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What Business Wants from Berkeley:
The Berkeleyside Business Forum

By Steven Finacom
Tuesday January 25, 2011 - 05:05:00 PM
Mayor Tom Bates, who made a cameo appearance at the beginning of the forum, chatted in the lobby with John Gordon, local commercial property owner and real estate broker whose signs are on many downtown Berkeley buildings.
Steven Finacom
Mayor Tom Bates, who made a cameo appearance at the beginning of the forum, chatted in the lobby with John Gordon, local commercial property owner and real estate broker whose signs are on many downtown Berkeley buildings.
Chris Anderson of <u>Wired</u>, Carl Bass of AutoDesk, and moderator Lance Knobel, formed the first panel discussing business issues.
Steven Finacom
Chris Anderson of Wired, Carl Bass of AutoDesk, and moderator Lance Knobel, formed the first panel discussing business issues.
Restaurateur Amanda West answered a question next to City of Berkeley Economic Development director Michael Caplan during the second panel.
Steven Finacom
Restaurateur Amanda West answered a question next to City of Berkeley Economic Development director Michael Caplan during the second panel.

[Editor’s note: This is an experiment. This article is much longer than the ordinary Internet offering, but it’s worth the time it takes to read it, since what business interests(and the local officials who support them) want Berkeley to become is important to everyone who lives here. We’d like to get comments on the role of business in Berkeley from our readers, which we’ll post online as they come in. Send your email comments to]

On Monday the Berkeleyside website hosted a forum on local business at the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in downtown Berkeley.

About 200 people attended by my count, comprising an audience heavy with business people, Berkeleyside readers, developers, some City staff and officials, and a noticeable contingent of University administrators and staff.

The event was, by turns, a lively discussion of innovation and business financing on a regional and global scale, a confrontation between a frustrated merchant and a City Councilmember, a litany of attacks by political and business leaders on unnamed Others who allegedly oppose all change in Berkeley, an exploration of small business concerns from “street behavior” to parking and Internet competition, and a tent revival meeting preaching the gospel of changing city zoning rules and planning policies to promote development, particularly in West Berkeley and downtown. 

The purpose of the forum according to the organizers? “Open up the discourse for the key issues of business in Berkeley”, Lance Knobel, one of the founders of Berkeleyside, said. “We hope that tonight’s discussion can be as vigorous and civil as the comments we get” on the website. 

Knobel served as the on-stage moderator. “It would be very easy to spend two hours moaning,” he cautioned, but the forum should try to “drive towards ideas for what we can change constructively.” 

“I want everyone here to feel they’re participants” he added. “Everyone has a tremendous amount to contribute to this.” 

Just as Knobel began the event I counted the crowd--about 180 people in the room at that moment, including the presenters. A few more came in late, and a few left, as the event went on. 

“Around 200” is my ballpark estimate of the attendance, at least for those who came in and sat down and listened to the bulk of the event; I’m not sure how many, if any, remained in the lobby. I did not see the sign-up sheet totals at the door. 

Knobel began by thanking Freight and Salvage for hosting the event, and inviting Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to make some introductory remarks. 

“This is such a great venue!” Bates said of the Freight and Salvage. He noted that the chairs the audience was sitting in were manufactured in Berkeley, and described visiting the plant where they are fabricated. 

He talked about “how happy I am this is happening, and I’d like to thank Lance and Cityside for making this available.” As some audience members murmured he corrected himself—“BERKELEYside”—but later, concluding his remarks, said “Thank you for having us, Cityside!” 

“We’ve got a lot of problems and zoning and permitting and stuff”, Bates said. But “[Councilmember] Laurie Capitelli and the whole City Council and I are dedicated to finding ways we can break through that stuff”, and make Berkeley an easier place to do business. 

Knobel then introduced the first part of the program, an onstage discussion involving him, Carl Bass the CEO of Autodesk, and Chris Anderson, Wired magazine editor-in-chief. They bantered back and forth, Anderson more animated, Bass more reserved and reflective, Knobel lobbing leading questions and commentary. 

Knobel started off asking about the general state of the economy. “I can see a slow, steady improvement” said Bass. “It’s definitely getting better. (But) having a recovery without job creation is almost an impossibility” and job creation isn’t happening yet. 

“Berkeley seems to lack businesses like yours” Knobel said. “Do you have a sense of why AutoDesk isn’t in Berkeley?” Both Bass and Anderson said they lived in Berkeley 

“I think I may have found the only other place in the world that’s as business unfriendly (as Berkeley) and that’s Marin County”, Bass answered to laughter. He added that while much of the AutoDesk operation is in San Rafael, he has also been moving staff to San Francisco which “despite its reputation has actually been a great place.” 

“It’s a shame that Berkeley isn’t easier to do business in”, he concluded. 

Knobel turned to Anderson. “What creates these conditions for these people that everyone courts?” he asked. How does a community create a critical mass of businesses of a certain type? 

Anderson first answered with the personal, saying his family chose to live in Berkeley for the good schools and location. He noted he’s a writer and there’s a critical mass of writers locally. “Berkeley’s a fantastic place for ideas.” But “when I started companies we chose not to start them in Berkeley…There were no companies like ours that we could follow” locally. 

“When we got here, that whole Emeryville/Berkeley decision had been made”, he said. 

So you’re talking about “effective clusters” of certain types of enterprises or businesses? Knobel asked. “For the lack of them it’s hard to attract them?” 

Yes, said Anderson. “For the writers’ cluster, that requires coffee shops, that was established” already in Berkeley he said, to audience laughter. “The manufacturing cluster was not established” for his type of business. 

Knobel asked Anderson to explain a mechanical device he had brought with him, lying on a chair on the stage. Anderson said he runs a robotics company, and the contraption was a robotic helicopter. 

“Some day the sky will be dark with these things”, he joked. “This is the military industrial complex as perverted by the Berkeley philosophy.” 

That led Anderson to a riff on “tinkering” and inventing. “This is the 21st century cottage industry”, he said. “These are the garages of the world, slightly industrialized.” 

“It’s a big movement” Bass agreed. “There are thousands of people who are doing it, who are modeling it.” “It’s a huge movement”. Bass added “It’s mostly being empowered by digital technology.” “This would seem like a perfect spot” for that sort of business. 

“The idea of a bottom up, Maker-type movement that becomes industry”, Knobel summarized. 

“How do you get from the garage to serious job creation?” Anderson wondered out loud, and then explained his philosophy: 

“I create ideas in Berkeley but the employment is wherever it’s appropriate.” He said his company creates concepts and prototypes locally, but for small-scale manufacturing they have a plant in San Diego, and for larger scale production they go across the border into Mexico where labor is cheaper. 

Anderson called for innovative incubation spaces in Berkeley, like the TechShop model in San Francisco. “I think we need a TechShop here, something like a hacker space.” “Just one of these here in Berkeley would provide that inspiration and example.” 

“We need the infrastructure and the clarity about the purpose” said Bass. “Sometimes Berkeley is just illegible.” 

He offered an analogy, his experience dealing with City of Berkeley agencies on removing an in-law unit from his house. One department, he said, told him the unit was built without permits so it couldn’t be used as housing. Another, he said, told him it was a housing unit that couldn’t be removed from the housing stock. 

“You need this legibility”, he concluded and a place where “there’s an intentional effort to create the infrastructure.” “It becomes clear this is a place where it’s believed in.” 

“It only takes one or two” innovative companies or spaces, Anderson reiterated. “I think we have an opportunity to right a wrong.” Stanford had developed Silicon Valley, he said. Biotechnology went to San Francisco. Neither became strongly established in Berkeley, although the University of California had just as much technological and intellectual expertise, he said. 

“High tech manufacturing, prototyped in smart places of the world” is an opportunity, he said. “All it takes is a couple of spin offs (from institutions like UC) that decide to stay here and you have this path.” 

Knobel opened up the discussion to audience questions and comments. The first speaker, identifying himself as Michael, said that he had worked for several years with the University of California, “one of the premier research institutions in the world, and they don’t do anything with it.” 

“There’s no room in this town for manufacturing”, he also said. “There is no place to put plants; where are you going to put ‘em?” he asked. “But Berkeley can be an idea leader.” 

Bass said that new ways of working should be taken into account. “You can do the things in the appropriate place. I do creation, it’s perfect to do here”; but “all of us work with virtual teams halfway around the world.” 

Anderson turned the question back to Mayor Bates. He described a small business he might want to set up, requiring a space “no larger than this stage” to create prototypes and devices on a small scale. 

“Technically, it’s manufacturing. If I came to your departments, what would they say?” he asked. 

“They would say, ‘Go to Emeryville’”, Bates quickly replied, to laughter. “Just kidding”, he added. 

“We are now thinking about reprogramming the entire West Berkeley”, Bates went on in a more serious vein. “What you’ve described here is exactly what we want.” 

“The problem is we have a lot of people who are rooted back in the 70s, the 60s, who want large manufacturing.” “We have to make these changes, we’re dedicated to make these changes.” “This is exactly what we want to do.” 

“They want manufacturing, they don’t want the office part”, Bates characterized opponents of his West Berkeley plan. He described a visit to the Bayer plant in West Berkeley where staff told him they were managing a manufacturing process on the other side of the country. “We have to get a whole different mind set. Our future I believe is just as you’ve described it.” 

The forum turned back to audience comments. The first was from Doris Moskowitz, current owner of Moe’s Books. “It’s hard to still be here” in business she said. 

She talked about the Telegraph Avenue street vendors. “I don’t want to offend any craftspeople”, she said but “most of the people are completely burned out.” She contrasted that with her excitement at visiting a lively Maker’s Fair on the San Francisco Peninsula and suggested that sort of event should come to Berkeley. 

“There’s absolutely no reason having a minor Maker’s Fair couldn’t be here”, said Anderson. 

The next questioner identified himself as Reese Cohen, a “community organizer involved in housing.” He noted that Berkeley does have a “collaborative hacker space”, Ace Monster Toys, and said “It seems like in Berkeley we’ve gotten better ground work now.” He talked about issues with getting venture capital funds and observed, “We have an opportunity here to be the advent of a ‘slow money’ movement…not a place where your building will be gigantic.” 

“It’s a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur”, Anderson comment. “This model we’re describing with the company (his robotic helicopter) does not require VC [venture capital].” “You don’t need it. Credit cards are sufficient.” 

The next audience member, whose name I missed, disagreed, saying that venture capital is needed in Berkeley. He suggested “a Berkeley university angel fund”, and observed, “There’s a lot of rich people in Berkeley” who could invest in local businesses. 

Anderson drew back a bit on the credit card comment, but pointed out there are other ways of business financing that don’t require large amounts of traditional venture capital, including Kickstarter, a website “fueled by the alpha consumers” where people can contribute small amounts to fund business proposals; many small contributions make up substantial start-up funding. 

“It’s an incredible time for start-ups”, Bass agreed, saying that creative start-ups don’t need to be defined by money. They can keep costs low by “outsourcing manufacturing to China and Vietnam.” 

Mike (?) Cohen, the next audience member to speak, identified himself as working for UC Berkeley’s intellectual property office, and took issue with the earlier audience comment that UC did little to translate knowledge into business. “A great deal of UC Berkeley and (Lawrence Berkeley National) Lab research has been commercialized”, he contended. 

“What’s happening here (in Berkeley) is innovation drain”, he said. More business development “can happen here, the question here we have to figure out is how to make it happen more.” 

“The great research institutes of the world seem well suited for invention”, Bass said, but not for innovation. 

“The innovation is happening”, Cohen said. “The question is, is the commercialization happening?” Yes, he answered his own question, but primarily in places like Silicon Valley and San Francisco. 


He described the Berkeley Startup Cluster, as a collaborative group that’s “a construct that we’re overlaying over commercial space (in downtown) adjacent to the campus.” “There’s venture capital all over the campus”, Cohen added, mentioning the Haas School of Business. “But they’re not so visible elsewhere in Berkeley.” 

Nobel asked the two panelists “what lessons can Berkeley learn?” “What do you target for manufacturing? Ideation? Short term production?” Are other Bay Area locations a model for Berkeley? 

“The whole ambition of creating another Silicon Valley is silly”, said Anderson, calling that area a “monoculture”. “Silicon Valley is a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there, unless you can afford to live in Woodside.” And most people who work in the high tech industry can’t afford Woodside, he noted. 

However, he added, “The idea of a parallel structure between Berkeley and Richmond seems really enticing.” Berkeley, in that model, would supply the ideas and the technical start-ups and manufacturing requiring more space and a less expensive workforce than in Berkeley could be found nearby in areas like Richmond, benefiting both communities. 

“What is manufacturing?” Bass asked. In his view much business development in the future will remain small and customized. “The real important definition is what is the actual businesses need”, he stressed. “And is it something that can be supplied?” 

Bass described his own outpost in West Berkeley. “I have a small workshop, it sits across from two big warehouses that store wine, and a sake factory. I have to think, what ideas could be generated in that space?” 

“This idea of what manufacturing is changes”, he added. Much manufacturing in the future may be done on the molecular or cellular level, not requiring large physical spaces. 

Knobel thanked Bass and Anderson for their discussion, and both were warmly applauded by most of the audience. 

A new panel took the stage. Knobel introduced them: Dick Fletcher of OneCalifornia Bank, the chief loan officer standing in for Kat Taylor, bank founder, who couldn’t attend; Amy Thomas, owner of Pegasus Books; Michael Caplan, head of Economic Development for the City of Berkeley; Amanda West, who created, and recently closed, a restaurant in downtown Berkeley; and Councilmember Laurie Capitelli who, Knobel said “has recently been particularly active in trying to change some of the rules” governing business in Berkeley. 

“It’s a nice, interesting, diverse group”, Knobel said. 

Caplan spoke first. “I really appreciate the forum you’ve created on Berkeleyside,” he said to Knobel. “A conversation that I am hearing, and City policy makers can hear.” 

“Zoning in Berkeley is complicated, it’s an artifact of many years of zoning changes,” he said. “What’s happened over many years is the (limited) level of discretion that exists in the City has made it difficult to get the businesses we all want.” 

Knobel next asked Amanda – what her experience was opening a business in Berkeley? Did she run into frustrations and problems with the City? 

“Our business was a feel good, fresh food restaurant”, she explained. “When looking for our first location we looked throughout the Bay Area”, and chose Berkeley. “We actually didn’t have a lot of challenges in opening the restaurant…the process wasn’t that complicated for us.” 

“Everything was on schedule”, she said. “It was PG & E that slowed us down, not the City of Berkeley.” 

Her business did encounter problems, however, after opening. Parking and “parking management” were two, plus “the lack of retail and the decline of retail” in the downtown, to provide more of a customer base and “some of the inappropriate street behavior.” 

Knobel next turned to Amy Thomas of Pegasus Books. “You’ve survived on Shattuck through all of these changes,” he said. “Are things changing?” 

She answered with an anecdote about an 1895 booksellers meeting at which business people were complaining about problems she recognized in bookselling today. “There is an element of cyclicalness to it.” 

“It seems quaint that I spent the last years fighting chain stores. That’s not the problem any more”, she said. Employee health care planning and costs are “a nightmare, expensive”, for businesses like hers. She engages in advocacy and “a lot of what we do is anti-censorship.” 

She talked about “a real mighty battle with the Internet”, where sales tax isn’t charged, “that puts us at a huge, competitive, disadvantage”, and complimented the recent work of State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner who has proposed taxing on-line sales in California. 

Knobel turned to Fletcher next. “What do you hear about the (business) climate when businesses are coming to you” for loans?” he asked. 

Fletcher said OneCalifornia Bank was founded three years ago, and specializes in loans from about $50,000 to “a couple of million”. “This has been a particularly touchy and trying time for any type of business”, he said. “It’s our impression that the supply of capital is getting better. But, the proof is in the pudding.” 

“One of the things we’re particularly conscious of on Berkeleyside” is local businesses closing, Knobel said. “There haven’t been a lot of good stories about things opening and changing.” “Can rules change that dynamic?” he asked Capitelli. 

Yes, said Capitelli. Eighteen months ago, he said, the City Council changed rules for food services in downtown and several new restaurants and food establishments have opened on University Avenue, he said. “Yes, rules do make a difference.” 

Capitelli, who represents District 5 in North Central Berkeley, said he had driven along Solano Avenue and counted vacancies. The Albany stretch of the street had three vacancies, he said; the Berkeley stretch had 11 vacant storefronts. 

“It’s a complicated issue”, he said. “I hope with economic development and the (City) planning staff we’ll move forward.” 

“One of the things one hears over and over again is a sense that the business community has a relatively weak voice compared to people who want to stop things from changing” Knobel said. “How are we going to change that dynamic?” 

“Most of us in that district [District 5] believe we’ve died and gone to Heaven”, Capitelli answered. “We don’t go downtown that much”, and because he and his neighbors have such a good life, many wonder why anything should be changed. “So there’s a real resistance to change.” 

“What I’ve seen at a minimum is benign neglect for our small business community”, he said. People want small local businesses, but don’t want them to grow so successful that they draw in lots of outsiders as customers, he said. “We want them to be just the scale that we want.” 

“If we want our Elmwoods, if we want our North Shattucks, if we want our Solano Avenue to be successful, we have to support them”, he concluded. 

Doris Moskowitz called out from the audience, “Can you support Telegraph, too?” to applause. 

Capitelli explained that he didn’t go to Telegraph Avenue much, citing an experience he and his wife had years ago when they were “accosted twice” on a short walk from a parking space to Cody’s Books. 

But “I can’t move Moe’s” Moskowitz said. “I can’t leave. I’m shackled to f—king People’s Park.” She said she also had a business in the Elmwood, and City attention to the two districts—Telegraph, and Elmwood—was quite different. 

For example, she said, merchants in the Elmwood felt ten minutes was too long a wait for police, while Amoeba Records on Telegraph staff confronted a thief that very night, but couldn’t get Berkeley Police to arrive for 40 minutes. 

“The services are being unequally spread in the City”, Moskowitz concluded. “You’re taking care of your district, and you’re not taking care of us.” “I’m frustrated and upset and I really need your help,” she said, to audience applause. 

“The mark of a successful business in Berkeley is having more beggars and panhandlers in front of it” Amy Thomas said from the podium. 

Amanda West returned to the parking issue. “Occasionally people need to park, need to drive,” she said, but the downtown parking situation was not helpful. 

“There’s lots of things that are artifacts of old policies”, Caplan said. “What really exciting to me about this forum is that there’s a new generation of leadership.” 

Capitelli agreed. “We’re about to shift into a new period where we’re going to be tackling the policy issues”, he said. He encouraged people to come to City Council meetings and lobby. 

John Caner, head of the downtown Berkeley Association, next approached the microphone from the audience. “This is a tremendous event”, he said. He talked about “the idea of a vibrant economic community” and ‘creating a downtown living room” where people go to do things as well as shop. 

“A lot of us travel all over the world and say, why can’t downtown Berkeley be like the European cities we visit?” he asked. 

Caner called for a “sit / lie” ordinance in Berkeley, “and do it in a compassionate way.” People should have to sit on a bench if they want to sit outdoors downtown, he said, rather than on the sidewalk. “That’s a reasonable thing to do.” 

“We have to listen to Doris (Moskowitz)” he added. 

“I want to respond to Doris”, Capitelli interjected. “Telegraph Avenue is the third rail of Berkeley politics…it’s almost going to have to be my generation that dies off before we can do anything.” 

“One of the things I have stood for on the Council is that the people on the street need services…but if they don’t want help, and their behavior is not tolerable, they’re either going to have to change their behavior or go someplace else.” 

“Telegraph is a pretty dismal, grim, place,” he concluded, commenting that he had ventured there and walked down a couple of blocks of the street recently. 

An audience member rose to say that the issue of neighborhood parking should be addressed. He talked about the Star Market on Claremont, and said employees there get over $1,000 in tickets a month, while residents with street parking permits drive away during the day and leave neighborhood street parking spaces empty that could be used by employees. “Include neighborhood employees as neighbors” to get permit parking, he said, to some applause. 

Another audience member, who said he owned Northside Travel, said that Euclid Avenue had recently seen several new businesses but there was no available parking after meters shut down for the day. “As a citizen of Berkeley I’m really upset, you build those big box apartment boxes and they have ground floor retail, and there’s no parking”, he said. 

downtown is going to lose several businesses on University Avenue, he added, “because (the) Ace Hardware (building) will be torn down and rebuilt as a high rise box and we’re going to lose a business and have no parking there” for the new residents, he said. 

(Note: the developers who have purchased much of the block on which Ace Hardware stands have said they plan to add several floors of housing on top of the current Ace building, and remove the two brown shingle houses in the rear and build infill housing there. They have stated that the retail businesses, including Ace, on the entire block face of University Avenue between Shattuck and Walnut, will need to relocate, at least temporarily, while every building there is renovated or expanded.) 

There is downtown parking, but it’s not effectively managed, Amanda West interjected. 

An audience member, Mark McLeod, talked about the Buy Local Berkeley effort and the “creation of good, local, community.” “The public figures in the City have a responsibility to rally the population to provide that support” for local businesses, he said. 

Elise Kahn came to the microphone and talked about efforts to improve downtown, including a plan to decoratively paint 60 utility boxes and encouraged businesses to sponsor them. 

She also called on the City’s leadership to finally fund the restoration and operation of the fountain in Civic Center Park, which has been dry. “The City is just not getting it together as a beautiful civic space”, she concluded. 

Amy Thomas, picking up on the theme of the downtown utility box sponsorship, said “Businesses in our town are asked all day, every day, for things. We’re really trying to build community. It’s hard to do that if people are going to keep buying online.” 

“The challenge…is to reconnect commercial districts as places for people to go for more than just buying things,” Caplan said. “We have more of an endowment of beautiful pedestrian-oriented shopping districts than any community in the East Bay”, he added. 

“The City is committed to maintaining baseline services in all those districts that are self-assessing” in terms of creating business improvement districts, he said. 

Polly Armstrong, former City Councilmember, took the microphone and introduced herself as one of the new heads of the Chamber of Commerce. 

“This is not your father’s Chamber of Commerce!” she proclaimed. “I knew what it was like in the rent-is-theft era and we’re not there anymore!” 

She called for “a rezoning of all of West Berkeley”, and asserted, “There is tons of dead space in West Berkeley. Hundreds of thousands of square feet that have been kept under wraps by people who don’t want to change.” 

She exhorted attendees to show up at the City Council meeting January 25 when West Berkeley re-zoning was on the agenda. “You don’t have to know a lot” to attend and make a comment to the Council, she said. 

The next speaker, Terry Mandel, said, “A large number of people have turned out tonight and thus far we’ve had free and civil discourse.” 

But in regard to attending City Council meetings, “many of us have no energy, time, patience and capacity to walk into a room where we may be there for six hours with people screaming their heads off.” 

“I’m one of those people that want to be back in the 20th century”, Jane Stillwater, the next speaker, wryly observed. “Berkeley is such a creative place, if somehow we can foster that creativity.” 

The Mayor’s chief of staff, Julie Sinai, spoke next. “I want to remind folks that the downtown Plan went through five years of debate and dialogue” she said. Last year Measure R, the Mayor’s proposal for downtown development, passed on the local ballot with at least 54% approval in every precinct, she said. 

“The population of Berkeley wants to see economic change. The downtown was a first sign. When you look at the Council meetings, the folks who show up are the ones who are opposed.” 

“Even if you can just come (to Council) and when the Mayor says, stand up” it would help, she said. 

“It’s not that everybody is all right or all wrong”, she said. But “we have a lot of support in this community and we need to galvanize it.” 

Marc Weinstein from Amoeba Records spoke next. “I’m the only business sitting at the corner of Telegraph and Haste”, he said. One corner storefront is vacant, and the other two corners are occupied by vacant properties—the old Berkeley Inn lot, and the former Cody’s Books building—owned by the same large property owner on Telegraph. 

“The City is afraid” to act on the Berkeley Inn site, he asserted. “There are no plans to do anything with any of these places.” 

He said that the City has had “such a mishmash of approaches to dealing with Telegraph”, and that City departments and staff took contradictory positions and policies on Telegraph issues. 

Ira Serkes, the next speaker, returned to the theme of Council participation. “It’s been years since I went to a City Council meeting and I hated it”, he said. Why couldn’t the City take advantage of technology so people could stay home, but still send in comments on Council matters in real time?, he asked. 

Council meetings are “streamed live” Capitelli said, but there’s no mechanism for on-line feedback. However, “you don’t have to stick around for six hours”, he said. People can come to a meeting, make a statement, and leave. 

“How many people would attend City Council from their home?” Serkes persisted, asking the audience; several raised their hands. Sykes said it would be inexpensive to set up a system, using Skype or other on-line technology, to allow people to make comments at Council meetings from home. 

Developer Chris Hudson, whose company built the “Trader Joe’s” building, came to the microphone. “I want to thank the very few City Councilmembers I’ve seen here tonight”, he said. “Sometimes leadership means leaving the Council Chamber and coming to hear a conversation.” 

A woman who identified herself as a West Berkeley resident spoke last, saying “I just found out tonight that there’s going to be a City Council meeting (on) West Berkeley that I didn’t know about”, she said. She urged the City to connect with active local neighborhood listservs to alert residents to policy proposals. “In West Berkeley, people would like to have jobs”, she added. 

After she spoke, Knobel wrapped up the meeting, asking each of the final panelists to quickly name one thing “to do to improve the situation in Berkeley?” 

“The attention to provide a stable and secure atmosphere for the workers, owners, and the people who patronize the businesses”, banker Dick Fletcher said. 

Bookseller Amy Thomas said she hoped to “have my customer community more aware of the decisions they make” that affect local businesses, such as buying on the Internet. 

“Progress on the West Berkeley Plan”, Caplan said. It’s “really our opportunity for something transformational.” 

“Creative uses of the empty storefronts that we have”, Amanda West said, but “without bringing in more restaurants that are cannibalizing each other.” 

“We all need education”, Capitelli said. He mused about “the demand for stuff” and said that many people were pulled towards on-line purchases because they’re cheaper. 

“Berkeleyside is a locally owned, locally managed business”, Knobel concluded. “We care deeply about what happens in our community.” “This has been a great start.” 

He finished with a plea for support for the website “as readers, advertisers, donors.” “Local journalism is in a pre-Cambrian age on the web and we’re trying to figure out what life forms will arise”, he concluded.