WEBAIC believes that ultimately the citizenry and decision-makers will see the folly of this approach and take the hopeful path forward laid out in the Express article -"Factories for the Future...momentum shifts towards preservation of land suitable for light manufacturing". 


John Curl, WEBAIC chair 

Rick Auerbach, WEBAIC staff