New: WEBAIC Response To Misleading East Bay Express Article: “The Battle Over Live-Work Communities in West Berkeley”
For all its support of the local culinary and retail economy, one might expect the East Bay Express to understand the value of retaining affordable habitat for working artists and good jobs in manufacturing and industry for working people - lynchpins of the 99%. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in this week’s Express article by editor Robert Gammon - “The Battle Over Live-Work Communities in West Berkeley”. When measured against the Express’s ongoing support of Occupy goals, the article’s editorial perspective is not only mystifying in the abstract, but destructive of on-the-ground societal equity the paper purports to champion.
In this latest installment of his ongoing campaign in support of a developer’s plans to install incompatible residents into West Berkeley’s industrial and artistic employment & productions zones, Mr. Gammon continues a pattern of critical factual omission, unchallenged assertions, and mischaracterization of issues and WEBAIC positions that diminish the article’s informative value and the Express’s reputation for fair and accurate reporting.
Doug Herst is seeking to turn his Peerless factory site into a mixed-use development. The site straddles West Berkeley’s Mixed Use Light Industrial Zone (that doesn’t allow residential housing) and Mixed Use Residential Zone (that does). WEBAIC applauds Mr. Herst’s intention to bring jobs and housing to Berkeley. We do not applaud his intention to bust Berkeley’s zoning boundaries by putting residences into Berkeley’s largest industrial zone, an area created to be free from incompatible residences in order to assure a modest amount of land in the City reserved for sustainably making, recycling, distributing, and repairing the goods we use as a society. Mr. Herst presently owns property on his development site that is zoned for housing, yet persists in attempting to set the destructive precedent of opening up the modest 4% of Berkeley’s land base reserved for industry and arts production to housing. WEBAIC applauds Mr. Herst’s stated intention to host industry and artist studios, but placing traditional residences in industrial zones has been consistently shown, from SOMA to SOHO, to inflate property values and create conflicts leading to displacement of the very uses and jobs Mr. Herst claims to support.
Clarification of two core misstatements in Mr. Gammon’s article:
WEBAIC has never opposed or “blocked” green tech expansion in West Berkeley - the opposite is true.
WEBAIC has never “blocked” housing on Master Use Permit development sites. In fact, we have supported the creation of hundreds of residential units on these sites on land where housing is presently allowed.
1. Express: “Despite the protestations of some local residents and businesses, the council opened portions of West Berkeley to companies involved in research and development — a move that recognized that the economy is shifting toward green-collar jobs.”
WEBAIC was key to creating the policies and compromises allowing hundreds of thousands of existing sq. ft. of space (and millions of buildable sq. ft.) to be utilized for R&D. There is no requirement this space accommodate R&D, or that R&D be green tech - the Mayor has stated it will likely be biotech. WEBAIC is the West Berkeley organization with the most numerous companies and jobs in green collar fields. The City of Berkeley Green Collar Jobs Study concluded that preserving affordable, industrially zoned land, free from incompatible uses such as housing, was the most important requirement for green collar jobs.
2. Express: “Now the council is weighing a proposal to create live-work communities on two parcels in West Berkeley so that green-tech workers can live right next to their jobs.”
A.) Only one developer has stated an intention to build housing on a development site, not two.
B.) There is no requirement that businesses on these sites be green-tech. There is no requirement that proposed housing be set aside for on site workers, green-tech or no. The planned units are 300-600 sq ft, a questionable size to attract workers, let alone those with families and children. With thousands of housing units within walking and biking distance of Bayer in W. Berkeley now, only a very small percentage of Bayer’s 1200 employees live in Berkeley, let alone West Berkeley, with the City’s most affordable housing stock.
C.) The two sites discussed both already contain residentially-zoned property permitting housing. The developers are seeking to bust the prohibition on housing in industrial zones to open these relatively cheap lands to highly profitable residential development.
3. Express: “The plan would also help the city meet the goals of its landmark Climate Change Action Plan, which aims to get commuters out of their cars.”
WEBAIC Response: In contradiction to Mr. Gammon’s assertion, the Environmental Impact Report for these projects states that the developments will increase greenhouse gas emissions and “conflict with the Clean Air Plan and criteria pollutants reduction measures” created by BAAQMD, MTC, and ABAG. The Goods Movement Report by Hausrath Economics for the MTC states that the displacement of industrial businesses and their employees by housing is “contrary to region’s Smart Growth Vision/FOCUS program” and will result in “more truck miles traveled and greater emissions of pollutants, including VOCs, CO, NOx, SO2, PM2.5, and PM10.”
4. Express: "...the commission decided to allow the “intermingling” of housing with green tech on the two sites...”
WEBAIC Response: The Berkeley Planning Commission voted to allow housing to potentially “intermingle” with not only green tech, but all industrial uses allowed in the Mixed Use Light Industrial zone, a recipe for incompatibility and displacement of good jobs and industry.
5. Express: “Some of the same groups that opposed green-tech R&D in West Berkeley are now trying to block the construction of dense housing on two large sites in the area.”
A.) Continuously repeating the assertion that WEBAIC “opposed green tech R&D in West Berkeley” does not turn fiction into truth. WEBAIC has never opposed green tech R&D, has green tech R&D companies in its membership, and has green lighted millions of sq. ft. for its use.
B.) WEBAIC has never opposed the creation of “dense housing on two large sites in the area”. The developments in question can build hundreds of units on their property now in appropriately zoned areas. WEBAIC staff Rick Auerbach told Mr. Gammon WEBAIC was open to appropriately sited densification of housing on residentially-zoned property on development sites, a critical fact not reported.
6. Express: ...“Moreover, without the housing, green-tech workers will be forced to live elsewhere and commute to West Berkeley, worsening area traffic and parking problems, and increasing greenhouse-gas emissions. ... the number of available sites for housing on San Pablo appears to be limited.”
No one will be “forced to live elsewhere.” Housing can be build on site now, just not on the industrially zoned sections. Beyond any specific site, West Berkeley’s industrial zones are surrounded by numerous opportunities for a large amount of housing creation along San Pablo Ave., University Ave., Fourth St, the Mixed Use Residential zone, and the core Residential-1A zone, all within one to four blocks of the industrial zones. San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley is two miles long, built as mostly one story where 4-5 stories are allowed, has many potential housing sites, and at least four new housing developments already permitted. Berkeley’s recent Planning Director Dan Marks said it clearly last year in his 2011 “Response to City Council Questions”: “The adjacent residential and commercial districts provide more than enough space for new housing within walking/biking distance of the three industrial zoning districts.”
7. Express: “Currently, city zoning laws allow Herst to build housing on his site — but only on certain sections of it. Herst says he needs the flexibility to build housing on other portions of his site, too, in order to integrate peoples' lives with their work.”
People living a half a block or a block from their work in no way impedes the integration of peoples' lives with their work.
8. Express: "You can't throw all the housing the city is going to need onto San Pablo."
With the vast majority of Berkeley land zoned residential and commercial, both allowing housing, “...all the housing the city is going to need” doesn’t have to be on San Pablo, and certainly doesn’t need to be on the small 4% of land comprising the industrial production and employment zones.