WEBAIC Newsletter

February 25, 2011

Report Back: Feb 22 City Council West Berkeley Public Hearing
•The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly•

Wisconsin Comes To Berkeley:
Sad Day for Democracy & Rational Policymaking

Still Time For Council To Act In the Interests Of ALL Berkeleyans
 •  Council to Meet March 22nd for Final Discussion, Complete Vote  •

The Good:  Strong Turnout Once Again: –For the third time in a row, the citizens of Berkeley – business owners, employees, artisans, artists, residents, labor representatives, and even the former Director of the City’s Office of Economic Development came out in large numbers to show strong support for WEBAIC’s reasoned, balanced positions that would install forward-looking, but not radical and destructive, changes into West Berkeley’s zoning.  WEBAIC thanks everyone who took their valuable time to show up.  No matter the ultimate outcome of this process, your presence at these hearings has signaled City Hall that industry and arts will weigh in energetically on issues affecting their continuing viability in the City.

Presentation of Objective, Quantitative Data Introduced into Record Supports WEBAIC Perspective:  Invited to give a presentation before Council, Linda Hausrath of Hausrath Economics gave a power point presentation based on her Report Commissioned for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and overseen by the Association of Bay Area governments: Goods Movement/Land Use Project For The San Francisco Bay.   A multi-phase study conducted over several years, Ms. Hausrath’s distillation of her Report quantified the serious, negative consequences to the Bay Area’s economy, environment, and equity resulting from Bay Area cities (including Berkeley) not preserving their industrial lands, industrial companies, and the good jobs associated with them.  Cities allowing their industrially-zoned lands to be converted to housing, retail, offices, and R&D were identified as the driving force behind this negative deindustrialization and it’s projected higher cost of living, loss of 87,000 good blue/green collar jobs, and greater load of greenhouse gases on the Bay Area’s environment.

City Comes to Senses, Agrees With WEBAIC, and Prohibits Housing in the Manufacturing Zones – M/MM/MULI:
Any aspect of the West Berkeley Project with potential environmental impacts is required to be described and studied in the West Berkeley Project Draft Environmental Impact Report.   The City did not describe nor study in the WB Project DEIR the Planning Commission proposal to allow housing on Master Use Permit sites in the M, MM, and MULI zones.  WEBAIC consulted with a land use attorney and a letter detailing this California Environmental Quality Act violation was submitted to the City on WEBAIC’s behalf.  Shortly after, the City removed its proposal for this incompatible use, citing the exact reasons WEBAIC has cited throughout the WB Project process. 

The Bad:  In a 5 to 4 vote the City Council voted to open up ALL Wholesale Trade & Warehouse Space in the MULI & MM zones to Research and Development uses.

The Ugly:  Berkeley – not the old progressive, but the “new” Madison:  Madison Wisconsin has often been called the “Berkeley of the Midwest” but on Tuesday the Berkeley City Council majority unfortunately returned the favor by mimicking the Wisconsin state legislature’s recent and stunning ignoring of its own citizens’ voices on labor issues.   Without prior notice that a vote would even be taken, the Council voted against the vast majority of its own citizens’ testimony over three nights to violate the West Berkeley Plan and Berkeley General Plan, and unnecessarily open up ALL Wholesale Trade & Warehouse Space in the MULI & MM zones to R&D uses that are expected to displace vital economic activity and good jobs.

No Notice Given for Critical Vote:  The Chair and staff of WEBAIC attended a 1/18 City Council Agenda meeting in which Tom Bates, Berkeley’s Mayor, stated that the City Council would not vote on the West Berkeley Project proposals until meetings in March.  In violation of this pledge, and in violation of the spirit of giving adequate notice to the public when actions critical to their concerns would be taken, the Mayor called for a surprise vote at the end of Tuesday’s Public Hearing on arguably the most contentious issue of the West Berkeley Project – the opening up of the West Berkeley Plan’s Industrial Protections. 

Four Council Members Support Business, Arts, Citizen Voices and Rational Policy:  To their great credit, Council members Linda Maio, Max Anderson, Jesse Arreguin, and Kris Worthington voted against this destructive, injudicious proposal, while the Mayor, Darryl Moore, Susan Wengraf, Gordon Wozniak, and Laurie Capitelli voted for it.  Particularly disturbing was the vote of Mr. Moore, as fully 90% of the testimony against this proposal came from his business, labor, and residential constituents.

Business and Blue/Green Collar Jobs-Destroying Vote Based On Almost Complete Lack of Relevant Data:  As disappointing and destructive as this vote was, the fact that it was taken based on an almost complete lack of data reveals it as not a result of an honest examination of the options, but as a pre-determined outcome never evincing a serious concern with the facts, no matter how valid, that might point in a different policy direction.

Over the last two public hearing evenings it became embarrassingly clear that NO DATA had been introduced by City staff that might illuminate this issue and allow for its reasonable examination.  This almost completely data-free process in no way disturbed the Planning Commission majority when they put forth this proposal, but to her credit, Council member Maio acknowledged this serious lack by requesting the Office of Economic Development provide Council with at least an estimate of how much warehouse-type space was in West Berkeley and what sorts of businesses occupied this space.  OED Director Michael Caplan submitted a document to the Council last week that he honestly described as an “attempt to answer the Council Member's question insofar as possible, given the sources that are available at the present time.”  This document went on with language such as “the result of these evaluations of internal space usage (are) to be very approximate at best;” “We simply do not know…” and “OED and Planning are working together on a GIS project that will eventually allow an accurate understanding of the use of space in West Berkeley. The present results should be understood as an approximation based on imperfect sources that we could access in a short time.”

The disturbing fact that the City Council majority voted for a far-reaching proposal that could negatively affect hundreds of manufacturing, warehouse, wholesale, arts, contracting, and retail companies and their thousands of good jobs (in up to 2,000,000 square feet of space) based on “imperfect sources”, is starkly revealing of an effort not to create informed and enlightened policy for the good of the broad spectrum of the populace, but of an effort to create policy purely informed by politics.

Council to Meet March 22nd for Final Discussion, Complete Vote – The Work Continues:

There is still a great deal to be decided and nothing done at last Tuesday’s meeting can’t be changed to a more positive direction.  With your continuing efforts and support WEBAIC is hopeful that policies can still be envisioned and enacted that work for all of us and not just a few.  Thank you again for all your efforts and WEBAIC believes that together we can see this to a successful conclusion for ALL.