WEBAIC Newsletter

February 17, 2011

7pm, Council Chambers - 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (between Center & Allston)

Please Attend
To Ensure A Sustainable, Equitable, and Diverse Berkeley

Informed Decisions Require Information
Absence of Data
  Marks City Proposal To Open All Wholesale/Warehouse Space in MULI/MM to R&D

The City Council Is Considering a Planning Commission Proposal to open ALL protected Wholesale Trade and Warehouse space in the Mixed Use Light Industrial zone (MULI) and the Mixed Manufacturing zone (MM) to Research & Development uses.  The West Berkeley Plan, historical evidence, and common sense all agree that when highly capitalized uses (R&D that typically pays 2-3X what Wholesale Trade/Warehouse uses pay) are allowed to occupy the same pool of space (protected space) as lower capitalized uses (existing Wholesale Trade and Warehouse companies), those highly capitalized uses can reasonably be expected to displace the lower capitalized uses and the good jobs those uses provide.

Basic Data is a Requirement for An Informed Decision:  The decision whether to adopt this proposal which at its core is intended to displace existing, contributing, Berkeley companies and good jobs (particularly for citizens without a college education), should at a minimum be informed by facts that would allow decision makers and the public to know: 1.) How much protected Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space exists in the affected zones, 2.) Where the protected Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space in the affected zones is, 3.) What companies are located in protected Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space in affected zones, and 4.)  How many employees work in these companies. 

Additional categories of information that could be gathered to help inform a decision would be:  1.) What do the Wholesale Trade/Warehouse companies in protected space pay for space? 2.) What do existing Berkeley R&D companies pay for space?  3.) What is the place of the Wholesale Trade/Warehouse companies within West Berkeley’s dense economic network and what might the results be to Berkeley’s economy should they be displaced?  4.) If displaced by R&D, what would be the potential effects on Wholesale Trade/Warehouse companies and their employees?


Why City Proposal is Unnecessary & Destructive:  WEBAIC contends that the Planning Commission’s proposal to open ALL protected Wholesale Trade and Warehouse space in the Mixed Use Light Industrial zone (MULI) and the Mixed Manufacturing zone (MM) to Research & Development is 1.) Unnecessary, because a significant amount of existing space now permits R&D and hundreds of thousands of sq ft on the Master Use Permit sites are being opened to R&D, and 2.) Destructive, because the 2–3X greater amount that R&D typically pays for space (compared to industrial uses) is projected by the West Berkeley Plan (and historical evidence) to result in displacement of Wholesale Trade and Warehouse companies and jobs. This projected displacement is not only expected, but is the core purpose of the Commission’s proposal - without displacement to create space for R&D the proposal has failed in its purpose.

Opening Protected Wholesale Trade/Warehouse Space Restricts Wide Range of Companies & Good Jobs: As protected Wholesale Trade & Warehouse space has facilitated the location and expansion of numerous manufacturing businesses, permitting R&D to occupy this space can be expected to limit manufacturing growth as well as limit new location of Contractors and Arts/Crafts that the new proposals (initiated by WEBAIC) allow into protected space for the first time.

Lack of Data on Wholesale/Warehouse Space Continues West Berkeley Project Pattern:  Neither the above WEBAIC contentions or differing opinions on these proposals are served by the almost total lack of data supplied by City staff regarding Wholesale Trade and Warehouse space, companies, and jobs in West Berkeley.  If a process is undertaken with an assumed and projected outcome, the costly allocation of resources to ascertain facts leading up to and surrounding that outcome may be viewed as wasteful and unnecessary.  This may be where we find ourselves today.

Data Collection Falls To WEBAIC:  Without staff supplying research on numerous issues, to assure that a minimum of factual information would inform West Berkeley Project discussions and decisions, it fell to WEBAIC to 1.)  determine the numbers of different kinds of companies in the industrial sector, to 2.) calculate the percentage of West Berkeley property covered at several different Master Use Permit thresholds, to 3.) supply maps showing MULI & MM property without industrial protections, and to 4.) bring to the staff/Commission attention independent, applicable, academic and governmental studies.

To undertake a major land use decision (opening Wholesale /Warehouse protections) likely to affect scores of companies and an estimated 1000+ jobs  without a quantitative underpinning is not reflective of a serious process and not respectful of the millions of dollars and decades of work invested by these companies and their employees into West Berkeley.  As it is unimaginable that the City would propose policies that could ultimately displace most Telegraph Avenue or College and Ashby merchants without robust data to justify such policies, so it is unimaginable that the City is contemplating just such a policy for a key West Berkeley economic sector without data to inform its decision.

The Minimum Data Required For Making An Informed Decision As To How Much Protected
Wholesale Trade & Warehouse Space Should Be Opened To Research and Development:

Decision makers and the public need to know how much protected Wholesale Trade & Warehouse space exists in West Berkeley, where this space is, how many and what companies occupy this space, and how many people are employed in these companies.  Only then can a truly informed and responsible decision be made as to how much of this protected space to open up to R&D.

1. Where is the Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space subject to the Planning Commission’s proposal in MULI/MM?
 Identifying the protected Wholesale Trade and Warehouse spaces in the MULI & MM is the first necessary step to identify how many square feet these spaces contain, what companies, and how many jobs occupy these spaces.

2.  How many square feet are currently in Wholesale Trade & Warehouse uses in:
       A.  The Mixed Use Light Industrial Zone (MULI) and the Mixed Manufacturing Zone (MM) subject to the City proposal?
       B.  The Manufacturing and Mixed Use Residential Zones not subject to the City proposal?

The real estate figures from the major brokers show 1.9 to 2.3 million square feet of Warehouse space in all West Berkeley, but this can be warehouse space used by Bayer or other manufacturing companies and it also appears to include the huge self storage facilities. It also does not include all Wholesale Trade space. The actual amount of space being occupied strictly by Wholesale Trade and Warehouse companies appears to be much less than the 1.9 - 2.3 million sq ft figures. 

WEBAIC’s 100,000 sq ft R&D expansion proposal has been characterized as only providing 5% of existing protected Wholesale Trade and Warehouse space for R&D, but removing self-storage (space unusable by R&D) and space already being productively used by manufacturers could cut down greatly on the total Wholesale Trade and Warehouse actually available for R&D, thus making 100,000 sq ft a much greater percentage of Wholesale Trade/Warehouse space. 

3.  What companies occupy protected Wholesale/Warehouse space in the MULI/MM zones?

Only by identifying the companies in these spaces will we understand their place in West Berkeley’s and the City’s
economy and their links to other local business that may be impacted by their displacement.

4. How many people are employed in the companies that occupy protected Wholesale/Warehouse space in the MULI/MM zones?

It is critically important to understand how many jobs are in the companies to understand the nature of the 

employment that may be lost due to displacement.