WEBAIC Newsletter

January 22, 2011

City Council Public Hearing on West Berkeley Project Tuesday, Jan 25th
The Future of West Berkeley’s (and the City’s)
Sustainable, Productive, & Equitable Economy and Culture To Be Decided
Two Questions:

1. Clean Tech/Biotech R&D OR Manufacturing, Wholesale Trade, Warehouse,   

    Construction, Recycling, Repair,  Industrial/Construction Supply, & Arts?

2. Jobs For the Highly Educated OR Jobs For Those Without College?

The Answers: All  Of The Above

The False Premise:  In order to accommodate more R&D in West Berkeley the City and developers have attempted to portray industrial activity and jobs as dying and a thing of the past.  The facts show these assertions to be untrue and the premise underlying this effort, that we must sacrifice our existing production economy and jobs to accommodate more R&D, is also not supported by the everyday facts on the ground that is West Berkeley.

The Solution:  Should we judiciously readjust our land use configuration to more efficiently allocate land to sectors we deem valuable?  Yes.  Can we do this while at the same time maintaining our existing robust industrial and arts economy and culture?  Absolutely.  All we need do is institute what has already been agreed to by all parties in the West Berkeley Project and add in WEBAIC’s Compromise Cap Proposal for good measure. 

Presently there is approximately three million sq ft of property where zoning allows R&D to locate, some of which is now occupied by this use.  To accommodate what the City hopes will be a vast increase in this R&D, WEBAIC has agreed to let all existing industrial protections on a large amount of property – six 4+ acre sites in ten years – be removed so that R&D can locate there.  These sites can accommodate at least 2+ million sq ft at existing development standards, standards the City wants to greatly increase.  According to figures from Lawrence Berkeley Labs, even if an ideal percentage of spin off start ups were to all locate in West Berkeley, the existing + new available space would be vastly more space than they could occupy for years to come.

The Most Important WEBAIC Positions to Achieve the Balanced Solutions Above - In Brief:

1.) WEBAIC 100,00 sq ft Compromise Cap Proposal on Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space 

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

3.) No Stand Alone Offices in the Manufacturing (M) Zone on Master Use Permit sites.

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

5.) Maintain Existing Height & Density Standards.

6.) No Full Parking Waivers for MUPs.

7.) No MUR property in Master Use Permit sites.

The Most Important WEBAIC Positions to Achieve the Balanced Solutions Above - In Full:

1.) The WEBAIC Compromise Cap Proposal on Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space:

In addition to the large amount of space currently available for R&D, as part of the West Berkeley Project WEBAIC has agreed with the City to entitle a huge amount of new acreage that can accommodate millions more sq ft for these uses, vastly more space than projected need.  Thus, the Planning Commission’s proposal to open ALL WHOLESALE TRADE & WAREHOUSE SPACE in the MULI and MM Zones to R&D beyond that already and soon-to-be available is unnecessary and destructive. 

The latest figures from BT Commercial (Q4 2010) show a 4.4% vacancy rate on Warehouse space in West Berkeley, revealing that there is strong demand for this space, that the vast majority of it is filled with productive economic activity and good jobs, and that removing protections from this entire class of space can only result in the loss of vital economic activity and the good jobs it provides to our citizens who can most benefit by them.  The approximately 50 West Berkeley Wholesale Trade & Warehouse companies and their 1100+ jobs are a key component of West Berkeley's successful mixed-use economy and we should be grateful our City has this activity instead of looking for ways to drive it out.  Instead of the Planning Commission’s proposal to open up ALL of this space to R&D, in the spirit of compromise and civic cooperation WEBAIC has proposed opening a subset of100,000 sq ft of this space to R&D.  Additionally, we believe this opened space should logically come from existing, vacant space so as not to imperil productive activity and jobs.
Hausrath Economics' study commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (Goods Movement/Land Use Project for the San Francisco Bay Area), details "Goods Movement" companies (Manufacturing, Wholesale Trade, Warehouse) as now being ideally located in proximity to 1.) their source of their goods (Port of Oakland, Airport, etc.), 2.) the inner Bay Area workforce best matching their jobs profile, and 3.) their largely local and regional customer base.  The report quantifies serious negative effects to the economy, environment (more greenhouse gas emissions & vehicle miles traveled), and regional equity that will result from these jobs and activities being forced out of the inner Bay and into the Central Valley.  The study identifies the cause of this dislocation as local cities allowing real estate trends to drive their land use policies, resulting in the conversion of their industrial lands to R&D, housing, office, and retail uses. 

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

The West Berkeley Plan states: "In Manufacturing, Mixed Manufacturing, and Mixed Use Light Industrial, residential
uses are not permitted. No new dwelling units may be constructed or created in any of
these districts."  Such an unequivocal prohibition should be clear, but for some reason the Planning Commission has proposed that housing and retail be allowed to “float” across boundary lines into the industrial zones on MUPs.  Intentionally placing housing and industry in close proximity to each other is the poorest of public policies, encouraging contentious civic relationships, legal conflicts, and the ultimate loss of vital economic activity and good jobs.  Beyond the Plan’s prohibitions, the West Berkeley Project Draft Environmental Impact Report states "These revisions to permitted uses would not include allowing housing, large office complexes, or large retail outlets.” The previous Plan and  DEIR statements reveal that housing in the industrial zones is legally indefensible.

 3.) No Stand Alone Offices in the Manufacturing (M) Zone.  Staff and the Commission have stated that allowing office parks in the M Zone is not their intention, yet their present proposals permit it.  The West Berkeley Project Draft Environmental Impact Report's Project Description states that 1.) "The proposed revisions to the West Berkeley Plan and Zoning Ordinance would not change the basic types of uses permitted...in the affected zoning districts", and that 2.) "These revisions to permitted uses would not include allowing housing, large office complexes, or large retail outlets."   Offices are incompatible with, and extremely destabilizing to industry in the M Zone.

4.) Yes to 6 Master Use Permits in 10 Years – No to unlimited expansion of the Master Use Permit sites.
As MUPs are not subject to the West Berkeley Plan's industrial protection policies and propose much greater building heights and densities, they should be limited to the number of sites now qualifying (14) by setting a "date by" which no more properties may be aggregated to meet the 4 acre MUP threshold.  Removing the West Berkeley Plan's central policies (industrial protections) on more property than the existing 14 qualifying MUP properties (42% of the M, MM, & MULI) would render the West Berkeley Plan essentially void, thus putting the West Berkeley Project in violation of the Plan adopted to govern West Berkeley land use policy.  Additionally, 1.) properties meeting the four acre threshold as of this date should be limited to that acreage for MUP applicability, and 2.) the provision that any single block under one ownership be eligible for MUP status should be seen as a vast potential expansion  of of MUP provisions and be removed.  This one acre proposal has NO precedent anywhere in the West Berkeley Plan.

5.) Maintain Existing Height & Density Standards.  No justification has been given for the large expansion of allowable heights and densities in staff proposals.  Proposed heights of 75 feet and densities of FAR 3.0 are unnecessary and destructive of the workability and livability of West Berkeley.   If greater heights are required for demonstrated production needs, a special, targeted zoning provision can permit this, as seen in Bayer's Development Agreement.  Existing heights and FAR ratios (45 ft, FAR 2 in M zones, 35 ft, FAR 1 in MUR) are sufficient to promote vital economic activity and provide a livable environment. West Berkeley is presently built out to approximately one/third of what is allowable, revealing more than ample room to grow within existing standards.

6.) No Full Parking Waivers for MUPs: Parking is already challenging in West Berkeley.  There should be NO full parking waivers for MUPs and any waivers given should be tied to required and verifiable use of non-auto commuting.

7.) No MUR property in MUPs: The MUP permit should NOT apply to property in the MUR Zone.  The only result of the proposed application would be development totally out of scale with the existing MUR environment and installation of uses likely to significantly conflict with the significantly residential character of the MUR.  There is no benefit to the MUR by being subject to MUPs.  The present MUR FAR is 1 - staff proposes a tripling of this for MUPs.  This is wildly out of scale with the existing MUR built environment.