Council approves $33M Bayer development agreement

The deal paves the way for a building boom at the Bayer campus in West Berkeley, which could add 1,000 new jobs.

The Bayer campus in West Berkeley could add 1,000 new jobs over the coming decades. Credit: Tracey Taylor

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a development agreement that paves the way for a major expansion at the Bayer campus in West Berkeley.

The deal streamlines approvals for the pharmaceutical giant to build a dozen or so new structures within its existing footprint along Seventh Street, and in exchange calls for Bayer to make annual community benefits payments to Berkeley that total $33.1 million over the 30-year life of the agreement.

The result could be nearly 1 million square feet of new work space at the campus in buildings that are up to 80 feet tall, creating room for 1,000 additional jobs at a company that is already Berkeley’s largest private-sector employer. The benefits package, meanwhile, would provide new or continued funding for a raft of local programs, ranging from internships for Berkeley students at Bayer to affordable child care.

“To have Bayer continue in Berkeley as an anchor of our biosciences here in the Bay Area is really great,” Mayor Jesse Arreguín said, adding that the site’s new job opportunities will “have a transformative impact on the lives of people in our community.”

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At Tuesday’s meeting, Arreguín and Councilmember Terry Taplin, whose West Berkeley district includes the campus, joined Bayer leaders and a broad range of other speakers — including labor, business and education officials — in singing the agreement’s praises.

The development agreement will return to the council for a second and final reading on Dec. 14. But while a few public speakers raised concerns about traffic and construction impacts as a result of the expansion, there was no organized opposition to the agreement Tuesday night.

Arreguín and Taplin led negotiations with Bayer over the benefits package; the full agreement, an extension of a deal first inked between the city and Bayer in 1992, was the subject of nearly two years of discussions and community meetings.

The terms of the benefits package, which were announced in October, call for Bayer to pay $800,000 in 2022, with payments rising by 2% annually, to $1.46 million in 2052.

About half of that funding would go toward educational programs, including student internships and career technical education. Another 20% would go into Berkeley’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, while city funds for public art and affordable childcare would get 7.5% and 4%, respectively. The remaining 20% would fund grants distributed through a reestablished West Berkeley Community Resilience Fund, which aims to support the campus’ surrounding neighborhoods.

“The renewed development agreement would provide important resources for us to address economic, social and environmental challenges so that we can strengthen this neighborhood over the next 30 years,” Taplin said in a statement.

Nico Savidge is Berkeleyside's senior reporter covering city hall. Email: nico@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: NSavidge.