Federal cuts slow Berkeley Laboratory’s proposed Richmond biosciences campus

A definitive construction timeline for the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s proposed Richmond biosciences campus still remains unclear, but lab officials assured the City Council Tuesday night the project is still moving forward.

Funding that would consolidate the lab’s three bioscience facilities was sidelined by federal sequestration cuts, officials said at Tuesday’s meeting. That spells delays for the project. Officials also announced U.C. Berkeley is now the lead institution to develop the Richmond Bay Campus.

Plans originally included a 2015 groundbreaking for the $130 million development. Now, that date is questionable.

“It does not in any way reduce our commitment to the site,” said Glenn Kubiak, the lab’s chief operating officer. “Our longer term space constraints still exist… and we’re looking to the Richmond Bay Campus as a solution.”

Officials are working to draft an environment impact report and hope to take the proposal to the UC Board of Regents for approval in May 2014.

“Our future really only involves two sites–hill site at Berkeley and the Richmond Bay Campus,” Kubiak said. “With a project of any duration like this, you are going to have some bumps along the road.”

Several council members questioned lab officials on a specific construction timeline. Council members reiterated their concerns about jobs for Richmond residents and the vulnerability of residents to possible rising rental rates and property taxes near the proposed site.

The University of California Richmond Field Station was selected last year after a competitive process that included several Bay Area cities. The proposal for the 100- acre site is a major boost for the city’s economy could make Richmond an epicenter for bioscience, health and energy research.

“We as a city need to advocate for this project,” City Manager Bill Lindsay said.

“It benefits the regional economy in terms of job development and job growth. It’s a real game changer. This is an important project from a national, regional and local perspective.”

3 Comments

  1. After Tuesday’s embarrassment of a progress report from the LBNL people I wouldn’t be the least surprised if they approached Alameda the very next morning asking if their offer was still valid.

    Anyone familiar with a development project knows that the first thing you need to do is get approval for the concept and the second is to get approval for the financing–neither of which has happened with this project.

    What you don’t do is automatically jump to step #869 and demand to know what color they’re going to paint the bathroom walls.

    This is akin to most of the numerous questions and comments from three of the members of our Council on Tuesday night when the were demanding answers to questions that would naturally come much later in the process.

    Even worse, one after the other would criticize the previous speaker either for the length of speaking time or the types of questions and they would then repeat the whole process themselves by speaking at length and asking questions about a part of the process that would naturally come much farther down the line.

    Here’s a hint for you, Councilmembers: just because you get to sit on the dais, doesn’t mean that you have to leave your intelligence and your common sense at home. [Please note that I’m being gracious by suggesting that these elected/appointed representatives actually have some intelligence and common sense.]

    Talk to people beforehand, do your homework and come prepared. Understand the process and know what’s important to discuss at the meeting and what to discuss one-on-one.

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