The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
March - April 2007
Sierra Club opposes Berkeley referendum
Help keep Brower Center alive; please do not sign petition
The Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group urges Berkeley voters not to sign a referendum, now being circulated regarding the David Brower Center and Oxford Plaza development project.
If this petition gets enough signatures to force an election, the delay is likely to kill the greenest building ever built in Berkeley and the city's largest family-size affordable-housing plan in more than 20 years. The project's financing is likely not to last until the 2008 primary election.
The project includes two major components: the David Brower Center, a four-story office building to house non-profit environmental groups, and Oxford Plaza, which will provide 97 units of affordable housing for families and individuals as well as ground-floor retail, anchored by Patagonia.
The David Brower Center will have three floors of office space and has so far received letters of intent from four non-profit tenants: the Earth Island Institute, Center for Ecoliteracy, California League of Conservation Voters, and Build It Green. The Center is privately funded. It will be the first LEED platinum green building in Berkeley and will serve as a model for buildings that won't guzzle energy.
Oxford Plaza will be the biggest affordable-housing project in Berkeley since the 1980s. As with any below-market housing, Oxford Plaza requires a subsidy from the city's federal affordable-housing funds, but the city's contribution is less per unit than other below-market affordable-housing projects under current expensive construction conditions. The city's $6,250,000 is leveraging $32,578,8000 in non-city funds for the housing, plus $8,185,505 for the parking and retail and $28,116,705 for the Brower Center. Oxford Plaza will also be a green building.
The project faces opposition primarily because of public-financing issues. The city is requiring that the existing surface parking at the site be replaced with underground parking in the new structure. This requirement has greatly added to the costs. If any aspect of the project has to be changed to save city money, that's it - but the referendum would throw out the baby with the parking.
The affordable-housing Oxford Plaza and green Brower Center non-profit office building can break ground in a few months - if the referendum does not stop them. The Northern Alameda County Group strongly believes in the important environmental benefits this project will bring to Berkeley:
This project therefore makes sense despite being more expensive than some opponents would like.
Do not sign any referendum concerning the Brower Center, and tell everyone you know not to sign.
© 2007 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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