April 30, 2002
To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council
From: Weldon Rucker, City Manager
Subject: OVERVIEW OF STAFF’S COMMENTS AND CONCERNS ON THE DRAFT PARK CONCEPT PLAN FOR EASTSHORE STATE PARK
Staff has attended each of the three Eastshore State Park (ESP) public workshops to-date and the two previous local briefings, and has discussed issues of potential concern with the ESP planning team. Staff has also convened several meetings with representatives from various departments and with both the Waterfront Commission and the Parks & Recreation Commission. Based on all of these meetings and discussions, staff has identified the following as key issues of potential concern related to Draft Park Concept Plan. Staff believes that all of these concerns can be addressed as the park plan is further developed.
1. Resource Protection
A large portion of the Berkeley Meadow has been identified as a conservation area. Proposed enhancements include protection of seasonal wetlands and re-vegetation of coastal scrub habitat. Access will be accommodated specifically to enhance public enjoyment of the setting’s natural values.
Staff supports the idea that the Meadow is, primarily, a conservation area that will include public access trails and interpretive areas.
The Draft Park Concept Plan facilitates the public’s enjoyment of this shoreline by providing for a wide range of recreational activities, from more passive nature appreciation to active sports activities, and from water-oriented to land-oriented facilities. Areas with less significant habitat value have been designated for more intense recreational use, and will be improved with facilities that enhance the public’s enjoyment of the shoreline and its open space resources. Visitor support facilities such as restrooms, water fountains, benches, picnic tables, and parking will be provided in convenient locations throughout the park unit.
Staff also supports the concept of a recreational designation along Marina Boulevard to allow for parking and picnicking. This area of Eastshore State Park will establish a valuable setback to the conservation area, provide a wind-protected use area, and a place for the public to picnic and recreate along the Marina Boulevard. The proposed recreation corridor will expand the opportunities for bicyclists and pedestrians traversing the area to Cesar Chavez Park, as well as providing an attractive eastward view focusing on the Berkeley Hills.
In addition, because the Marina already serves as a regional park, it is experienced an ever-increasing demand for medium and large group picnic areas. To meet this growing regional need, picnic areas provided by Eastshore State Park should be of sufficient size to accommodate medium and/or large groups
Within Berkeley, the Draft Park Concept Plan designates the North Basin Strip, the western edge of the Meadow along Marina Boulevard, and portions of the Brickyard for recreational use, but not specifically as sports fields. Sports fields are planned for the Albany Plateau and are discussed in greater detail later in this report.
3. Interpretation and Education
Proposed educational and interpretive facilities include interpretive centers, observation platforms, vista points, interpretive signage, and public art.
Staff supports the above policy and encourages the State to work with the City to coordinate and complement the educational and interpretive services already offered by the Shorebird Nature Center and the Marina Experience. Coordination efforts should include signage.
4. Shoreline/Water Access
5. Visitor Services/Operations Facilities
Visitor-serving and operations facilities, such as park headquarters, interpretive center(s), a hostel, boathouse, café/restaurant, café/restaurant/deli, and recreational equipment rentals will be provided throughout the park. The largest concentration of these facilities will be located in the recreational zones in Berkeley.
Staff supports providing enhanced visitor services, provided that adequate parking is provided so the existing Marina parking areas will be not adversely impacted by the increased activity.
6. Enhancement and Facilities
Proposed resource enhancements include daylighting Schoolhouse Creek and shoreline re-contouring at the mouth of Strawberry Creek, if feasible, depending on the outcome of site-specific environmental analysis. Soil suitability and water quality protection as well as scenic considerations and other factors will be considered.
Enhancement: The proposed treatment of the creek outfalls is consistent with Council policy to daylight creeks wherever possible. Staff has noted that additional signage, clean up and litter removal may be needed in these areas.
Facilities: The category of facilities is very broad and undetermined at this time, as described by the planning team. Uses from restrooms to and including major structures, with a variety of programs, have been described as possibilities. Depending upon what is actually proposed, there could be objections to a facility at a particular location. It will be very important to resolve the type and scale of facilities envisioned at each location prior to accepting the designation as indicated on the Draft Park Concept Plan.
7. Shoreline Protection
A comprehensive program of shoreline enhancement is proposed. The shoreline will either be “softened”, (i.e., removal of structural elements and re-graded) to re-establish more natural shoreline contours and enhance habitat values, or structurally reinforced to protect the shoreline and allow for more intensive public use.
Staff supports shoreline improvements that protect the resources and provide public access, where appropriate.
A public art program is proposed.
Staff supports this program and recommends that the State consult with the City’s Civic Arts Commission.
9. Circulation and Access
The plan proposes to add facilities that support multiple modes of transportation to the park, including pedestrian, bicycle, bus, boat and car. The plan also proposes to complete and expand the Bay Trail. Within the park unit, the primary modes of transportation will be walking, biking, and non-motorized boating. Adequate parking will be distributed strategically throughout the park to support proposed activities and facilities, and public transit will be encouraged.
In Berkeley, parking areas are shown in the North Basin Strip, at the west end of the Meadow along Marina Boulevard and in the Brickyard.
Staff has expressed a number of concerns about the potential impacts of the Eastshore State Park development on the traffic congestion and parking. In this regard, staff has the following comments and recommendations:
§ Evaluate potential impacts on existing road capacity, particularly at major intersections such as I-80, Frontage Road, Gilman, Ashby, and University Avenue.
§ Provide adequate parking to accommodate the demand from the proposed facilities so there will not be a significant impact on the streets and parking areas that are already congested during peak use times.
§ Locate the gateways and much of the parking closer to Frontage Road and I-80, rather than bringing the additional traffic into the Marina area.
§ Provide secondary emergency vehicular access to and from the Marina at the Virginia Street extension, in case the University Avenue overpass fails during a natural disaster.
In 1996, Council determined that the City must provide additional playing fields to meet the existing needs for youth and adult sports. Staff explored several potential sites for the development of new fields, including possible locations within the area that is now part of the Eastshore State Park. When those options came to Council on April 30, 1996, all recommended measures were adopted by Council except one - At that time, the recommendation authorizing the City Manager to work with various agencies to “explore the development of existing Waterfront property for a City sports complex” was deleted from the motion adopted by Council.
The result of the 1996 and subsequent 1998 study has been the expansion of existing facilities by the addition of field night lighting at Berkeley High and Willard Middle School, as well as the purchase and development of two fields at Harrison Park. In the current planning process for the Eastshore State Park, considerable discussion has taken place in Berkeley about sports fields in both the Brickyard and North Basin Strip.
Should playing fields now be considered by the City Council for areas in Berkeley west of I-80, the staff recommends that the preferred location be along the North Basin Strip and not in the Brickyard. The primary reasons for this are:
§ Minimize adverse impacts of adding parking to the Brickyard and Meadow areas. The North Basin Strip already provides direct and easy access to parking. Placing parking at the Brickyard or Meadow would increase congestion along University Avenue.
§ The importance of maintaining public views to the west, including the San Francisco Bay. Playing fields, with the associated development including fencing, lighting and restrooms, would detract from the unique vista of the Bay, particularly from the new bicycle/pedestrian bridge.
Active sports facilities, such as playing fields, are planned for the Albany Plateau. These fields would be operated by an outside agency or group and would include requirements to provide and maintain adequate parking and to provide adequate protection for sensitive habitats.
Off-leash dog use will be allowed to continue at Point Isabel Regional Shoreline and North Point Isabel, with appropriate environmental protections in place. Dogs will be prohibited from Preserve areas and other sensitive habitat areas, such as Albany Beach and Brickyard Cove Beach.
Staff supports continuing the off-leash dog area at Point Isabel. Staff also supports prohibiting off-leash areas from sensitive habitat zones.
The planning process for the new Eastshore State Park (ESP) began in December 2000. Since that time, the ESP Planning Team has met with City staff and held several workshops and public meetings for local community members, including the following:
§ Stakeholders Group Meetings
§ Public Workshop No. 1: Issues and Opportunities
§ Local Briefings on Workshop No. 1
§ Public Workshop No. 2: Exploring Alternatives
§ Local Briefings on Workshop No. 2
§ Public Workshop No. 3: Preferred Park Concept
At the third public workshop, which was held on March 21, 2002, the consultants presented the “Preferred Park Concept” based on the input received during the earlier workshops, local briefings and follow-up communications.
The next steps are:
§ Public Workshop No. 4: Presentation of Draft General Plan & EIR (May 2002)
§ Public Review Period for Draft General Plan and EIR (June-July 2002)
§ Final Draft General Plan and Final EIR (September 2002)
§ State Parks & Recreation Commission hearing to certify EIR and adopt General Plan (October 2002)
Lisa Caronna, Director of Parks Recreation and Waterfront, 981- 6700
Deborah Chernin, Project Manager for Eastshore State Park, 981-6334
Lisa Caronna, Director
Parks Recreation and Waterfront