Eastshore State Park Preferred Concept Plan

24 April 2002

Mayor Shirley Dean and
Members of the Berkeley City Council

Sherry M. Kelly, City Clerk
2180 Milvia Street
Berkeley CA 94704


At two recent meetings of the membership of Berkeley Design Advocates, an association of architects, planners, landscape architects, design professionals and builders, the proposed concept plan for the future Eastshore State Park was presented for discussion by key participants in the planning process. A committee of BDA has reviewed the March 2002 Preferred Concept Plan prepared by the design team and consultants Wallace Roberts & Todd, Planning and Design, and offers the following comments to the Berkeley City Council for its consideration of the current proposal at its meeting of 30 April 2002:

1. The development of this park will establish a new course for the development of State parklands that adjoin heavily populated urban areas. The urban nature of the proposed park will require that it work in ways most state parks historically do not.

This park will:

a) be readily accessible by people of all ages and abilities, and by people who are unable to drive;

b) be accessible to residents of Berkeley and adjacent communities including families of limited income, and individuals unable or unwilling to venture onto freeways to drive to state parklands in outlying suburban and rural areas;

c) accommodate a broader spectrum of human activities and recreational facilities than is usually available in existing state parklands;

d) create new habitat for native plant and animal populations to thrive;

e) be treasured for its varied land forms, flora, fauna and aquatic life, possessing exceptional scenic, recreational and environmental value; and will

f) function as a living, vital and evolving natural urban ecosystem.

Planning for this unique site, and for its challenging convergence of environmental and social needs, is difficult for State agencies bound by old models of site planning and by simplistic use classifications for state parklands. Creation and enhancement of Eastshore's natural environment can be balanced with the establishment of passive and active recreation areas such that a wide variety of needs, and built-in flexibility for changes in those needs, can be met through the future of the park. The proposed Preferred Concept Plan we reviewed falls short in many respects, resulting from the old ways of viewing park development. We recommend that the preferred plan be based on a broader platform with a broader range view. A new planning paradigm is needed for Eastshore State Park.

2. Berkeley will be the heart of this new State Park, as the largest and most accessible land areas of the park are in Berkeley. The use and development of the Eastshore parkland in Berkeley should be coordinated with the use and development of adjacent Berkeley parklands. All of the park, open space, regional trails and related facilities west of the freeway should function together for the user as one major recreational and environmental resource. The proposed preferred concept ignores the relationship between existing, preferred new uses and other desirable uses that are not fully addressed by the preferred plan.

3. The plan must integrate the uses of the two large land areas of Berkeley -Chavez Park and the Meadow. More intensive and active recreational use is appropriate for the Meadow with more passive and environmental uses in portions of Cesar Chavez Park. As both of these land masses are man-made and not "natural" in the correct sense of the term, tradeoffs between active uses and those uses restricted to encourage wildlife habitat should be determined by the location, topography and accessibility characteristics of the land. The location of the Meadow adjacent to the freeway and to the new pedestrian and bike bridge calls for the most intensive use in this area.

4. The park plan should incorporate plans for future ferry access at Gilman Street. Ferries will be a significant part of the future bay transportation network and will also provide car-free access to the new park from other parts of the region. The plan should identify the land area needed for the ferry landing and related parking, and how these features will be coordinated within the park. Shared parking by the park and the ferry will be a critical issue as the ferry will require weekday parking for commuters, while the major park parking demand will be on the weekends.

5. The plan addresses a number of important topics in a vague abstract manner. While typically this is not unusual for this point in process, a greater level of specificity would be useful in this instance. There are a number planning and design elements that should be incorporated, that are critical to the appropriate look, feel and function of the park. These would include, but are not limited to the following:

a) renovation and restoration of existing natural creek outlets, improvement of shoreline conditions and aquatic habitat including bay shore beaches, overlooks and revetments;

b) specific parking strategies and public transit strategies;

c) regional trails and bicycling options away from frontage roads (or significant realignment and renovations to the frontage road);

d) operations, signage, security and maintenance with look and feel of a regional park system;

e) new facilities, permanent, interim and occasional uses, concessions and events including opportunities for revenue generation for economic sustainability for the park; and,

f) specific opportunity areas for art and cultural expression.

6. Very little of the proposed Eastshore parkland areas in Berkeley are natural. All of the major contiguous areas are man-made landfill, garbage or construction debris fill, deposited on top of the original Bay shoreline. While some of these filled areas now attract wildlife and to a limited extent fit into the complex ecology of the Bay, these areas are environmentally much less significant than the remaining truly natural areas, such as the marshlands along the Richmond shoreline and the Emeryville Crescent. Referring to the Berkeley Meadow as "natural" is an erroneous use of the term. Restricting its use to wildlife habitat on the basis of faulty terminology would be a tragic misuse of this site. The Meadow is the largest area of the park, and is the most readily accessible portion of the land area. It is poised for more intensive human use by the completion of the elegant new pedestrian and bike bridge that will encourage many more people to experience and to enjoy the entire Marina and proposed park areas. The Meadow area is partially protected from the weather in its location east of the sculpted mounds of Cesar Chavez Park, making its recreational use very desirable. Future users would be provided with a large multipurpose open space which may include level playfields for informal and organized recreation activities that are much in need for our children and young adults. Public activities on the Meadow open space can support and interact positively with existing and new commercial uses within the Marina that have not flourished before.

The meadow should be the public gateway to the park and should be usable and accessible to thousands of families and individuals seeking respite from the stresses of urban life without having to travel long distances to more remote recreational facilities. Unfortunately, the majority of these potential users are not apt to be advocates for their own needs at public meetings. Their needs are nevertheless significant and must be in the forefront for decision-makers.

The potential for the creation of an immense improvement to the quality of life in the urban Bay Area region, and particularly for Berkeley citizens, is at stake. Berkeley Design Advocates recommends the City Council consider these points in its decisions involving the adoption of plans and policies for the development of this most valuable resource.

Respectfully Submitted,

David Snippen, Secretary

copies to:

Parks and Recreation Commission
Planning Commission
Waterfront Commission