RICHMOND -- City leaders joined University of California officials and community and labor groups Thursday to discuss expectations for a planned research facility set to be developed by UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
The Richmond Bay campus is expected to house thousands of students, researchers and other staff on the city's southern shoreline and could begin construction as early as next year.
"This campus could be the most important single development in Richmond since the World War II shipyards," said Pastor T. Mark Gandy of Miracle Temple Church. "But we have to do it right. If the needs of the community are not addressed, we have the wrong agenda."
Thursday's meeting was led by The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, two community groups that have lobbied hard for the project to include community investments, local hiring and procurement guidelines, and educational opportunities for local residents.
Richmond was selected last year as the site for the new research facility -- which could be an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars -- a move that could boost the city alongside Livermore and Berkeley as a new hub for research and innovation. The campus is expected to support more than 800 jobs, attract spinoff enterprises and generate millions in tax revenue.
But federal budget cuts have put the projected 2015 groundbreaking in doubt. Nevertheless, city, university and lab leaders continue to plan and talk with resident groups about how best to proceed.
"They still don't have funding for the phase one of the project," City Manager Bill Lindsay said. "But we know it's reasonable to assume the bay campus will eventually move forward."
Community speakers, including some local high school students, presented to more than 200 residents a clear plan for what they expect the university and lab to do.
They called for defined percentages for local hiring and job training, internships and early education programs, procurement for local and minority contractors and establishment of a community advisory board for the project.
"The goal must be to develop the people as we develop the project," said Edith Pastrano, an ACCE organizer.
Earlier this year, UC Berkeley and the lab jointly prepared a statement of commitment that includes projections that the campus may eventually occupy 5.4 million square feet and employ 10,000 people, with construction jobs included. The statement also promises to pour $300,000 annually into a community grant fund for local residents when the development plan is locked in.
Long-range plans stretch into the year 2050. The statement pledges to serve as an "engine for long-term economic revitalization, job creation and business development for the city ..."
"This is a partnership that will evolve," said Julie Sinai, director of local government and community relations for UC Berkeley. Sinai added that all parties should benefit from early partnership agreements being developed before construction begins, and emphasized that the project was in its early stages.
"We're in the ninth inning of the first game of the World Series," she said. "It's started, but it's early."