Berkeley City Council adopted a law March 22 updating the definition of research and development, or R&D, in the city’s Zoning Ordinance.
The updated definition of R&D allows businesses to qualify for R&D land use in a wider variety of spaces beyond labs, according to a recommendation written by Deputy City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley to Mayor Jesse Arreguín.
“The R&D definition change will create more flexibility for R&D companies to occupy a mix of types of spaces,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson in an email. “Now, I hope we’ll have a robust discussion about creating more flexibility around where R&D can take place in the city.”
The Zoning Ordinance formerly defined an R&D facility as a “non-office space,” according to the recommendation, which limited R&D mainly to lab work. The new definition includes labs, offices, warehouses and manufacturing spaces as acceptable R&D spaces.
Broadening the types of spaces where R&D can take place will make it easier for startups to stay in Berkeley, Robinson noted.
“So many incredible startups are born in Berkeley but move to other municipalities because there is insufficient lab space here,” Robinson said in the email. “We should take steps to encourage the presence of research & development here by explicitly naming R&D as an allowable use in more of the city, particularly around campus. Let’s keep innovation in Berkeley!”
Berkeley City Council adopted the change to reflect changes in technology and science that have impacted the nature of R&D over the past 10 years, according to a press release. The definition was last updated in 2011, the press release noted.
Arreguín added that the new definition better reflects current economic conditions and the needs of companies conducting R&D.
“This will help startups that originated at the Lab and University be able to thrive within the City of Berkeley,” Arreguín said in an email. “This action will help enable us to be leaders in Research and Development and give companies that are looking at innovative ways to solve the world’s problems an opportunity to succeed.”
The number of startups in Berkeley has more than doubled since 2013, rising from less than 150 to over 400 in the past nine years, making the city a “hub for innovation,” Arreguín noted.
Software development, healthcare solutions and biotechnology comprise about two-thirds of these companies, according to the press release.
“From the University to the National Laboratory to pharma and technology companies, Berkeley has been at the forefront of innovation in science and technology,” Arreguín said in a press release. “The type of development we allow and where needs to account for these uses if we want to continue to be a hub of innovation.”