October 21,  2009                        

City Proposes Industrial & Arts Removal Policies

Proposals to gut  industry & arts protections

would result in raising rents and forcing out industries & arts

Two Critically Important Meetings:

• Oct. 28, 7 pm  Planning Commission meeting on Industrial Protections & Master Use Permit Issues

• Nov. 4, 6:30 pm Planning Commission Community Workshop  on West Berkeley Rezoning Proposals .  Learn about the Rezoning Proposals & weigh in on the future of our community. If you can only come to one meeting, come to this one.

Both Meetings at North Berkeley Senior Center - Hearst & MLK

Thanks to all who attended the 10/14 Planning Commission meeting. Your turnout resulted in a powerful demonstration of a concerned, energized constituency speaking out for policies supportive of our community's interests.

WEBAIC wants to facilitate the location of new green/clean/bio tech uses in West Berkeley.  We're willing to loosen existing industrial protections on a significant amount of property, more than enough to accomodate the projected demand for space by these uses, - but we can't support a wholesale gutting of protections that would displacing a vital, interconnected economic and cultural ecosystem, and grossly violate the West Berkeley Plan.

City planning staff proposes radical industrial & arts removal policies: After many months of meetings the City finally laid its cards on the table at the October 14th Planning Commission meeting, and made clear its intention to remove all industrial protections on about 42% of West Berkeley through the new Master Use Permit process, and on the other 58% to open up these protections to accommodate Research & Development uses. Together these policies add up to the gutting of 100% of West Berkeley Plan and Zoning Ordinance Industrial Protection policies, with intense displacement targeting both industry and arts. Long-standing industrial and arts enterprises and jobs will get pushed out by being forced to compete with R & D uses, which are able to pay much more for rent. OUR CITY'S ECONOMIC POLICY SHOULD NOT BE BASED ON THE REMOVAL OF INDUSTRIES AND ARTS.

The unnecessary land grab: This displacement is completely unnecessary to accomplish the City’s goal of accommodating clean/green/biotech startup uses.  Millions of square feet of space for these uses are already available for development on the six sites the City originally identified as "development opportunity sites" and targeted for its Master Use Permit. In the exhaustive UC Master's study on this subject, the authors declare that even assuming the UC Lab's highest projections for spin-offs come true, only 175 jobs are to be expected from this sector in West Berkeley in the next seven years - 25 jobs per year.  Does the city really want to push up rents on hundreds of companies and risk the loss of thousands of living wage jobs in this depressed economy, when accommodating these new uses doesn't require anything like the proposed measures? Only 3-4% of Berkeley's precious land is currently intended for industries and arts, and that land should remain protected.

There's room for everybody Now: There's NO JUSTIFICATION for the City to propose REMOVING ALL INDUSTRIAL PROTECTIONS on 42% of West Berkeley's industrial zone property through instituting a 4-acre eligibility threshold for a Master Use Permit with these removal policies. The City doesn’t even know how many companies and jobs are on this 42% that they're threatening with displacement through the economic incentive of the MUP.  And there is no justification for opening up the rest of West Berkeley's protected space (outside eligible Master Use Permit properties), the home of the majority of the existing 320+ industrial companies and their 7500 living wage jobs, in order to accomodate a few uses that can NOW occupy space on: (1) the six targeted MUP sites, (2) the large amount of historically existing non-protected space, (3) the new space that's been created in the last 13 years, and (4) the 25% of all existing protected space that is already allowed to be converted to non-protected (R & D) uses.

Why these policies, really? Since a relatively small number of the new, desired uses (typically requiring small spaces) are expected to locate in West Berkeley, why institute this enormous land grab, these radical industrial and arts removal policies? R & D Labs don't need 90 foot heights and there aren't enough to need even a significant fraction of the existing industrially-protected space. So what is really behind these proposals? WEBAIC thinks that the removal of protections from industrial and arts spaces are probably setting them up to ultimately become office parks and condos.

The City's land grab - Why you should care: The city’s approach is two pronged - get 42% of the land with Master Use Permits at a 4 acre threshold, and get the rest of the land (58%) by gutting industrial protections. Why should we care? Because the city will lose 7500 workers in living wage jobs, 1000 artists in 250 studios, the green collar jobs, the vital network of local inter-related businesses, the vibrant and viable small and mid-scale diverse West Berkeley working and living environment, the stability of the City's economy, the environmental contributions of local production, distribution, and reuse, and ultimately the economic and ethnic diversity of the City and region. 

What are the industrial protections and why they matter:  The West Berkeley Plan recognized that a strong industrial base of production, distribution, and repair (PDR) businesses was essential to maintaining a diverse, mixed-use economy that would provide revenue, goods and services, and a wide range of jobs, particularly jobs for people without advanced degrees. To achieve this economy, the Plan determined any space devoted to Manufacturing, Warehousing, Wholesale Trade, or Material Recovery Enterprise uses as of 1996 would be required to remain in any one of those uses, ongoing. Those uses could interchange, occupying space that any other protected use had previously occupied, but protected space could not be occupied by office, retail, or R& D uses.  The purpose of this was to "maintain and protect Berkeley's remaining industrial areas and those uses as much as possible".  This was accomplished by putting industrial uses that are in the same economic ballpark in competition for space with each other, not in competition with (highly capitalized) uses that would easily out-compete them for space and "tend to de-industrialize [West Berkeley] over time." To allow incremental change over time, a provision allowing conversion of 25% of all protected space to non-protected uses was implemented.  Arts & Crafts were originally expected to be part of the protected, interchangeable use category, allowing them to occupy existing industrial spaces, but were inexplicably left out when zoning was finally drafted.

Why do the arts and crafts protections matter?  The West Berkeley Plan recognized that the vital arts community was an important part of the West Berkeley mix and central to the culture of West Berkeley and the City.  The Plan instituted a zoning policy stating that all spaces devoted to arts and crafts as of 1989 would remain in an arts and crafts use ongoing. The Plan directed a survey of all studios be done to document which spaces qualified for protection.  This survey was done 18 years later, in 2007.  In the interim many studios were lost. When arts and crafts were left out of the industrial protected uses category, they were denied almost all opportunities to expand or locate by being forced to compete with office and R & D uses for non-protected space, essentially an economic impossibility. After 13 years, WEBAIC has finally convinced City staff to put Arts and Crafts back into the industrial protected uses category.  This action will not make studios established after 1989 into protected spaces, but it will for the first time allow them to locate in existing, affordable space previously used by warehousing and manufacturing.  Since this protected industrial space will now be available to Arts & Crafts, the loss of these industrial protections and spaces, both on and outside of Master Use Permit properties, becomes extremely detrimental to the future vitality of arts and crafts in West Berkeley.

How we got here:  Instead of focusing the location of new, desired R & D uses on the six sites originally identified by the City as "underutilized development opportunity sites", early on staff decided to expand the reach of the Master Use Permit (MUP) and its industrial removal policies from these 6 sites and the West Berkeley Plan-specified 5-acre threshold for this permit to all West Berkeley industrial properties, with no threshold for this permit.  In response, WEBAIC worked diligently to roll the MUP back to its originally intended applicability.  This unnecessary expansion effort by the City is the reason the W. Berkeley Project has taken the time it has, due to the necessity of our having to push staff's 0-acre MUP threshold to 1, 2, 3, and finally to the 4-acre threshold now on the table.

Forward:  Together, Industry and Arts and Crafts are the historic and existing heart and soul of West Berkeley.  Other uses are important, legitimate parts of the mix and they need to be here, but without vibrant industrial and arts sectors West Berkeley and the City itself becomes economically, culturally, socially, and soulfully, impoverished.  Those templates for City policies of Emeryville and Palo Alto do not have the richness that is Berkeley, a town that brings together the best of the hands and minds in its working life.  Let's keep it.

West Berkeley Works!


WEBAIC  •  info@webaic.org  •  510-549-0190


            Helps the public understand West Berkeley industries' contributions to the community;

            Helps businesses maintain and increase their contributions to Berkeley's economy and cultural richness, including how to adopt sustainable practices;

            Serves as a liaison between WeBAIC's members, the community, and local government;

            Promotes the development of sustainable industries as envisioned in the West Berkeley Plan.


WEBAIC • West Berkeley Artisans & Industrial Companies
(510) 549-0190 • PO Box 2755, Berkeley CA 94702