UC Berkeley Chancellor meets with Richmond community about Global Campus

on December 12, 2014

The Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, Nicholas Dirks, traveled to Richmond yesterday to meet with community stakeholders and city officials about the proposed new Global Campus.

Dirks assured Richmond that the economic benefits of the campus would be shared with the community. The project has raised concerns among the Richmond community as well as hopes.

Speaking Thursday at the Richmond field station, which will be the site of the new campus, the Chancellor reassured community stakeholders that his intentions were to involve the local community in the development of the campus and in the decision making process.

“It’s critical that we work together,” he said. “This has to bring prosperity for the community. And if it doesn’t we will have failed.”

Although the Global Campus is still likely years away from groundbreaking, the Chancellor said he was working on partnerships with universities from across the Bay and around the world for its development. These partners could include the University of California San Francisco, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and a Chinese university.

Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay, who also spoke, welcomed the Chancellor’s plan.  “This project is the biggest since the shipyards, we are going to make sure that it takes us to the next 100 years of economic growth.”

Lindsay said the development of the campus has the potential of creating 13,000 jobs for Richmond, 4,070 new housing units, and 145 acres of open space around the campus.

Originally a project of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, the Richmond campus was put on hold this year as the Lab suffered budget cuts from the Department of Energy.

At that point, the University and the Lab had both committed to local goals of hiring, education and training opportunities for the Richmond community.

Before the University took over, community members started pushing the idea of a legally binding agreement, fearing the University, in the long haul, would not hold to its commitments.

This week the Chancellor did not commit to an agreement, saying that anything legal “requires legal people to be there,” but promised to come back two months from now to hear Richmond out. He committed to not signing any development agreement with a contractor before hearing the community’s recommendations.

“We don’t know what he’s going to do yet, but he seems open to hearing about the agreement,” said Aram Hodess, business manager of the Plumbers Union.

“He sounds promising,” said Cristina Hernandez, Executive Director of CCISCO, a local interfaith organization, “he’s becoming more familiarized and involved with our reality.”

But some community members struck a note of skepticism.  “The low income families of Richmond have been promised a lot of things that have never come true,” said Pastor Donnell Jones of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “We just don’t want another one.”

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