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Lawrence Berkeley Lab's RFQ Points toward Richmond Site Choice

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday January 04, 2011 - 05:36:00 PM

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory [LBNL] plans a massive new second campus — including 2 million square feet of buildings up to 3,000 feet long —and they’re looking for a place to put it.

The main LBNL campus, the first of UC Berkeley’s Department of Energy [DOE] laboratories, will remain at its current site in the Berkeley Hills above Strawberry Canyon, while the new campus will consolidate existing labs scattered around the East Bay into a single new site.

Lab officials will pick the final site in June, with construction of the first phase currently set to begin in July 2013, with scientists taken possession of the new facilities in December 2015. 

A phone-in press conference with LBNL representatives Tuesday morning offered few new details. 

The lab has issued a call for proposals from communities and developers interested in the project, but the Request for Qualifications [RFQ] makes clear that the university’s Richmond Field Station [RFS], acquired in1950, would be the default site unless would-be developers can come up with something better. 

The RFQ is available online here: 


The lab’s specifications for the project closely match those of the an earlier proposal for the Field Station floated six years ago for a project of identical size dubbed the Bayside Research Campus. UCB picked Bay Area developer Simeon Properties to spearhead the project

The 9 April 2004 proposal for that project may be found here: 

Simeon owns property adjacent to the RFS, dubbed Campus Bay, where plans to build a high rise condo complex were torpedoed after community activists forced a massive toxic waste cleanup on the site. 

Both RFS and Campus Bay were the sites of major chemical manufacturing facilities which left the soils heavily contaminated with a noxious brew of hazardous chemical waste. 

Lab representatives said Tuesday morning that they were unaware of the earlier plans for the Field Station. 

The new LBNL campus would consolidate a range of programs currently located outside the main campus, including the Joint BioEnergy Institute [JBEI], a Department of Energy lab working on development of fuels from plant crops. 

Research at the new facility would focus heavily on creating genetically modified organisms, with the labs to be brought onto the new campus focusing in three related areas, according to the RFQ: “Genomics, Life Sciences, and Physical Biosciences.” 

In addition to the Emeryville-based JBEI, other projects to be relocated on the new site include the Joint Genome Institute, currently located in Walnut Creek, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center in downtown Oakland and “much of the Life Sciences Division in West Berkeley.” 

The biggest loser in the relocation would be Wareham Properties, which owns the buildings housing JBEI and the Berkeley Life Sciences labs. 

First on lab’s list of site attributes is this: 


“The site should allow for the development of a state-of-the-art facility with a beautiful environment that will be the location of choice for internationally recognized researchers. It should allow for sustainable land use and circulation patterns, maximizing density to reduce overall building footprints and conserve open space. The site should allow for the placement and massing of buildings to maximize shared views.”  

The Richmond Field Station, located on the shore of San Francisco Bay, certainly meets the beauty criterion, as well as the specification that the new site be within a 25-minute drive of the main campus. But the RFS falls short on some other attributes, especially the one specifying that it “should be proximate to existing or planned restaurants and cafes which offer a range in price and food types, preferably within walking distance.” 

Nonetheless, the RFQ notes that the RFS “by and large meets the parameters of the Site attributes. Respondents to this RFQ should know that the University may choose to site the second campus at RFS and will be evaluating potential sites relative to their ability to better meet the needs of the University and the DOE.” 

As for that 3,000-foot-long building specified in the RFQ, lab officials weren’t able to identify a specific use for a structure more than a half-mile in length: “We have nothing specific planned. . .it’s based on some concepts of projects we foresee but might not even execute.” 

But if the Field Station doesn’t work out, there’s a second site in Richmond that might work even better: A majority of Richmond voters last year passed a non-binding resolution opposing the $1.5 billion casino complex planned by Berkeley developer James Levine for Point Molate. 

With the casino industry hit hard by the economic crash, a university lab might be just the ticket for the Point. 

According to the RFQ, LBNL currently employs 4,200, including 11 Nobel Laureates. The lab’s budget for fiscal 2010 was $700 million, and the RFQ estimates related regional economic activity generated by the lab at “nearly $700 million annually.” 

Developers interested in the project have until 4 March to submit their responses, with the winner to be picked in June. 


Here’s the overview from the university’s 2004 proposal for the Richmond Field Station:  

The University of California, Berkeley, has designated a 152-acre property currently known as “The Richmond Field Station”, and located on I-580 adjoining the Regatta Boulevard interchange/off-ramp as a “Bayside Research Campus” (BRC). It is the University’s intent to encourage and enhance selected existing scientific research activities located on the property, maintain the environmental integrity of native grasslands and wetlands, and simultaneously encourage the development of approximately 70 acres of the property into a low-density, multi-building site scientific research campus. The objectives of the BRC are to provide significant benefit to the University by augmenting and enhancing the instructional and research base of the Berkeley Campus by: ● Creating a new world-class research campus with state of the art facilities and amenities to enhance UC Berkeley’s ability to continue to attract and retain top quality researchers and scientists. 

● Creating an intellectual resource through the opportunity for interaction among outstanding private sector and University academic research activities. 

● Creating an environment that supports private enterprise collaboration with University-led research activities, and through working in partnership with the community to establish a unique market identity for the BRC. 

● Creating a financial resource. 

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