March 27, 2007

To: Mayor Bates and Berkeley City Council

West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies urges you to take strong and decisive action to save the filmmaker community in the Zaentz Media Center Fantasy Building.

The city cannot afford to lose yet one more artist building. This is a unique nonprofit documentary film community, found nowhere else in the entire country.

Council should tell the building owner in no uncertain terms that he must treat these tenants in a decent and responsible manner. Tell him that that is a price of doing business in Berkeley. This landlord depends heavily on the city being cooperative with his projects and developments. Tell him that, if he expects the city to cooperate with him, he needs to cooperate for the betterment of the city.

Council can and must use its full powers to convince Mr. Robins and Wareham to allow this community to remain whole and in this building at current rents, which are already fair market rents, or to get these tenants an extension of six months or more at current rents. During that period, if  relocation becomes necessary, the city can work with them to find them a new location in Berkeley.

The problem in this building reflects a larger problem affecting all of our arts and crafts and industries. Developers and landlords are demanding exorbitant rents because they perceive that it is city policy to the promote rapid gentrification in West Berkeley. Many would rather keep their buildings vacant and off the market by offering them at exorbitant rents. They are doing this because the city is sending them the signal that they will soon lift zoning protections for arts and crafts and industries.

Our entire West Berkeley creative community is being dismantled by the spiraling gentrification fueled by this perception. These are urgent times for West Berkeley, and we urge you to reverse this disastrous course.

West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies