Richmond rally, march demands community benefits agreement from Berkeley Global Campus

Kore Chan/Senior Staff

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RICHMOND — About 200 protesters rallied in front of Richmond City Hall on Thursday night to raise support for a binding agreement to assuage residents’ concerns about construction of the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay.

Protesters demanded that the University of California sign a community benefits agreement that would seek to ensure jobs for local workers and prevent rent increases in a neighborhood that, according to the campus’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, is already showing early signs of gentrification. Organized by the local coalition Raise Up Richmond and made up of community activists, residents and Berkeley students, the group later chanted and marched peacefully through Richmond.

Announced in October, the Berkeley Global Campus is intended to be an “international institution of higher learning and research,” according an open letter to the Richmond community released by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on May 28. There are currently no firm financing or construction plans for the building.

“If this project goes forward and the community does not benefit, we’re not going to be able to fix that problem six years from now,” said Richmond City Councilmember Jael Myrick at the rally.

Dirks’ letter addressed the university’s stated commitments regarding the project, which include requiring that workers be paid prevailing state wages and that contractors make a “good faith” effort to hire local workers. In addition, the campus will address concerns about the project’s potential effect on affordable housing with “binding commitments and with action,” the letter said.

“It is encouraging to see that there is growing awareness of the university’s long-standing commitment to signing binding agreements that will ensure Richmond benefits from the development,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof in an email.

While some speakers at the event expressed the idea that the open letter was a step in the right direction, they said it was not enough to guarantee all of their desired protections for Richmond.

“I would like UC Berkeley to be more involved with lower-income communities,” said Enedina Mendoza, a Richmond resident and member of the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization. “We do want them here, and they benefit from being here, so all we want is to benefit as well.”

In letters addressed to Dirks and signed by protesters, members of Raise Up Richmond asked to meet with him by July 30 to engage directly and work as partners moving forward.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ayoonhendricks.