music in the park san jose

.Activists Try to Block Green Tech in Berkeley

West Berkeley activists are dead set against the mayor's "green corridor" vision, saying it will cause gentrification, too much density, and high rents.

music in the park san jose

Fifty years from now, after the polar ice caps melt and West
Berkeley is under water, people might look back on 2009 and say, “What
the hell were they thinking?” Why were old hippies in what could be the
most liberal city in America working overtime to block the widespread
proliferation of green-tech businesses and dense urban development in
West Berkeley?

Indeed, the scene at a four-hour-long Berkeley Planning Commission
meeting last week was striking — a gaggle of fifty- and
sixty-something activists railing against Mayor Tom Bates’ vision to
turn West Berkeley into a green-tech corridor. It was as if they were
stuck in a time warp, convinced that all developers and corporations
are just greedy bastards who must be stopped — even if those very
same developers and businesses might actually help ward off the
greatest environmental disaster ever known.

The hypocrisy was equally startling. People who for years have
derided suburbanites for living in tract homes, driving SUVs, and
eating fast food were now arguing for policies that would block
green-tech and dense development in their city and thus help spur more
suburban sprawl, longer commutes, and increased greenhouse gas
emissions. And then there was the insufferable self-righteousness, the
ridiculing and the heckling of anyone who disagreed with them, and the
loud ovations for those who espoused their views.

In the end, however, it was really all about NIMBYism — and
me-first economics. The activists are convinced that Bates’ vision, and
that of a majority of the city council, will lead to gentrification,
overcrowding, and high rents in their neighborhoods. “We do not want to
see radical changes,” said one apparent former radical. “West Berkeley
is a remarkable place to live,” added another, waxing romantically
about a once-bustling hub of warehouses and industrial manufacturing
that has been slowing decaying for decades. “To destroy that is to
destroy something very important to the city.”

The pied piper of the no-green-tech-in-my-neighborhood coalition was
longtime West Berkeley activist Rick Auerbach. His organization, West
Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies, argues that a proliferation
of green-tech businesses would squeeze everyone else out. They’re
particularly worried about spinoff companies from UC Berkeley and
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that have been scoring large
grants from the Obama administration to help solve the global warming
crisis. “We can’t compete with people who get grants of five million
bucks,” the ponytailed Auerbach said flatly at one point during the
meeting.

Auerbach and his group want to limit green-tech businesses involved
in research and development to about six or so large sites along the
city’s waterfront. They’re also determined to maintain the city’s
zoning tradition of “protected uses,” which severely restricts what can
be developed in West Berkeley to closely mirror what was there
before.

They also want to restrict any business involved in “product
development” on the grounds that they’re not actually manufacturing
anything yet and thus shouldn’t be located in a longtime industrial and
warehouse district. And they want to limit building heights in West
Berkeley to 45 feet. In short, Auerbach’s group believes development
will lead to higher rents; and while that’s probably true, how else can
Berkeley nurture green-tech industry?

Developers and commercial property owners argue that the
restrictions advocated by Auerbach’s group also will result in the
status quo. They say the dizzying labyrinth of Berkeley zoning
restrictions already makes development nearly impossible in the city’s
waterfront industrial zone. And they contend that severely limiting
green-tech research and development will prompt the spinoffs from UC
Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley Lab to go elsewhere. As a result, they
could end up in the suburbs, thereby making geen-tech less green.

They also argue that for Berkeley to ever attain the ambitious goals
contained in its historic Climate Action Plan, people must live near
where they work, and that West Berkeley provides a unique opportunity
to combine green-tech businesses with urban housing development. “It’s
about having a dense community,” said Michael Goldin, a commercial
property owner in West Berkeley, during an interview outside the
meeting.

So far, the Berkeley planning staff, acting on instructions from the
mayor and city council, is mostly coming down on the side of developers
and commercial property owners. They’re proposing to open up much of
West Berkeley to green-tech business, relax zoning restrictions that
could pave the way for dense housing development, and allow buildings
of up to 75 feet in height on transit corridors. And they appear
determined to make sure that university and lab-related businesses stay
in Berkeley. “Our greatest economic strength,” said Michael Caplan, the
city’s economic development director, “is retaining and growing the
emerging green-tech economy.”

The West Berkeley green-tech corridor plan is scheduled to go to the
city council early next year.

EBMUD Lessens Chance of Dam

A deeply divided East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of
Directors has decided to plan for 15 percent water rationing during
future droughts, a move that lessens the need for a controversial new
dam on the Mokelumne River. “It strengthens the argument that we don’t
need to construct” the dam, said board member Andy Katz, a staunch
opponent of the dam proposal who represents Berkeley and North
Oakland.

Along with Katz, board members Doug Linney, Lesa McIntosh, and Frank
Mellon voted for the 15 percent water rationing plan during a board
meeting late last month. Board members John Coleman, Katy Foulkes, and
William Patterson voted “no.” They had supported a 10 percent rationing
plan that would have made the dam project more likely. The 15 percent
rationing plan could save the agency about 32 million gallons of water
a day during drought years, although the board has yet to decide
exactly how it will implement the proposal.

In early October, the board voted 4-2 to move forward with 10
percent rationing, but, as Eco Watch previously reported, it appeared
as if the board could have passed the 15 percent standard because four
board members expressed support for it. After environmentalists voiced
disappointment about the outcome, Katz and Linney, who is the board
president, decided to bring the issue back to the board for another
vote.

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