From the occasional refinery fire to the ongoing development of the San Francisco Basin, more and more questions are now being raised regarding air quality assurance in Berkeley. How do we sustain a clean air environment when industry's smokestacks and residential housing are forced to coexist?
For more than a quarter of a century, this conflict has been played out in the Oceanview District of Northwest Berkeley. Oceanview is an extremely polluted and odorous area, where new micro breweries and old steel foundries are mixed in with a growing community of nearby residents, cafes, offices, and preschools.
Add to this the more than two hundred fifty thousand cars passing upwind of West Berkeley each day through the Interstate 80 highway and you can begin to understand the extent of the problem. Today the high level of local airborne contaminants is signaling the existence of a serious regulatory imbalance and a growing community health crisis. Our Zoning ordinances have lagged far behind the rapidly advancing gentrification of the area.
Most of us understand that any environmental sampling, whether soil, water or air, often involves more than science because of prevailing business and political interests. It should come as no surprise that these influences have defined most environmental investigations in Berkeley as much as the regulatory sciences. Historically, these forces have handpicked the "experts" to investigate and have set the budgets in a regulatory process that has little public oversight. Consequently, air monitoring schemes often vary greatly.
On the following pages (links) are a collection of air monitoring "studies". Most of these investigations were produced for or by the City of Berkeley. Together these "studies" they have been used to rationalize Berkeley's land use policies over the last two decades.
In retrospect, it is clear that the single "regulatory" intent of the air samplings projects has been to shield the Air District (BAAQMD), the City and certain polluting Berkeley businesses from all public scrutiny. This has only added to the community's confusion over the airborne toxins and their possible health impacts.
However, there is something to be learned by the interested reader within each report. It is recommended that you also look at the community driven Air Monitoring Project of 2007. It represents perhaps the only truly honest attempt to understand the dynamics of Northwest Berkeley's air bourne pollution. It is also the only study undertaken by the local citizens, totally outside the control of the city influence and business interests. BerkeleyCitizen