Bay Area Cities Vie for a Second Lawrence Berkeley Lab Campus; A Critic Speaks Out

By Lisa Pickoff-White and Kelly Wilkinson

Albany city officials made their pitch Wednesday night to host the second campus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (Click here for Berkeleyside’s live-blog of that meeting.) The laboratory has outgrown its main campus in Berkeley and is looking to grow.

Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland and Richmond were chosen as finalists to house the new lab out of 21 Bay Area cities that applied.

The competition is fierce because the second campus will generate jobs and investments for years to come, says Karen Engle who directs the East Bay Economic Development Association. Alameda is even offering the lab free land.

“Not only [are they competing] for the lab itself but for companies that are either spinning out of science at the lab or companies that want to co-locate with the lab and share scientific resources or people,” Engle said.

Lawrence Berkeley officials say they want a site that is close to public transit and that doesn’t require any environmental cleanup.

Berkeley makes its pitch Thursday and Emeryville has its turn on Monday. A decision on a new location is expected by November.

In Berkeley, natch, not everyone is on board with the plan. Berkeleyside has a good report up that addresses the double-edged sword a second Lawrence Lab location might bring to a community.

“The focus on the Lab’s accomplishments is a great marketing tool – but it may also reflect recognition that building a second campus will have tradeoffs for whichever community hosts it. Since the Lab is a government institution, it won’t pay property taxes or have to comply with local zoning ordinances.”

KQED News intern Nick Fountain today spoke to Zelda Bronstein, a former member of the Berkeley Planning Commission who opposes the Berkeley bid. He asked her what a second location would bring to the city.

“A lot of traffic,” Bronstein said. “It would inflate property values in West Berkeley, which are already inflated. It would accelerate the deterioration of the city’s substantial industrial sector, 300 businesses, 6,000-7,000 employees, and 1,000 artists, all of whom need affordable space.”

But what about new jobs?

“It won’t bring any new jobs at first…it’s going to consolidate existing facilities of the lab. There will be no new jobs at least until 2016 when the second campus, wherever it’s built, will be completed,” said Bronstein.

Listen to the interview here:

:http://ww2.kqed.org/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2011/08/00094ac4.mp3|titles=00094ac4

You can read Bronstein’s expanded take on the matter in this July 27 article in the Berkeley Daily Planet.

For an opposing viewpoint, this promotional video touting the proposed Aquatic Park site in Berkeley:

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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