Bigger And Better

City Affairs: The West Berkeley Project would lead to a stronger city economy and a better overall climate for local businesses.

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In a time of high unemployment and economic struggle, it seems only logical for a city to do everything it can to make itself more attractive to future development.

The West Berkeley Project, a culmination of over three years of study by the Planning Commission, would step in that direction. It increases the allowable uses of industrial districts, clarifies the current Zoning Ordinance and simplifies the Master Use Permit process.

This proposal has multiple benefits for the city, both for current occupants and future tenants. Conditions for granting permits would require new tenants to directly benefit the community, such as by providing a new source of job-training programs or alternative-transportation-friendly development. In exchange, height limits would be lifted and zone restrictions would be relaxed.

New development would also revitalize the city's economy. While we strongly support small businesses, they alone cannot carry the entire city. Currently, as anyone who sees the multiple empty storefronts and "For Rent" signs around campus can attest, small businesses are having trouble surviving.

This city could definitely use the jump-start that a large employer such as the second Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory campus would provide. However, with the lab considering Alameda and Richmond as alternative locations, the city must move quickly to ensure it has the most compelling bid.

Currently, the lab is the city's second largest employer. Even those who oppose this project must respect Berkeley Economic Development Director Michael Caplan's warning that the city is currently failing to fully capitalize its resources. Many technicians are leavingthe city to start new research projects elsewhere, and Mayor Tom Bates is correct in calling for a stop to this hemorrhage.

Economic revitalization requires that a city become more hospitable to existing businesses and more appealing to future development, and the West Berkeley Project does both while protecting the unique pre-existing community. We urge the city council to approve it, and we look forward to the area's exciting future.

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