Will UC Berkeley’s New Campus in Richmond Cause Displacement of Low-Income Residents?
January 2014: UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have proposed a second campus, poised to be the biggest public project in Richmond since the WWII shipyards attracted workers in the 1940s. Researchers at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society assisted community-based organizations in Richmond with an analysis of the proposed Richmond Bay Campus' (RBC) social, economic and environmental impacts.
The planned expansion will have wide-ranging long-term impacts on the Richmond community and Bay Area. The Haas Institute and community partners Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and Contra Costa Interfaith seek to ensure that the benefits of the planned expansion are inclusive of the surrounding community, particularly groups historically marginalized from major development projects. The partnership is working to provide low-income renters, families, unemployed and underemployed, formerly incarcerated and immigrant residents, small business owners, and others the resources and avenue to engage in decision making around the development of the new campus. Input from these stakeholders and technical analysis have raised concerns about housing affordability, employment opportunities, displacement, and other potential impacts.
The Haas Institute research team, headed by Eli Moore, have been meeting with the Richmond community residents who worry that the new campus could cause further rent increases for this already vulnerable population. According to the analysis, “nearly half (48%) of renters in Richmond are housing cost burdened [paying more than 30% of income toward housing] and low income.” The proposed campus will increase housing demand without increasing the supply. Richmond is one of few areas in the Bay Area’s urban core with relatively affordable housing. The majority of residents near the proposed campus site are renters, and according to the study, “Richmond has some of the highest concentration of low income renters within the region.” The effect may cause the already at-risk population to relocate to more affordable housing in the outer-suburbs.
The environmental impact of displacement may be significant, as greenhouse gas emissions increase when the local population moves to the outer-suburbs and has increased commute times. If low income populations move away from the high job concentration in the urban employment hubs, their commutes will get longer. As commute times increase, so will greenhouse gas emissions. Additional analysis by an environmental engineer working with community leaders found potential air and water pollution.
“The challenge for Richmond, the University of California, and Lawrence Berkeley Labs is to forge strategies that allow for the economic effects of the new campus to have a broad and inclusive impact,” the report authors state. Community leaders recommend particular strategies to mitigate consequences including job training, targeted hiring among the local population and a living wage requirement for contracts. The researchers suggest that with strong support for affordable housing and regular conversations between community leaders and campus decision makers, the project could become a model for high-tech campuses seeking to leverage their economic power for inclusive community economic development.
Eli Moore, Program Manager
Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society
Communications and Media Officer