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  City Manager's Update on Richmond Bay Campus Project
September 19, 2013

Mayor and Members of the City Council:
This email is to provide you with some information regarding the Richmond Bay Campus project in the context of the recent San Francisco Chronicle Matier and Ross column (http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Berkeley-lab-s-contract-loss-threatens-Richmond-4816913.php).  As you may recall, the column stated that the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab “has just lost out on a highly coveted, $1.5 billion contract to build the world's most sophisticated super X-ray microscope - and that could spell trouble for the lab's planned expansion to a second campus in Richmond.”  Both prior to and after the column appeared in the Chronicle, I had several conversations with both UC Berkeley and LBNL staff, and attended our regular, twice-monthly meeting with the project team from these organizations.  I have summarized below, without specific attribution, the substance of our conversations, and have added my own observations regarding the project status.

  • LBNL officials have told me very directly that they remain committed to the project and that the Department of Energy is not “pulling the plug.”  The microscope project referenced in the column is not part of the Richmond Bay Campus development, which will focus on “different science,” although the decision to locate the microscope project elsewhere does change development plans on their Berkeley campus.  LBNL officials acknowledged that the current funding environment at the federal level is a difficult one, but reiterated that they remain very happy with their selection of Richmond as the preferred location of their second campus.  They explained that their future development is, and has always been, on both the Berkeley hills site and the Richmond site.
  • From my perspective, the Richmond location should still be an important part of the LBNL development plans.  The Berkeley hills location of the existing LBNL campus is constrained, and is a difficult location for which to obtain project entitlements and on which to build.  A well-designed, new Richmond Bay Campus can offer a welcome opportunity for expansion of LBNL’s science facilities, and UC Berkeley and LBNL are actively working on a plan for such a campus.


  • University of California, Berkeley, officials have stated that they also remain committed to the project and point out that they are still actively working to secure the project entitlements.  They are working to finalize both their Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) and their Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  The LRDP has been released in draft form for comment, and the draft EIR is scheduled to be released for public comment in October.  The current schedule provides for the UC Board of Regents to approve the LRDP and to certify the EIR in May 2014 (it had been scheduled for March 2014, so this is a bit delayed).  It should be noted, however, that the EIR will be a program EIR for the entire Richmond Bay Campus, without a specific project (i.e., phase 1) analyzed within that scope.
  • UC Berkeley has also, just recently, hired a development project manager, who has extensive experience working on the Mission Bay project in San Francisco, and, in particular, experience working on blended, collaborative financing of major projects.  This is another strong indication of UC Berkeley’s long term interest and approach to development of the campus.


  • My observation is that, while the project was always described as, and development proposals were solicited for, the “LBNL second campus,” it has truly become the Richmond Bay Campus development of UC Berkeley, with LBNL as an anchor tenant.  During the past two years, UC Berkeley has become very active in planning for its own use of the facility, and has organized around this development plan.  It is very helpful to the project to have UC Berkeley actively interested in the vision for the Richmond Bay Campus.  It should also be noted that the amount of square feet contemplated in the LRDP far exceeds what would be the long term needs for LBNL, meaning that, at build out, the area will need occupancy by UC Berkeley and/or other tenants – not just LBNL. 

In sum, both LBNL and UC Berkeley officials have downplayed the importance of the Department of Energy’s decision to not award the microscope project to LBNL.  They are still working on Richmond Bay Campus project entitlements despite a very difficult federal funding environment, and have indicated that this new campus remains an important part of their long-term plans.
The interest that this recent news has garnered, however, does illustrate how important it is, and will remain, to make certain that federal and state officials understand the importance of the Richmond Bay Campus to the community’s economic development, and to continue to advocate for funding for this project.    
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or require any additional information.


Bill Lindsay


Bill Lindsay
City Manager
City of Richmond
450 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, California 94804
(510) 620-6512