Residents urge Berkeley lab to consider impacts of Richmond campus

A packed house at Miracle Temple Church. Residents bowed their heads in prayer at the end of a meeting about the impacts and possibilities of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab's proposed Richmond Bay Campus. (Photo by: Sukey Lewis)

A packed house at Miracle Temple Church. Residents bowed their heads in prayer at the end of a meeting about the impacts and possibilities of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab's proposed Richmond Bay Campus. (Photo by: Sukey Lewis)

Richmond residents, unions, and community groups are keeping a close eye on the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and its plans for a Richmond Bay Campus: a development that is projected to take shape over the next four decades.

Miracle Temple Church on Cutting Blvd. was packed Thursday night with residents who showed up to hear about the possibilities this project will bring to the city. But they also voiced concerns about housing costs, environmental impact and displacement.

The proposed campus, which is estimated to be about three-fourths the size of the current U.C. Berkeley campus and cost over $1 billion in construction, has the potential to bring hundreds of jobs and millions of investment dollars into the city, according to the presentations by Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO) —the community groups who hosted last night’s meeting.

“We have to make sure all of us as a community build along with this development,” said Edith Pastrano of ACCE.

Richmond was selected as the new site for the lab last year, and these groups have been meeting with representatives from the lab and the university to demand that the local impacts be fully considered.

Despite federal sequestration cuts, which called the proposed 2015 groundbreaking into question last October, Richmond community leaders have pushed forward to create a community partnership working group with the lab and the university.  The group aims to create a legally binding agreement, which would include local hiring and investment requirements.

In April, U.C. Berkley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab crafted a joint statement of commitment pledging support for Richmond education, employment and workforce training.

They also resolved to set up a community partnership fund, which Julie Sinai, director of local government and community relations for U.C. Berkeley, said would be seeded with $50,000 from the university and $50,000 from the lab.

“This partnership agreement will continue to evolve,” said Sinai.

However, speakers at the meeting stressed the importance of continued community involvement and input. Tia Josia from CCISCO laid out the worst-case scenario for residents “if we don’t act, and if we don’t take part.” Her concerns included displacement and rising housing costs.

“Look at the problem in San Francisco,” she said, referring to sky-high rents and gentrification. “We want them [the lab and the university] to care about the people here in Richmond.”

Josia also said that CCISCO is pushing for a percentage of construction jobs to be targeted locally to disadvantaged workers including veterans, formerly incarcerated people, youth and the elderly.

Speaking about the educational challenges young people face, ninth-grader Anita Mora from Richmond High, said, “This campus might give me more opportunities in life…. One day I might work in this beautiful lab.”

Berkeley student Caitlin Quinn offered support from students at the university, saying it should be part of the university’s mission to lift up the communities around it.

Tamisha Walker of the Safe Return Project—a community organization that supports individuals returning from incarceration—led the call to action for the community, encouraging residents to get involved, attend meetings and let their voices be heard.

“We need to start showing up, showing out for opportunities for our community,” she said.

Walker led the crowed in a chant. “Access and inclusion!” they said, followed by cheers and clapping.

In the final moments of the town hall meeting, Rev. Craig Scott voiced a prayer for the lab and the community proposals. More than two hundred residents held hands and bowed their heads.

“This has the potential to be truly, truly transformative for this community…. May it be so. Blessed be, and amen,” he said.

4 Comments

  1. Chris Darling

    The article says, “But they also voiced concerns about housing costs, environmental impact and displacement” While it then explores further the questions of housing cost and displacement, there is not a word about environmental impact. Why was that question left out of the article? I live very close to the proposed Lab site. Cutting edge research can bring a lot of good, but if not approached with caution it can also lead to a lot of problems. I urge Richmond Confidential to look further into the environmental impact of the development at the Lab.

  2. Roberta Smith

    Dear Chris Darling,
    I was at the meeting and I don’t remember the subject of the environment being raised. Perhaps someone in the audience might have raised that topic, but only people on the pre-planned agenda were allowed to speak. Although the meeting ended an hour early, there was no Q and A time allowed for inquiring minds. Not sure why since the audience was invited to give their input, I guess, just…not that day.

  3. Daniel

    That whole “formerly incarcerated” hiring thing sounds like a really bad idea. Do they mean to say that if two candidates for a job seem more or less equally qualified, they’re going to show preference for the one who has gone to jail over the one who has not?

    Is it not intuitively obvious how stupid that approach would be?

  4. Michael47

    Richmond has a long, long, history of shooting itself in the foot over new development. The City has scared away and limited investment, jobs, businesses by social, political, and economic demands.
    How many business startups have happened in Richmond ( like Pixar), that get successful—and as soon as they do—leave Richmond. Take the jobs, the income elsewhere.

    Here we have a huge development, a major investment that will change Richmond from a ‘twisted sister city’ to a major academic and research center—-and Richmond Residents are already lining up to resist it, to make impossible demands, restrictions on development, hiring, contracting, jobs.

    From a great, booming city in 1945 to a slum city in 1985, to what in 2025?

    If all of us now jump into limits and restrictions, before even commitment money happens, before we even know the extent of development, of direction, before even the University and the Federal Government can estimate the arrival of funding—-how can anything happen? How can we expect people to risk this kind of investment and have it tied up for 20 years in the Courts?

    Would you take that risk? Would you risk 20 million dollars on whether or not 150 previously incarcerated people would be employed? Or that 400 new houses would be built in the Iron Triangle? Or that political unrest would occur because some numerical racial quota or economic payscale for quadraplegics was not acceptable? Because there wasn’t enough guys with beards on some “Advisory Board”?

    Get Real. Get Richmond. Like the 13 year old girl said about promises and performance, ” Show me the money”.

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