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Three More Meetings on Siting Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (News Analysis)

By Zelda Bronstein
Wednesday July 27, 2011 - 10:03:00 AM

Between August 3 and August 8, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will hold three public meetings about possibly locating its second campus in or partly in Berkeley. Each meeting will deal with one of the six finalist venues for the new facility; the other three contenders are in Alameda, Richmond and Oakland, respectively. If the three Berkeley meetings have the same format as the initial gathering, in Alameda, members of the public will be given two minutes apiece to speak. 

Contrary to rumors floating around the community, there will be no new jobs at the second campus, which will consolidate work at three existing LBNL sites. Nor will the second campus, a government agency (the Lab is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy), itself yield any tax revenue. 

What a second LBNL campus will yield is a great deal of traffic; inflated property values; and—if it’s located on the one all-Berkeley site along Aquatic Park—buildings that tower six stories and very likely higher. Lab representative Sam Chapman told a June meeting of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce that the smaller the site, the taller the buildings are likely to rise. At twelve acres, the Aquatic Park venue is the smallest of the six places under consideration. 

Commenting on the City of Berkeley’s current project to rezone West Berkeley and specifically to allow taller buildings in the district, the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society have both stated that buildings rising over the current legal limit of 45 feet—about three stories—would harm the many birds, including egrets, herons, bitterns and comorants, that use Aquatic Park as year-round habitat. Both organizations urged the City to maintain the current 45-foot height limit. 

The Aquatic Park proposal will be addressed on Thursday evening, August 4, from 7 to 9 pm at the Frances Albrier Center in San Pablo Park. 

The two partly-in-Berkeley are a proposal from Wareham Developers, which consists of two existing Lab facilities—the Joint BioEnergy Institute at Emery Station in Emeryville and the Lab’s Life Sciences Division at 717 Potter Street in West Berkeley (both owned by Wareham); and a proposal from the owners of Golden Gate Fields and others. The southern part of the racetrack property is in Berkeley. 

The meeting about Golden Gate Fields will be on Wednesday, August 3, at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Avenue, from 7:30 to 9:30 pm. 

The meeting about the Wareham properties will be on Monday, August 8, at Emeryville City Hall, 1333 Park Avenue, from 7 to 9 pm.