Letters for December 9 

Readers sound off on Marcel Diallo, PG&E, and the milk industry.

Page 6 of 8

I urge Gammon and anyone else interested to visit and hear the story from the Bottoms. Don't just take Allstadt's — or anyone's — words for granted and become an unwitting loudspeaker for the forces of gentrification.

Jane Wardani, Berkeley

"Activists Try to Block Green Tech in Berkeley," Eco Watch, 11/11

Green Tech and Green Collar

Robert Gammon's factually challenged hit piece disguised as a news article and spiced with personal attack may move newspapers, but environmental sustainability, the viability of our local production economy, and the ethnic and economic diversity of our cities deserve better.

The author attempts through misrepresentation and stereotype to delegitimize the West Berkeley Artisans & Industrial Companies (WEBAIC) and the area's residents, falsely characterize West Berkeley as "slowly decaying," and portray WEBAIC's position on green tech as opposite to what it is.

Far from the author's implication that the West Berkeley Artisans & Industrial Companies is one person's "group," WEBAIC is comprised of over 70 local enterprises employing approximately 1,000 people, from one-person art/craft studios to manufacturers with 250 employees. Along with art/craft and manufacturing, WEBAIC consists of warehousing and wholesale trade, R & D lab, industrial and construction supply, green tech, recycling/reuse, food processing, auto repair, construction contracting, and printing businesses. Had he listened to public testimony at the November 4 meeting, the author would have heard representatives of Meyer Sound, George M. Martin Co, Urban Ore, the Ecology Center, and many other West Berkeley businesses articulate a rational land use policy that retains the local production economy while facilitating more space for green tech. The over 320 industrial PDR (production, distribution, repair) companies in West Berkeley employing upwards of 7,500 people in living-wage jobs and the over 225 art and craft studios with 800-plus people working there all depend upon affordable, industrially zoned space. It's part of WEBAIC's mission to ensure this space.

As to Mr. Gammon's fiction of West Berkeley as "slowly decaying," commercial broker C.B. Richard Ellis' 3rd quarter 09 Report shows West Berkeley with the East Bay's highest industrial rents and lowest industrial vacancies (3 percent). UC Professor Karen Chapple's report on the West Berkeley economy shows total employment stable from 1990-2005. West Berkeley is a vital urban ecosystem built on an extensive network supply chain where parts move in multiple steps from basic formulation in machine shop or lab to manufacturer to finisher to warehouse/distributor to finished product used by local business, and ultimately back to a recycler/reuser. In three years 20 new industrial and artisan business have located within three blocks of this writing. Decaying? Hardly.

Had Mr. Gammon contacted WEBAIC, he would have found his claim that our position is "no green tech in my neighborhood" and "block green tech" to be simply untrue. WEBAIC's proposal to easily permit subdivision of large spaces for such uses was just approved by the Planning Commission. In position papers and meetings WEBAIC has consistently SUPPORTED the robust location of green tech in West Berkeley, specifically UC spin-offs. WEBAIC believes Berkeley is in the fortunate position to be able to both provide space for green tech R & D (though opening up industrial protections to these uses on 1,200,000 square feet of space on six large sites targeted for green tech by the City and streamlining the allowed conversion of 25 percent of remaining protected space — 1,850,000 square feet) while at the same time assuring the continued viability of industry and arts by maintaining protections on most of their space. Add this 3,050,000 square feet to the 3,500,000 square feet of existing non-protected space and 6,550,000 square feet is revealed as potentially available for green tech, or over 60% of all West Berkeley space.

The West Berkeley Plan, (the area's guiding policy document) recognizes that minus such a balanced protection policy, the more highly capitalized R & D uses would displace industry and art, sectors the Plan specifically protects to fulfill its goals of maintaining the city's economic and ethnic diversity, largely through providing "good jobs, particularly to people without advanced education."

The author's silence on green-collar jobs is instructive. Green-collar work contributes not only to environmental sustainability but also to societal equity. WEBAIC's green-collar enterprises/workers fulfill Berkeley General Plan goals to "increase social and economic equity in land-use decisions" and our mission includes assuring their viability. West Berkeley's industrial zones are the only Berkeley area providing significant numbers of living-wage jobs for people without college, a large percentage being filled by people of color. Green tech fulfills neither of these functions, thus the need for balance.

Professor Raquel Pinderhughes' city-commissioned Green Collar Job study details the disparity of "the two Berkeleys": "Economic, educational, and racial/ethnic inequalities are profound in Berkeley. The situation for low-income black and Latino residents is ... severe in West and South Berkeley. Black median family income is 41 percent of white family income, ... Latino and Asian ... about 50%; black unemployment is 3.22 times white unemployment, Latino 1.88 times, and Asian 1.67 times. Providing low-income residents with ... living wage jobs is ... critical ... toward alleviating poverty, unemployment, and racial inequality. Cultivation of green-collar jobs for men and women with barriers to employment provide ... benefits of green economic development to low-income residents and communities."

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