Last Thursday, a few hundred political activists, labor organizers, and community members gathered at Richmond City Hall to call for community participation in the proposed Berkeley Global Campus. Project representatives, however, called these concerns preemptive and misdirected.
The crowd, waving picket signs and cheering on the speakers, presented a list of demands for the project, which is poised to eventually bring as many as 10,000 direct and indirect jobs to the city in the largest development project the city has seen since the Kaiser shipyards were built. The group claimed that the community has been intentionally left out of the conversation.
Dan Mogulof, a representative of the Berkeley Global Campus project, was baffled by suggestions that the university has excluded the community.
“We’re in talks with everybody,” said Mogulof. “We’ve talked with the Community Advisory Board, community leaders, the Working Group. Our proceedings are transparent.”
The latter group Mogulof mentioned, the Richmond Community Working Group for the Berkeley Global Campus, is a committee of 21 members representing the City government, local businesses, the school district, the Central Labor Council, the Building Trades Council, community leaders, and other interests.
The Working Group has held public meetings since it formed in April 2014, with the latest taking place on May 28th.
Mogulof stressed that these meetings are open to the public, and that is it at these meetings where the specifics of a community benefits package for the city are being figured out.
Thursday’s rally was organized by Raise Up Richmond, which states they are a coalition of local leaders and community members. Speakers included Richmond City Councilmembers Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles, and Jael Myrick. Their demands included a legally binding guarantee of local hiring, living wages, and protections from displacement.
Mogulof also had difficulty grappling with the demand that the university take measures to preserve the city’s housing market. “[The increase of housing prices] is a phenomena that can be well beyond the reach of a municipal government, much less a nonprofit university,” Mogulof said. “That doesn't mean we are helpless to do anything about it. The question is what’s going to actually work.”
Members of Raise Up Richmond said they want to make sure that the community enjoys benefits of the campus equally. The coalition called for a dedication to hiring local and paying well as the university’s best course of action.
To Joshua Genser, a representative of the business community in the Working Group, this rally manifested a different agenda than public participation in the community benefits process. “Everyone in the public is welcome to speak at every item on our agenda, but it’s not about that,” Genser said. “This is about a public employees union at Cal attacking the Chancellor, and it’s about pushing rent control on the City of Richmond.”
In a recent open letter, the Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, Nicholas Dirks, insisted that the project will proceed with the community in mind. “We wish…to take the full measure of the needs and interests of the many, not the few, so we can engage the City and the community of Richmond in ways that will be seen as equitable and exemplary in the years and decades ahead,” Dirks said.
The Berkeley Global campus is still a conceptual project years from breaking ground.