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LBNL community members support Richmond

on November 11, 2011

Although Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory representatives didn’t reveal the lab’s preference for a new location at Thursday night’s Community Advisory Group meeting, community members once again strongly supported Richmond as the site for the second LBNL campus.

The meeting was the final update for the community on the site’s selection before the decision, which is expected by the end of November. Sam Chapman, the manager of state and community relations at LBNL, said in a brief presentation that the lab is “in about the same place as last meeting.”

Most community members at the meeting were Berkeley residents, and they supported selecting Richmond as the new site. Carole Schemmerling of the East Bay Urban Creeks Council said, “The only site that seems feasible is Richmond.” As a Berkeley resident, Schemmerling said she strongly opposed West Berkeley, one of the six finalist sites, because of the opposition of local community.

Phil Price, a staff scientist at LBNL, also said “Richmond looks great” as the new campus. He encouraged the lab to leave “positive footprints” whichever site it chooses, and he said every aspect of the potential environmental impacts, such as the living condition of birds, should be considered.

“Even in Richmond, we are talking about the birds,” Price said.

Richmond has courted the lab with receptions, postcards and banners since May, when the city was listed as one of the finalists.

The city already hosts UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station, and Councilmember Jeff Ritterman, a regular presence at the LBNL meetings, said the RFS would be the perfect place to bring researchers together.

The city expects numerous job opportunities to come with LBNL. Shasa Curl, senior development manager at Richmond City Manager’s office, said that the lab would also attract some companies to relocate their facilities to Richmond.

But Christopher Adams, a CAG member and retired planner and architect, said the lab’s impact on local economics should not be overemphasized. He said the new campus’ economic impact would be more at a regional level than at a local level, so the local economic issue should be “taken off the table” when deciding on the new site.

Adams assessed the six finalists with his own algorithm and gave Golden Gate Fields, Richmond and Emeryville the highest review.

Richmond’s communities have united to woo the lab, and the newest action was an online signup on the city government’s website.

“It is really nice to have the community supporting this project,” Curl said of Richmond. To have the community come together to support the site itself is a great process, she said, and “it can lead better opportunities for the community.”

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