West Berkeley Artisan and Industrial Companies (WeBAIC)
and Sustainable Berkeley
Visions of eco-villages proliferated in the Sixties in Berkeley. The construction of wind turbines, bio-intensive gardens, passive solar buildings and innovative human powered vehicles transformed these utopian dreams into practical realities.
One of the most popular examples of this tendency was located in West Berkeley in the early Seventies. It was called the Integral Urban House and thousands visited this demonstration model of appropriate technologies. The practioners who designed this dream house chose the neighborhood of West Berkeley to develop their eco-friendly home because it was an affordable and hospitable community.
But already in the mid - Seventies the writing was on the wall: land speculation began to drive up prices and all households were threatened with higher rents while affordable spaces for artists, crafts folk and manufacturers became increasingly difficult to find and retain.
As developers began evicting artisans and manufacturers in their push for more retail and commercial developments, those artisans and manufacturers together with residents and others affected began organizing their resistance and petitioned the Mayor and City Council for relief. By 1985 the City Council established a diverse assemblage of stakeholders under the guidance of the Planning Commission to seek stability for West Berkeley.
After eight years of research and negotiations the West Berkeley Plan was passed unanimously by the City Council in 1993.
The goal of the Plan is to preserve and promote the unique and dynamic character of the mixed-use land areas through zoning regulations. The idea is to prevent dislocation. The Plan foresees an evolutionary process that allows opportunities for compatible new development at appropriate sites. For example when big manufacturers leave Berkeley, as they have other cities, the abandoned buildings can be sub-divided to accommodate smaller firms and light industrial start-ups.
The Plan saved Berkeley from the boom and bust cycles, like the dot-com phenomenon, that devastated other citiesÕ economies and property values.
By maintaining a careful balance among diverse needs, the West Berkeley Plan epitomizes the success of the Berkeley communityÕs democratic process. This process meets the needs of West Berkeley as an urban ecology of sustainable systems. An economically and socially nourishing web of interrelationships connects hundreds of enterprises and thousands of individuals in a mutually beneficial, self-sustaining system. We see this web operating through the networks of industrial materials purchases, finished product creation and distribution, and the innumerable contractual relationships that take place within the geographical area of West Berkeley. The services as well as good paying, highly skilled jobs provided to residents throughout Berkeley and beyond are an essential part of this whole.
Cities throughout the country, realizing to their dismay that unbridled commercial development has endangered their industrial/manufacturing zones, are implementing retention programs to save what remains of these zones. We in Berkeley can be proud of the innovative thinking that completed the West Berkeley Plan.
The zoning regulations of the Plan, by dampening land speculation, insure more stable land values and thereby provide a home for a variety of green industries in West Berkeley. From a leading global provider of large-scale solar power systems to a start-up worker cooperative bio-fuels pumping station, the area west of San Pablo Avenue continues to provide an Òurban preserveÓ for the next generation of industrial use, technological advances and good jobs.
The West Berkeley Plan creates the conditions for a diverse and healthy economic environment. The continued economic improvement of the area within the proven guidelines of the Plan will benefit all of Berkeley.
West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (www.webaic.org), mandated to serve as a liaison with city officials, seeks to fulfill our mission as a vehicle for expressing the needs of over 350 artisan and industrial companies and more than 6500 employees.
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