Economic Development Manager Thomas Myers went from helping site 7-Elevens in South Central Los Angeles to working four-and-one-half years to get Berkeley Bowl situated on Oregon Street.
After 13 years in the city’s Economic Development division, Myers will be moving on—to what, he’s not yet sure. He’ll be leaving in October.
While citizen participation slows things down, “I wouldn’t trade speed for public input,” Myers said, pointing out that you can look four miles to the south to see the stark difference in Oakland’s development. It’s the slow process and citizen input that has made Berkeley what Myers calls a “series of unique places.”
While Economic Development is staffed by just two people, Myers is not complaining. Work is done in teams. For example, it takes police, public health, planning and parks staff to work on Telegraph Avenue area issues.
Moreover “Dave [Fogarty] is 18 people by himself,” Myers said, referring to the other person in the two-man staff, whom he touts for his “tutelage.”
When he came to Berkeley from Los Angeles, Myers said he didn’t understand the culture. “Dave reminded me to tell the developers that we do things a little differently,” that the process would take time and that the public would have input.
That style of focused development makes Berkeley a great place to live and to visit, he said.
City Manager Phil Kamlarz said he’d be looking for a replacement who understands Berkeley’s particular needs. “Community development is different from economic development,” he said, explaining that the business areas overlap with residential and both must be considered when attracting and retaining business.
The city needs to keep up the retail base in order to provide the services people want, Kamlarz said, noting that the city is facing the challenge of car dealerships that are threatening to leave.