Working together to boost job creation in West Berkeley and strengthen Berkeley's role in the East Bay Green Technology Corridor Partnership.
In recent years, many innovative local companies have left West Berkeley at the same time that traditional industrial manufacturing jobs have declined. West Berkeley’s industrial regulations do not allow the growth and expansion necessary for the research and development of green and laboratory-based technologies. Changing the regulations would allow the establishment and economic development of new uses, and the adaptive re-use and modernization of existing buildings. Changing the regulations would allow Berkeley to benefit from the investment and local jobs that result from new technologies.
Investment in West Berkeley would contribute to citywide revenue and services for Berkeley residents during a period of structural city budget deficits. The businesses that provide these jobs and innovations can also provide other direct community benefits in West Berkeley, such as job-training for Berkeley residents, re-paved roads and other public improvements and the preservation of local arts and crafts spaces.
(The following statement was read in front of the Berkeley City Council at the May 7, 2012, public hearing on the West Berkeley Project.)
Livable Berkeley strongly supports the West Berkeley Project. Berkeley is home to world-class scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Harnessing these resources with cutting-edge industry will stimulate Berkeley’s economy and help the city achieve its environmental and social equity goals.
Livable Berkeley welcomes the greater diversity of uses permitted under the new zoning. Expanded research and development will leverage Berkeley’s vast intellectual and social capital to attract more green and high-tech industry. By tempering this new openness with reasonable protections for existing businesses, this plan will maintain and strengthen Berkeley’s diverse economic base.
Livable Berkeley favors bringing more housing to West Berkeley’s MUP sites. Improving Berkeley’s affordability demands that we more effectively balance jobs and housing. Living closer to work is also consistent with Berkeley’s environmental and climate goals. More homes near West Berkeley businesses means less commuting, less traffic, and more neighbors sharing in the joys of our city.
Livable Berkeley encourages the Council to allow the MUP sites the flexibility needed to accommodate and best situate new uses. These sites will not meet their full potential if they are hamstrung by the patchwork of existing zoning designations. These projects will also be better neighbors if they are given greater flexibility to minimize conflicts, respect context, and optimize land use.
Livable Berkeley supports conditional allowance of increased building height on the MUP sites. Taller buildings would support more jobs and housing, and would further enhance site flexibility. Discretionary approval of such buildings would empower the community to carefully consider site design, land use compatibility, and project impacts and benefits.
These actions stand to create immense new value in West Berkeley. Livable Berkeley thus strongly believes that the City should recapture a substantial portion of this value in service to our community. Community benefits could include streetscape or transit improvements; dedicated live-work spaces for artists and craftspeople; apprenticeship programs for West Berkeley youth; or any number of other measures. Discretionary approval for increased building height and site flexibility must be contingent upon the execution of Community Benefits Agreements that are substantive, feasible, and binding.
With these issues in mind, Livable Berkeley urges the Council to take bold action to enact a transformative, forward-thinking plan for West Berkeley.