Albany City Council raises concerns about site for Berkeley Lab’s second campus

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s second campus may not find its home in Albany after a recent City Council meeting where community members raised concerns about the lack of information surrounding the project.

The prospective site in Albany — Golden Gate Fields  — is one of six final sites for the second campus. The chief concern raised at the meeting was the lack of information being provided by the Stronach Group, the project developer, about several aspects of the project, said Councilmember Peggy Thomsen in an email.

Thomsen said in the email that she is a strong supporter of research and development and that she is going to keep an open mind in regard to the project, but the community still needs information regarding the “revenue replacement for the city and school district; land ownership; open space, and building locations and heights, which the group has yet to clearly provide.”

In response, the City Council is asking the developers to postpone their final presentation to the Berkeley Lab administration for five to six months so that the council could assemble a task force to acquire more needed information, she added. The lab administration is planning to make a final decision on a preferred site in late November, raising questions about how Albany will fit in to the lab’s final decision.

Lab officials are questioning the viability of another site — Alameda Point, located on a former U.S. naval base — due to projected climate changes. A projected rise in sea level has concerned lab officials because a second campus located so close to shore may be prone to flooding.

In spite of these concerns, Alameda councilmembers continued to push for site approval at a Tuesday meeting and voted unanimously to make amendments to the current infrastructural design of the proposed campus to accommodate changes in the climate.

The other sites that the lab is considering are Berkeley Aquatic Park West, Oakland’s Brooklyn Basin, properties already occupied by the lab in Emeryville and Berkeley and Richmond Field Station, which is already owned by the University of California.

The main purpose of erecting a second Berkeley Lab campus is to consolidate existing off-campus lab facilities, where 20 percent of lab employees work, including the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville, the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek and the lab’s life science facilities in Berkeley.