Community members turn up the heat on UC Berkeley Chancellor over Richmond Bay Campus

on October 30, 2014

A new report from UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute adds pressure on UC Berkeley’s Chancellor to commit to local goals for the development of the Richmond Bay Campus.

The report, released today, comes a week after a campus rally organized by students, union workers and Richmond community leaders demanded that the Chancellor agree to a legally binding community benefits agreement in the development of the Richmond Bay Campus.

The Richmond Bay Campus – future site of a new campus of UC Berkeley — would spread over the grounds of Richmond’s Field Station in the south of the city. At 133 acres it would be ¾ the size of the present Berkeley campus, and would be Richmond’s largest public investment project since World War II.

The new campus could bring in 2,700 new jobs for construction alone, and stimulate anywhere from $520 to $900 million in spending for construction.

It would also bring millions of dollars in other investments to Richmond such as training and educational programs, with the potential to positively transform Richmond’s economic fortunes and community health.

In April, the University and Richmond community groups signed a non-binding letter of commitment that set out broad terms of community participation.

But after Lawrence Berkeley National Lab money, promised in the spring, fell through, the development of the campus was temporarily stopped and UC Berkeley began looking at other plans for funding.

“We are thinking about funding,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks at an Academic Senate meeting yesterday. “There are challenges ahead to say the least.”

This has caused some Richmond residents to worry that the promises made to them back in April will not become a reality.

“There’s going to be people from all parts of the world coming to this campus and we’re going to get pushed out,” warned Richmond resident Melvin Willis. “It’s unfair that that’s even a possibility.”

“We have been requesting a legally binding agreement,” said Claudia Jimenez, a Richmond community leader. “If you are committed but you don’t have a legally binding agreement, you’re not accountable,” she said.

Dan Mogulof, spokesman for the University Chancellor said that a binding agreement was “hypothetical at this point.”

The Haas report, which was created in close collaboration with Richmond community members, lays out strategies for the UC Berkeley Chancellor to commit to that would ensure that Richmond residents benefit from the job creation and millions in spending the new campus will bring.

The report takes a critical stance on university-community relations, saying that universities (referred to in the report as “anchors” ) often lack transparency and ultimately do not invest in local communities. “Anchors typically pursue a self-interested path and traditionally have not been attuned to community needs,” the report says.

Chancellor Dirks presents a "new vision" for the Berkeley campus in Richmond (Photo by Alice Kantor)

Chancellor Dirks presents a “new vision” for the Berkeley campus in Richmond (Photo by Alice Kantor)

 

At yesterday’s Academic Senate meeting, Chancellor Dirks described a larger “new vision” for the campus.

Calling it a “Berkeley Global Campus” the Chancellor said it will be an “international hub” attracting a wide range of students and scholars from universities and research institutes around the world to conduct collaborative work.

The Chancellor said that UC Berkeley is still committed to local development in Richmond but he did not add anything new to the promises made in April.

At the Friday rally a few dozen protesters demanded the University sign a binding agreement. Holding up “Respect Richmond” signs in front of the Chancellor’s office, they worried that the Richmond campus would turn into “an island of opportunity” that excluded the community.

Berkeley students lead an action to "Respect Richmond" (courtesy photo from the Daily Cal)

Berkeley students lead an action to “Respect Richmond” (courtesy photo from the Daily Cal)

 

“People have real interest in jobs,” said Don Woodrow, President of the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council. “We want to get as many benefits as possible.” Richmond has a poverty rate of about 20%.

At the Academic Senate meeting, Chancellor Dirks said there were currently no funds for the development of the campus and that they might be looking at a third party developer that would not ask for upfront capital.

“We’re hoping they have more transparency,” said Jimenez. “We think they have more information that they’re not telling us,” she said.

Mogulof said a working group of university officials and Richmond community leaders convened by the University should first discuss their concerns there.

Mogulof also said that an agreement was premature, as Richmond residents might be divided about the issue. “There may be some difference of opinions,” he said.

Community members of Richmond say they have been requesting a meeting with the Chancellor since he first committed to the Richmond Bay Campus in April.

Mogulof said a meeting has been scheduled for late November or early December. But neither Claudia Jimenez nor Tamisha Walker, the leaders of the two major Richmond community organizations involved in the discussion, are aware of such a meeting.

In a letter yesterday to the Mayor and the City Council, Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay said it was clear that the Chancellor’s office remains committed to the Richmond community as well as to “local opportunities in education, hiring, procurement, and workforce training.” Lindsay, who is a member of the working group, said he will provide updates when specific recommendations are made.

About the Report:

The Haas Institute Report, entitled ‘Anchor Richmond’ analyzes the socioeconomic landscape of Richmond and cites successful examples of university-community agreements that the UC Berkeley could imitate to become an “anchor” institution.

The University of Pennsylvania and West Philadelphia

The University of Pennsylvania set goals to increase its purchases from local businesses. The program has been growing since 1986 and averaged over $210 million in local purchasing between 2008 and 2012.

University of California, San Francisco and Mission Bay

The University set local hiring goals for the construction of its $1.5 billion Medical Center in the Mission Bay district in San Francisco. They plan to increase local hiring every year.

University Hospitals and Evergreen Cooperatives

University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio, helped create three worker-owned green cooperatives, that today have over 80 worker-owners.

 

Recommendations contained in the report for the University of California, Berkeley include local hiring, inclusion of disadvantaged local businesses, funding of low-income housing programs, increased learning opportunities for high schools and a contract with a non-profit development entity to be the developer of the Campus.

 

 

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