Berkeley Global Campus working group talks community benefits for Richmond

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A community working group continued an ongoing conversation with Richmond residents Thursday, discussing community benefit recommendations for the controversial Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay.

The recommendations, once finalized, will be sent to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in November. The recommendations, including stipulations about hiring Richmond construction workers and supporting educational programs, will be the basis for the draft community agreement between UC Berkeley and the city of Richmond after receiving approval from the working group.

Recently, UC Berkeley students and Richmond residents voiced concerns that building a large campus in the city of Richmond would disrupt its economy and infrastructure, taking jobs away from local workers and displacing communities.

In an open letter to the city of Richmond, Dirks described the global campus as an international institution of higher education and research with a focus on public service.

The working group, created last September by UC Berkeley, is composed of Richmond civic leaders and has convened over the past year to craft a set of recommendations to mediate between locals and the campus. Additionally, the community benefits are meant to help the global campus improve Richmond overall, from providing work for its workforce to investing in the community’s education.

According to Ruben Lizardo, director of local government and community relations at the chancellor’s office, there may be multiple community recommendations for a single issue, and a third-party consulting group will help the campus understand where the community and working group stand on particular issues.

At the meeting, one of the working group’s subcommittees, the Local Hire and Workforce Training Subcommittee, shared its recommendations, including ensuring that one out of every four new construction workers hired is a Richmond resident.

But community members at the meeting spoke during public comment about how the group’s definition of a disadvantaged worker was not broad enough to account for additional barriers to employment, like a no-GED-needed stipulation. Other attendees asked if the global campus would hire local workers in Richmond’s neighboring communities, leading to a discussion about how to define “Richmond.”

Kyra Worthy, who holds a voting seat in the group and represents the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, questioned whether the global campus should involve San Pablo, El Sobrante and North Richmond.

“Why not let the people who live here have an opportunity to work on an ongoing project?” Worthy asked. “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I weren’t advocating for Richmond.”

Richmond City Councilmember Nathaniel Bates said that the campus’s relationship with other cities was a “serious concern” and that the local-hire stipulation should apply exclusively to Richmond residents.

Bates and several working group members agreed that including other cities would work only in a tiered system, in which Richmond would receive the highest net benefits and surrounding cities would receive less.

Lizardo said the campus created the working group to let everyone affected by the global campus help decide how the community benefits will be implemented.

“We need to identify the interests of Richmond and figure out who has to be a partner,” Lizardo said. “That’s why there’s a committee for each thing.”

Another subcommittee, which focuses on creating guidelines for procurement, wanted to prioritize Richmond businesses in the campus’s purchasing practices and said it wants to structure contracts and bidding processes to support small minority- and worker-owned businesses.

Additionally, an education subcommittee, composed of community members and representatives from the West Contra Costa Unified School District and Contra Costa College, discussed narrowing down a list of ways the global campus could help improve the surrounding community’s education, including the institution of a universal preschool and the construction of an education center.

The working group also announced at the meeting that it will launch another subcommittee that will develop recommendations for building affordable housing near the global campus.

The next working group meeting is set for Sept. 24.

Contact Jamie Nguyen at [email protected].