Public Comment

New: The Future of West Berkeley & Our City’s Environmental Sustainability, Economic Vitality, & Community Equity Depends Upon A Strong Feb 8th Turnout at the Berkeley City Council

Friday February 04, 2011 - 05:03:00 PM

Sit Down With Council Members Demonstrates Strength of Existing Production & Distribution Economy 

Owners and/or representatives of Meyer Sound, Acme Bakery, Alliance Graphics, The Ecology Center, George M. Martin Co, Urban Ore, Libby Labs, Adams & Chittenden Scientific Glass, Heartwood Woodworking, and the Business Agent for ILWU Local 6 (Bayer) met this week with Council members Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, and Laurie Capitelli. One after another each businessperson detailed their enterprises’ history, robust contributions to Berkeley’s economy and jobs creation, and how existing industrial protections have benefited them and contributed to their continuing, vibrant presence in West Berkeley. The Council members asked questions and a productive discussion ensued. WEBAIC would like to thank the participating Council members for taking this opportunity to hear on-the-ground West Berkeley voices of industry, artisans, and labor. 

Only your presence before the decision makers at City Hall can dispel ignorance and misinformation with facts and the indisputable, living reality of a productive and successful West Berkeley 

Throughout this process a narrative has continuously arose minimizing and misrepresenting West Berkeley’s robust industrial and arts economy and culture. A simple calculus is at work here: if something and/or someone can be described as non-existent, implementing policies to remove these “non-existent” entities is not only harmless, but requisite and good. Conversely, if the reality of low vacancy rates, productive activity, and good jobs is acknowledged, the logic behind radical proposals to rezone large swaths of West Berkeley evaporates and is revealed as socially and economically destructive (if not moderated and re-tuned to the existing dynamic). Some existing misinformation is simply due to very few of our citizens, staff, and politicians not knowing much about an area of the City they have little interaction with. For those without this familiarity, a “blank” spot on Berkeley’s map creates susceptibility to the “there be dragons there”, or “not” there, tales. Some misinformation is due to less neutral factors. 

Two recent, unfortunate examples are detailed here, not as personal criticisms, but to demonstrate how critically important your presence, a reality that can’t be denied, is, on February 8 th at City Council: 1.) An architect working with several of the largest developers in West Berkeley, stated during his testimony before Council on January 25th: “Your traditional blue collar jobs don’t exist anymore”. The disrespect to the almost 7000 “non-existent” West Berkeley blue collar workers contained in this statement consists not only in the denial of their existence, but a denial of the dignity of their work and strenuous efforts to provide a good life to their families and children. 2.) Until removed yesterday (though still cached on the City’s website), a City Council web page highlighted an “Industrial West Berkeley” link leading to an official page containing the statement: “Traditional industrial jobs are going overseas, en masse, leaving industrial West Berkeley a virtual wasteland (italics ours 

For three years WEBAIC has attempted to inform the disturbingly data-deficient West Berkeley Project with facts, on-the-ground knowledge, and testimony from scores of business people with over a thousand employees in West Berkeley that unequivocally shows our part of town to be the polar opposite of a “virtual wasteland”. After three years of testimony, West Berkeley tours, and government-commissioned studies quantifying West Berkeley’s robust contributions the persistence of such myths is unsettling and telling. 

Instead of an objective examination of fact leading to enlightened policy, from its initial proposals to incentivize removal of the industrial protections on most West Berkeley property, the West Berkeley Project has presented as a pre-determined outcome in search of rationales, ignoring or minimizing inconvenient truths. Our experience tells us that the reasons for this approach are manifold, from an honest desire to accommodate change, to an ill-considered drive for City revenue at all costs, to a paucity of interest in providing for our citizens with lesser opportunities, to private profit motives unmitigated by a search for the common good. Not being an originator of this process, the above “reasons” can only be speculation, but such motivations are not unknown nor historically absent in present and past urban development struggles. 

The examples above are simply demonstrations of the challenge WEBAIC continues to face in attempting to bring factual information combined with living truth to a process that, instead of putting blinders on, should be aggressively seeking such truths. 

WEBAIC hopes that our recent meeting with the three gracious Berkeley City Council members is a turn toward that robust examination of the facts required to make positive policy choices for the broad spectrum of our community and its long term sustainability. With the simplest of gestures, showing up and a speaking a few words, you can dispel the myths and keep Berkeley a diverse and productive community, all by making the vibrant reality of our community between San Pablo and the Bay a living presence for those sitting on the dais at Old City Hall on the evening of February 8th 

WEBAIC Positions to Achieve Responsible, Sustainable, & Equitable Development: 

1.) WEBAIC Compromise Cap Proposal on Protected Wholesale Trade & Warehouse space:Allow 100,000 sq ft of protected Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space for R&D, NOT All SPACE 

2.) No Housing or Retail in M, MM, & MULI Manufacturing Zones on Master Use Permit (MUP) sites 

3.) No Office Parks in the Manufacturing (M) Zone on Master Use Permit sites 

4.) Yes to 6 Master Use Permits in 10 Years – No to unlimited expansion of Master Use Permit sites 

5.) Maintain Existing Height & Density Standards 

6.) No Full Parking Waivers for MUPs