Public Comment

Letter to the Berkeley City Council Re West Berkeley Rezoning

From Mary Lou Van Deventer,Member of the Board of Directors, Former President, on behalf of the Northern California Recycling Association
Wednesday March 02, 2011 - 02:17:00 PM

When the zoning changes now called the West Berkeley Project were begun, the Planning Department said it simply wanted “flexibility” to negotiate with landowners in developing their properties. The West Berkeley Plan itself wouldn’t be changed. Planning staff said that was their “mantra.” Industry would be protected. 

Now, at this last meeting where the public can comment, the Planning Department’s “flexibility” to negotiate has transmogrified into permission to convert up to 80 acres of West Berkeley away from industrial protection and into R&D and labs, building heights raised from 45 feet to 75, and enormous massing. This is a betrayal. 

In favor: a few large developers. Opposed: the citizens. Many of them would experience financial windfalls, and still they are opposed. They have asked at every meeting for three years for the City to develop their convivial neighborhood according to the West Berkeley Plan that the citizens themselves produced, which hasn’t failed. 

The Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA), a trade association representing the interests of the recycling industry, is also opposed to this huge repurposing of the industrial area. Berkeley has hundreds of tons of resources arriving in the City-owned solid waste transfer station every day, generating around $34 million in income. The City has wasted this enormous asset by refusing to improve its resource system as its consultants recommended in 2005 and refusing to develop the kinds of enterprises that could build a green domestic manufacturing infrastructure. 

Developing these resources and building the new sustainable industries of tomorrow will require industrial lands. You have them. Please don’t waste this asset too. 

Please reject the Planning Department’s repurposing and return to the city of your citizens’ dreams. Limit Master Use Permit sites to 30 acres. Limit heights to 45 feet. Limit floor-area ratios to 2 to 1. WeBAIC’s proposed compromise is already bitter medicine for many stakeholders. Instruct the Economic Development Department to focus on finding industrial enterprises for the industrial lands. Ask the Recycling Board for the names of the many recycling-based enterprises looking for space. Look for federal industrial development funds. 

Build tomorrow’s domestic green industries that can rebuild the nation’s wealth. You have the resources, the creativity, and the land. Please take care not to waste your asset. 

Thank you for your attention. I leave you with a map showing what 80 acres looks like in West Berkeley