Three Berkeley sites proposed for new LBL campus

The current Berkeley Lab campus in the hills above Berkeley/Photo: LBL

When officials from Berkeley Lab open proposals for a second campus today, there will be three Berkeley-based offers: one at Golden Gate Fields, and two separate projects near Aquatic Park, according to informed sources who asked not to be named.

The fact that there are three sites proposed in Berkeley may give the city a good shot at snaring the Lab’s expansion, since it is more than any other city is offering. Alameda, Emeryville, Dublin, Oakland, Walnut Creek, Albany and Richmond are also vying to grab the second campus, which is expected to generate thousands of jobs in the coming years.

Berkeley already houses the main campus for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is one of a network of Department of Energy labs. Berkeley Lab is managed for the Department of Energy by the University of California.

The three proposed project sites for the second campus in Berkeley are:

  • A 12.5-acre parcel off Bolivar Drive near Aquatic Park. Michael and Steven Goldin, co-owners of Swerve, a modern furniture manufacturer, and the Jones family, who owns the land that once held American Soil, are joining their properties together for the proposal. This is raw land, so laboratory facilities would have to be constructed.
  • Wareham Development already leases hundreds of thousands of square feet of space to Berkeley Lab, including the Berkeley West Biocenter on Potter Street. Wareham is expected to offer a Berkeley-based proposal, an Emeryville-only based proposal and a joint Berkeley-Emeryville proposal with properties scattered around the region, according to knowledgeable sources.
  • A 30-acre parcel adjacent to Golden Gate Fields. The Canadian owner of the horse race track, now called MID, has been trying to develop land adjacent to the track for years. Now the company will offer the land, which straddles both Berkeley and Albany, to Berkeley Lab.

The Lab put out a Request For Qualifications for a second campus in January. The Lab is looking to consolidate four remote sites and allow room for further growth. The RFQ lists 20 criteria for the new site, including space for as much as 2 million square feet of research and development facilities and room for a 3,000-foot-long building for an Advanced Light Source facility.

The Lab will not make public the list of developers who submit proposals today, or where they are suggesting to locate a second campus, said Jon Weiner, the manager of community and media relations at the Lab. The Lab will release a shortlist of two to four potential sites in mid-April, with a goal of selecting the site in June, he said.

All the sites will be judged against the Richmond Field Station, which is already owned by the university.

The competition is expected to be fierce. Many cities, including Alameda and Dublin, have gone on record expressing their support for a second campus.

Berkeley, in contrast, has not taken an official position. Many city officials said they have refrained from doing so in order not to muddy the discussion currently taking place about rezoning large swaths of West Berkeley. They want to avoid the impression that the city is making the changes in West Berkeley expressly for the Lab. (The City Council is scheduled to vote on the West Berkeley plan on March 22.)

“We didn’t want to confuse issues around the Lab with the West Berkeley initiative,” said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli. “From my perspective it’s totally coincidental that these two issues are happening at the same time… I wish they had done [the RFQ for the Lab] six months ago, or waited six months.”

Mayor Tom Bates also said that the West Berkeley plan had been in the works for years. “It’s not about the Lab,” he said. “It’s about a chance to revitalize West Berkeley.”

In fact, the Berkeley Lab will not have to conform to local zoning requirements since it is a government entity and is exempt from following those laws. But the Lab did say that one criterion for choosing a site will be the community’s interest.

Individual city council members, including Capitelli, wrote generic letters of support for the Lab. All those submitting proposals can include those letters.

A letter by Bates and City Manager Phil Kamlarz emphasized Berkeley’s amenities, which the Lab also asked to be detailed in the RFQ.

“[Berkeley] has, by far, the most highly educated population in the East Bay,” the letter reads. “It has beautiful physical amenities such as views, parks and the largest marina in Northern California. It also has world-class restaurants and cultural amenities all within easy reach. Its proposed sites are well served by transit and the most easily accessed of other regional contenders, offering both greater convenience and environmental efficiency. Berkeley’s high quality of life and ‘cachet’ as home to a world-class university would be quite useful in efforts to attract top academics and researchers. Finally, Berkeley’s regional role as a place where innovation and entrepreneurship occur has never been as clear as it is today.”

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  • biked

    any of these sites would be excellent

  • Bruce Love

    re: “Wareham Development already leases hundreds of thousands of square feet of space to Berkeley Lab, including the Berkeley West Biocenter on Potter Street.”

    Will the Potter Street facility be among those closed and consolidated if Wareham’s proposal is not chosen?

  • http://berkeleydailyplanet.com Becky O’Malley

    “informed sources who have asked not to be named”? UC officials or someone else?

  • jjohannson

    If we’re looking at a facility that is hoped to run for more than 50 years, the Aquatic Park site will need tidal flood mitigation that may well come out of the city’s budget.

    I think the moment is upon us where development of the shoreline is dicey at best.

  • Deb

    If LBL doesn’t have to pay taxes, why is the city stumping so hard to have them in West Berkeley?

  • Berkeley Born

    The Richmond Field Station would be the best site. It is already owned by the University of California and the lab could be build much more quickly as it is not in the middle of a neighborhood, is probably within existing industrial zoning. If they try to build in Berkeley, I’d predict at least 3-5 years of back and forth with folks opposed to the project before they even break ground another 4 years during construction. Heck, you can’t even do something easy like put a Goodwill on Solano. The only thing “new” that Berkeley seems to add is Walgreens and CVS stores…

  • Rod

    Because it generates jobs, which pay people money, who pay taxes. Non profits throughout the city don’t pay taxes, but the workers do. Employees and the non profits also purchase items within the city, generating tax revenue. It’s a good thing to have jobs available in the city.

  • North Albany

    Why are they looking at a site along side the bay for a facility that will surely have a lot of environmentally dicey impacts? Guaranteed that the Albany folks will not be accepting of this as an outcome for GG Fields which has been the focus of extensive community discussion and debate for a number of years.

  • Bruce Love

    Wareham are the heavy hitters in relation to Cal and in other parts of the Bay Area. They specialize in, among other things, the kinds of bioscience labs to be “consolidated” here (indeed, they own at least two of the buildings whose tenants are to be consolidated). They are currently building some big space in Emmeryville and I think (not certain) that they have more land there they can develop. They more or less have the local market cornered. It sure looks like the project is their’s to lose and, even if it went to the Richmond Field Station – I wonder if it wouldn’t be with the help of Wareham. To my cynical eyes, Richmond Field Station looks like a threat to create leverage to get a favorable deal from Wareham — but that’s hard to tell for sure without being a fly on the wall.

    There are some wildcards here. The House of Representatives is making decent noise about very large cut-backs to DOE funding that will hit the national labs. I think we should have some skepticism that there are to be many more BP-style deals coming down the pipeline. Although vacancy rates for this kind of space are currently said to be pretty low in the immediate vicinity, throughout the Bay Area that market seems to be softening with the weak economy (Bay Area vacancy rate for R&D is worse than West Berkeley’s current vacancy rate). The barrier to entry in that R&D real estate market is falling rapidly as various factors make it less and less expensive to convert space to that kind of lab-centric R&D use. There surely is a lot of hot money in the markets these days but VC markets for this kind of thing are showing signs of strain.

  • Francesco Papalia

    If this land becomes an LBL Campus, then all the taxes that GGF pays now with parcel taxes for the schools, property taxes, sales taxes and racing revenue taxes which total between $1.25 Million and $1.5 Million will be lost. The land will become tax exempt. I do not know what kind of revenue could come to the city from the jobs that will not necessarily be going to Albany residents. The USDA complex on Buchanan St. is another example of a government owned facilities that does not pay taxes to Albany. As an Albany resident, I am distressed about the prospect of such a large commercial district disappearing. How do we make up for that lost revenue?

  • Zelda Bronstein

    It’s disingenuous, to put it charitably, of Berkeley officials to claim that it’s a total coincidence that the Lab expansion and the West Berkeley Plan are coming to a head at the same time. The Lab’s front man, Michael Alvarez Cohen, was at the Berkeley Planning Commission in 2009, advocating for changes in WB zoning that would make it easier to “capture” the spin-offs and start-ups generated by LBNL. (His presentation is or at least was online.) On February 22 Cohen told the Berkeley City Council the same thing at its third evening of public hearings on the proposed changes. As for Deb’s question as to why Berkeley officials are pushing for the Lab’s second campus to be in town, despite UC’s exemption from property tax (including tax on land it rents): The City of Berkeley is currently dominated by real estate interests, starting with UC–the biggest landowner and developer in the City (also the largest source of traffic). As Tom Bates said at a summit of the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership: “To me, green is the color of the dollar bill.” If the zoning changes go through, West Berkeley will be opened up to speculation–developers have been salivating over the cheap industrially zoned land (it’s cheap because it’s zoned for industrial uses–manufacturing, warehousing and artisans). As Bruce Love notes, Wareham is first in line–and it’s been land banking in WB, adding to its already extensive holdings in anticipation of the council’s approval of the changes. As Bruce also suggests, the biotech thing could well turn out to be the latest bubble, following the dot.com and condo bubbles. By the way, WB manufacturing has only a 4% vacancy rate–low at any time, and extraordinarily low during a recession. In other words, it’s one of the few sectors in the Berkeley economy that’s currently in decent shape. Yes, there are a few big “underutilized” industrial sites–and the council ought to make it easier to develop those–but not at the expense of destroying the city’s viable industrial scene–6-7,000 jobs and hundreds of firms.

  • http://urbanore.com Mary Lou Van Deventer

    For three years or more, Berkeley citizens, industrial companies, and artisans have been expressing themselves at Planning Commission meetings. The West Berkeley industrial neighborhood already works well, thanks, which is why vacancies are so low. The people who live there, who would stand to gain hugely from rising property values, have said almost unanimously that they don’t want the R&D. “Revitalization” is in the eye of the beholder, and the people who are already there don’t find the existing vitality to be low. Wealthy developers such as Wareham, the Goldins, and the Jones family are the ones pushing for these changes. I’m interested in green domestic reindustrialization, and West Berkeley is perfect. Right now one of our largest exports is our resources, shipped as scrap going to Asia, where people working in what used to be our jobs make throwaway products that we import, and we borrow from them to do it. Then we export the resources again or dump them in landfills. This is a formula for impoverishing ourselves, and it’s working. Meanwhile, recycling-based startups want locations they can’t find, according to Alameda County recycling agency StopWaste. Berkeley has hundreds of tons of resources coming into the transfer station every day. Making products locally using discards could be a big source of new production jobs while preventing pollution and greenhouse gases, and generating property and employment taxes, and some sales taxes too. This relentless zoning focus to let R&D and 7-story buildings take over the industrial neighborhood looks like it’s more about cachet and rewarding big developers for land-banking than actual community development the way the people want it.

  • Bruce Love

    Zelda, I don’t have it before me any more but it should not be hard to look up. I suggest looking at Grubb and Ellis’ third quarter 2010 report for industrial real estate in the East Bay and, as a bonus, their white paper from 2009 about the role of “logistics” in the market.

    Briefly: In the East Bay, Berkeley has a very low overall industrial space vacancy rate compared to surrounding places. Warehouse vacancies are pretty high everywhere, but Berkeley fares better than most (and also has less! keep this in mind for when I get to “logistics”). General industrial vacancies are high. By far, though, “R&D / Flex” space has the worst vacancy rate! The stuff people supposedly want to build more of is already the stuff with the highest vacancy rate in industrial East Bay real estate!

    Why would speculators want to build more? Rentals are flat but investment is growing. Grubb and Ellis don’t say this but the reasons are obvious: plenty of money is looking for safe investments and real estate is considered such; thanks to the Fed, money is cheap if you can obtain credit; construction labor is a buyer’s market; price volatility in fuel and materials is expected to get worse with an overall inflationary trend …… All of which means that if you are at all inclined to speculate in commercial real estate and development, and you can either “go long” or flip properties, doing so “now” is about as good a chance as you expect to see in the coming years. Doesn’t matter if the projects don’t get filled anytime soon for these purposes. That, for the moment, asking rents for R&D / flex are almost double that of other industrial uses…. makes a good pitch to development investors.

    Making Berkeley even sweeter in that regard (for the speculator) is the prospect that a promise of LBNL and Cal as initial tenants may play out as, in effect, a taxpayer subsidy for the real estate speculator. It doesn’t get much better. (Of course, if LBNL hunkers down in Richmond, say … Berkeley’s R&D / flex vacany rate might show some strain as existing Wareham projects are “consolidated” in Richmond.)

    Meanwhile, this notion that if we just build out speculative infrastructure we can somehow expect to “capture spin-offs” from the DOE (LBNL) / Cal complex? That’s the kind of thing Vivek Wadhwa has actually measured against historical reality and, basically, it doesn’t work that way. To the kinds of broad study that he cites and in some cases has been involved with, I think you can also look at the particular technological structure of the industries attracting financing and at the trends in the VC market and quickly conclude that we aren’t about to become the next Mountain View or Emeryville using these strategies.

    “Logistics”: Grubb and Ellis make the obvious (once you see it) observation that fuel price volatility and inflation, when bad enough, can overtake factors like inventory minimization. The consequence is that if fuel prices continue to trend as they have been: we can expect the warehouse / delivery market to pick back up around here. And I’m probably wasting my breath for many (but not all) readers but my own addition to that observation is that the greater the localized transformation capacity for physical goods .. the more economic a logistics infrastructure a region can have (as it can manage to import and stock rawer and more flexible goods, transforming them locally to nimbly adjust to demand changes).

  • Daniel M.

    The astroturf certainly looks lovely this time of year.

  • Zelda Bronstein

    Bruce, your analysis jibes with Wareham’s decision not to move forward on its entitled but controversial biotech project at 940 Heinz. The demand just isn’t there. Whereas, by contrast, as economist Linda Hausrath told the council on February 25, citing her meticulous, multi-volume study on land use and industry on the I-880 and Bayshore Freeway corridors for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the demand for industrial land is growing and the land supply is shrinking–due in large part to speculation and misguided public policy. But data doesn’t seem to count in Berkeley City Hall.

  • Name Withheld

    Wow, these comments are turning into a veritable Who’s Who of posters associated with the Berkeley Daily Planet and people who share Becky O’Malley’s anti-development opinions. I suppose this could just be a charming coincidence, but I’ve never been one to go in for miracles.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but I find it a bit hypocritical for Becky O’Malley and her pals to accuse the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce of “electioneering” when they get the word out about the Open Town Hall and call for a BOYCOTT OF THEIR BUSINESSES and then “coincidentally” get together a couple friends (in the form of folks who have had essays published by the Daily Planet in the past) to have a little back-patting session here.

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2011-02-23/article/37357?headline=Berkeley-Chamber-of-Commerce-is-Electioneering-Again

    If Chamber of Commerce members should be boycotted because for sending out an e-mail informing people about the Open Town Hall (without promoting a specific position) because “they can’t keep their fingers off of local politics,” what should be done about the Berkeley Daily Planet and its advertisers like Mary Lou Van Deventer of Urban Ore? Some sort of mega-boycott?

    The blinding hypocrisy here is a bit much.

  • Zelda Bronstein

    Dear “Name Withheld”: You write: “Wow, these comments are turning into a veritable Who’s Who of posters associated with the Berkeley Daily Planet…” And who might you be? Someone, in any case, who lacks the courage to post his or her name. Believe it or not, I look at and post on Berkeleyside on my own initiative. If you don’t like what you’re reading, then counter it with informed argument instead of a clumsy attempt at a collective, counterfactual smear.

  • http://francesdinkelspiel.com/ Frances Dinkelspiel

    Zelda, I applaud you and others for using your true names while posting comments. It really furthers the discussion. Since it is so easy to set up fake identities, Berkeleyside allows people to comment anonymously. But we would like people to use their real names. Or at least create identifiable on-line identities.

  • Name Withheld

    @ Zelda — Funny, I don’t see you attacking “Bruce Love” for not using his real name. Could that possibly be because you agree with him on the issues? As a Berkeley homeowner my address is public record, and I’m wise enough about politics to know that using my real name won’t ever lead to anything good.

    Despite your ad-hominem attacks about my personal “courage,” I don’t have an opinion on this specific issue one way or the other. If anything, I probably agree that West Berkeley wouldn’t be the best location for a new LBL campus.

    I’m just pointing out the interesting coincidence and asking how the Daily Planet’s call for a boycott of the Chamber of Commerce members for getting involved in local politics should be applied to other businesses & publications (like the Daily Planet) that do the same.

  • http://berkeleydailyplanet.com Becky O’Malley

    For the record, although I make it my business to know most of the well-informed people who are good writers in Berkeley, I didn’t put any of the recent commenters on this particular post up to making these comments.. Berkeleyside’s management and its readers should be grateful, as I expect they are, to anyone who actually takes the time to research a public issue and comment on it. Intelligent controversy increases readership, and since Berkeleyside is probably selling ads based on traffic they’re lucky to have these people writing for them, which they probably know as savvy business people.

    I also enjoy postings by people like Charles Siegel, Alan Tobey and Laura Menard, who have made lengthy contributions to the Planet in the 8 years we’ve been going, even though I often disagree with them, and never tell them what to say. I myself am intensely bored by anonymous postings, even the ones I agree with, which is why the Planet has never given them space.

    The person who hides behind the “Name Withheld” pseudonym (which in itself is a parody) is nothing more than a coward, plain and simple. I just don’t care what cowards think, sorry. No more needs to be said about that.

    By the way, the Planet is no longer a commercial venture–we don’t take ads, so if Name Withheld wants to boycott our non-existent advertisers, go ahead.

    (By the way, we do run the occasional free graphic public service announcement if it’s offered to us by educational or arts organizations, so if anyone wants to send us those we’d be happy to post them for free if they’re sent in a format we can use, preferably .jpg)

  • Name Withheld

    I note that you specify that you haven’t put them up to making these specific comments, but no word as to if you’ve encouraged people you know to post here at Berkeleyside.

    I also note that you fail to comment on the gross hypocrisy of the Daily Planet telling other groups to “keep their fingers out of local politics” even though the Daily Planet goes so far in that direction that local news practically takes a back seat to political commentary.

    I’ve already explained why I use a pseudonym — probably for many of the same reasons that “Bruce Love” does as well — but thank you for continuing to beat the drum in favor of ad hominem attacks. I guess that’s the kind of “well-informed” and “intelligent” discussion you’re talking about.

  • Zelda Bronstein

    Sometimes an ad hominem attack is deserved, and this is one of them.

  • biked

    This has devolved into a jejune spectacle.

    /unsubscribed

  • http://urbanore.com Mary Lou Van Deventer

    Dear Name Withheld: Please turn down your volume. Urban Ore has never advocated boycotting anybody, and it’s okay with me for local enterprises to get involved in politics, as our company does. I serve on the board of the Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA), a 501(c)(6) trade association similar to a Chamber of Commerce. NCRA even engages in lawsuits to stop landfills from expanding. I get the Berkeley Chamber’s notices, and it seems to me the Town Hall discussions are set up in a biased way. I don’t recall Urban Ore or any other of the many opponents of rezoning being invited to speak. I’m proud to be associated with the Daily Planet, and I don’t think Becky is opposed to all development – just bad development that the citizens obviously don’t want. Note that Zelda even proposed that the City make some big-parcel development easier.

  • S Jones

    Already the University is a financial burden on the City (thats according to the UC’s own fiscal impact study, tax revenues dont even begin to cover the free services provided)! In times of fiscal insecurity and uncertainty for the city, a second LBNL campus makes absolutley no sense for West Berkeley. A few years ago LBNL intended to develope 1 million sq ft in Strawberry and Blackberry Canyon and had no intentions of moving off the hillside at all. But due to the advocacy and heroic legal victorys of Save Strawberry Canyon due to the hubris of LBNL and DOE nothing has been built since 2008 (although litigation continues). The Helios building in the downtown was originally intended for the canyon but LBNL got scared because of geotechnical issues (which they still ignore in large part) raised by the community and SSC. Now BP comes to downtown Berkeley because nobody organized despite blatant CEQA violations. West Berkeley you better get organized quick. AAAhhh yes LBNL the elephant in the room……….Berkeley aint Nuclear free…..our watershed is radioactive….neither are we nanoparticle free…I have heard UC Berkeley professors speak of witnessing nanoparticles vented directly out of the molecular foundry. Who can we thank for this? LBNL!!!!! Wake up Berkeley, wake up America we need to stop cutting crooks so much slack

  • Name Withheld

    “Sometimes an ad hominem attack is deserved.” – Zelda Bronstein

    Or to paraphrase, when someone says something you don’t like it’s OK to attack them as a person while ignoring the issue (though it’s deplorable when anyone does the same thing to you.)

    Berkeley Quotable Quote of the Day.

  • Name Withheld

    @ Mary ––– The Open Town Hall about the West Berkley develpment plan that was being referred to in Becky O’Malley’s editorial was an online town hall that was open to the public. No one was asked to speak, and it was an open-invitation that anyone could sign up to participate in. Information about it was sent out by several City Councilmembers, published here on Berkeleyside, and on various blogs. None of the opponents were “asked to speak” because nobody was asked to speak. The site was extremely neutral and allowed anyone with a registered Berkeley mailing address to cast a vote and comment on the subject. As a whole it was a far more “fair” system that the City Council meetings which disenfranchise anyone who is unable to attend the meetings.

    Which development are you referring to when you say “bad development that the citizens obviously don’t want?” Do you have something specific in mind, or is that more of a blanket statement?

  • http://berkeleydailyplanet.com Becky O’Malley

    See the wikipedia entry on “ad hominem”: “An ad hominem (Latin: “to the man”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to link the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of the opponent advocating the premise.[1] The ad hominem is a classic logical fallacy,[2] but it is not always fallacious; in some instances, questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue.”

    For further discussion, see
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem.

  • Name Withheld

    @ Becky O’Malley ––– I get that you’re all about brow-beating anyone you disagree with into submission by any means necessary, but I’m honestly surprised to see you continuing to defend the use of ad hominem attacks while ignoring the questions raised about what appears to be some rather glaring hypocrisy in your recent Editorial.

    I suppose I could point out that you have given no evidence at all as to why my “personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue” in this case. Or I could point out that there’s a vast difference between discussing the issue of personal motives and attacking someone as a “coward.”

    Instead I’ll simply repeat that I am in general agreement with you and your posse that these West Berkeley sites may not be the best locations for a new LBL campus, and leave your defense of ad hominem attacks and refusal to address the questions I raised to speak for themselves.

  • http://berkeleydailyplanet.com Becky O’Malley

    My grandmother always said, “Consider the source.” I consider anonymous opinions from cowards to be much less valuable than signed posts from upright people willing to stand by their opinions. Anonymous opinions are not necessarily wrong because the poster is anonymous, but they’re suspect. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but it’s interesting that on websites which allow phantom posts the number of ill-formed ignorant opinions often correlates with the number of anonymous postings.

  • Name Withheld

    @ Becky O’Malley ––– I may not have your journalistic experience, but I’m not sure that the best way to respond to a post critiquing your defense (and use) of ad hominem attacks and dodging the questions was with ANOTHER post defending (and using) ad hominem attacks and dodging the questions.

    But I do find it interesting that you feel compelled to defend your right to call people “ignorant” and “cowards” if they don’t follow your personal opinions about How To Use The Internet, but you don’t seem to have time to mount a respond to the comments about the hypocritical nature of your recent editorial.

  • T.

    That is correct.

  • T.

    Couldn’t have said it better

  • T.

    Do you realize that the reason the city of Berkeley exists is because of Cal? Without LBNL and the university we’re just another suburb of SF. They are making the world a better place, if you don’t want to be part of that, go live in oakland or san mateo.