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Develop UC Expansion at Richmond Field Station

I have requested that the May 19, City Council meeting agenda include a restatement of the City of Richmond’s endorsement of University of California research facilities at the Richmond Field Station and direction to the City manager to actively pursue this as an outcome, including enlisting help from our Congressional delegation and our California legislative representatives.

On May 6, 2008, the Richmond City Council passed Resolution 47-08 urging the Regents of the University of California to consider siting new research buildings at the Richmond Field Station rather than the environmentally sensitive Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley. The Resolution included the following:

 NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City of Richmond hereby transmits this resolution to the Regents of the University of California requesting non-certification of two Final Environmental Impact Reports: 1) on the proposed 140,000 gross square foot Computational Research and Theory Building and 2) on the proposed 160,000 gross square foot Helios Building to be sited in the upper Strawberry Creek Watershed and Strawberry Canyon areas uphill and to the east of Memorial Stadium until such time as the Richmond Field Station be seriously considered as an alternate site; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the development is not placed on the Coastal Upland Prairie at the site or has any adverse impacts on the prairie and the project is constructed after the site is remediated according to direction by DTSC, and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City of Richmond also requests a Board of Regents meeting in Northern California for consideration of this matter.


Pursuant to its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL, the Lab) plans to expand from 1.65 million gross square feet (gsf) to 2.42 million gsf at its poorly accessed, hillside campus in the Berkeley and Oakland hills.  The plan has already been certified by the UC Regents.


Since Richmond adopted the resolution, a group of Berkeley environmentalists, preservationists, and neighborhood activist have banded together as Save Strawberry Canyon, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, and challenged the legal adequacy of the university’s environmental review.  Litigation has caused a pause, and opened a window of opportunity, to reconsider other locations as an off-site alternative for the Lab’s projected 980,000 gross square feet of growth.  Currently the LRDP is awaiting a decision in an appellate court; the Computational Research and Theory Facility (CRT) is awaiting a decision in a federal court; and the Helios Energy Research and Theory Facility appears to now be looking for a location other than Strawberry Canyon.


Among the alternatives sites considered in the Lab’s long range plan http://www.lbl.gov/Community/LRDP/ was the Richmond Field Station.  The land is owned by the UC Regents and could accommodate as much as 383,380 square of the Lab’s growth. 


Despite many benefits of this location, the Richmond Field Station alternative was rejected as an alternative for some of the Lab’s long term growth.  The Lab argued that research and development buildings need to be in proximity to each other in order to foster important intellectual synergies and in order to accomplish the Lab’s scientific mission.  Save Strawberry Canyon rejects this line of reasoning on the basis that the Lab has research facilities in West Berkeley and Emeryville.  For example, located in West Berkeley is the Berkeley West Biocenter, a multidisciplinary research facility in synthetic biology that is a joint project of the Lab and UC Berkeley; located in Emeryville is the Joint BioEnergy Institute which is a scientific partnership between LBNL, Sandia National Laboratories, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 


Richmond’s role in the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership.  A planning process has already begun to make the East Bay “the Silicon Valley of the green economy,” according to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, and as quoted in the SF Chronicle, 4/8/09. The question remains as to whether Richmond has a vital role in that process.  According to this same article, “Representatives meet periodically, with several participating in ongoing working groups divided according to tasks such as business development, workforce training and research…” Meanwhile, Karen Chappel, a UC Berkeley associate professor of city and regional planning, is studying regional green innovation with a federal grant obtained in conjunction with the green corridor. A map of clean-tech businesses prepared by the Craft Consulting Group (see page 32) can be found at www.links.sfgate.com/ZGOU.


Why Richmond? The UC Regents already own the land. The land is only six miles from the university’s main campus. It is convenient to mass transit being one mile from BART, convenient to freeways, and across the bridge from Marin County and the City of San Francisco.    http://evcp.chance.berkeley.edu/documents/Reports/documents/archived/RFSWorkingPaperNovember2002Final.pdf


Why Richmond and not Berkeley hills? Local objections to the Berkeley location are not based on fears about toxic pollution but rather are based on land use issues.  Objections are community-based and contrast with the city’s position as it appears that city leadership wants continued university expansion in Berkeley. 


The Berkeley hills are at the eastern edge of the city of Berkeley’s border. The area is poorly accessed both for construction vehicles, commute traffic, and also emergency response.  The area has a history of landslide activity, is near a heavily forested area, is at risk of wildfires, and is separated from the rest of Berkeley and emergency responders by the Hayward Fault which runs north-south along the base of the LBNL hill campus.


How would Richmond benefit?


The Richmond shoreline is perhaps the City’s single greatest asset. It holds the potential for both economic value as well as biological, aesthetic, and recreational value.


The shoreline’s economic value has not been reconciled with biological, aesthetic, and recreational value.  These are perceived as competing rather than complementary values. Dramatic development struggles have been the inevitable result. Leadership will inevitably be defined by whoever can break through this impasse. 


Richmond’s location near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and

I-80 makes it convenient and accessible from Marin County and San Francisco as well as Richmond and other cities in the East Bay.

·         Ferry service potential

·         Bicycling along the Bay Trail

·         Proximity of Albany Village and other potential housing.

·         One mile from BART.

·         Six miles from hill campus of UCB and Lawrence Berkeley Lab.


The 162-acre Richmond Field Station is a development opportunity site owned by the University of California.  A 2002 working paper


prepared by UC identified the following development features.


  • Already zoned for industrial use.
  • 90 acres of upland industrially zoned land that is used primarily for research and development and 72 acres of marsh and tidal mudflat. 
  •  Preservation of native Coastal Terrace Prairie grasslands and wetland habitat areas


Development of the Richmond Field Station would attract other research and development businesses to the area and could be an anchor in the “green corridor.”


  • Although UC development does not by itself bring tax revenue, UC development would attract other businesses which would bring tax revenue.
  • A partnership with the University in its efforts to lead the nation in alternative energy research would help Richmond branch out in new directions and identity. 


The University of California considered the Richmond Field Station as one of its sites for long-term growth in scientific research and development.  The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) considered the Richmond Field Station as an off-site alternative.


  • 383,000 square feet of new occupiable building space
  • 390 adjusted daily population
  • 225 new parking spaces


Included in the project objectives for the Lab’s long range plan were to conduct the following types of research: “computational research, information technologies, chemical sciences, materials sciences, physical biosciences, earth sciences, life sciences, accelerator and fusion research, nuclear science, and basic physics.”  Some   of these types of activities would be unsuitable for the RFS site and should remain at the Lab’s hillside campus.


  • These are not smokestack industries.
  • The Helios Energy Research Facility is one of the few proposed projects for which the public has project detail.  The building would house predominantly biofuel research.
  • The Computational Research and Theory Facility is another one of the projects proposed as part of the long range plan.  The building would house computational science research.


A holistic vision that would accomplish the following:


  • Protect natural resources e.g. wetlands restoration and shoreline integrity.
  • Stimulate social, cultural, and economic development.
  • Enhance alternative transit opportunities, including ferry service, BART, bicycles on Bay Trail, etc.
  • Develop in areas already zoned industrial for adaptive reuse
  • Provide incentives to clean up contaminated areas and to use economic stimulus money to do so.