Detailed Response to Letter from Norman La Force

February 24 2003

Norman La Force writes:

1. Description of the Plan

As noted the purpose of preserving and protecting wildlife and habitat needs to be included.

This is important because as pointed out the staff report of May 19, 1999 stated that,

"The overall goal of the Marina Plan is to: Maintain, and where possible, expand open space, park land and wildlife habitat conservation areas. Somehow that got lost by 2003 even though it is a goal of the Marina Plan.

Moreover, the Marina area includes Shorebird Park, which is a natural area. It is strange that with that park in the marina, the plan has no purpose of protecting or enhancing it.

My response:

I'm sure there will be no resistance at all to including such language in the goals of the Marina Plan. As far as I am aware, there was never a conscious decision to drop this as a purpose of the plan.

Perhaps the oversight was of the nature of staff and/or consultants not feeling the need to address an issue that was non-controversial, and not in need of any kind of affirmative statement - i.e., it's a goal that is very easily taken for granted.

Shorebird Park is a good example. This is a fully "developed" preservation and nature study area, and there is little incentive to change it. A stronger designation as a protected area would be welcome, but it is unlikely that this designation would have much effect on it's current use. In other words, it's not an area that attracts much attention from the planning process because there's nothing substantive that needs to be done there.

All that said, I support the suggestion to add the Language Norman suggests with respect to preserving and protecting wildlife.

It is also worth noting here that the goal of preserving and protecting wildlife and the goal of increasing water access opportunities for wind and muscle-propelled boating are usually not in conflict. The Oakland Middle Harbor project is a good example of both goals enhancing each other, with advocates of both preservation and recreation working together.

A similar scenario will likely unfold in the North Sailing Basin. The Schoolhouse Creek outflow area is one of the top contenders for approximately ten acres of wetland restoration as mitigation for the wetlands lost to the Bay Bridge reconstruction. If we follow the successful model of the Oakland Middle Harbor, we can have a valuable habitat restoration and a valuable recreational water access point in close proximity with substantial benefits to both.

Norman La Force writes:

2. Inconsistency with Ceasar Chavez Plan

I am pleased that the proposed dock is taken out of its location on Ceasar Chavez Park, especially because the staff report makes it clear that the master plan for Ceasar Chavez Park did not have either a dock or any water access point to the North Basin Cove in it.

The problem remains, however, that the Marina Plan is still trying to plan for another park unit through the marina plan. The staff tried to finesse this problem by stating that the Marina Plan could propose a water access point, but one would still need to amend the Ceasar Chavez Plan. This is really planning a--backwards. Hence, even the water access point should be eliminated from the marina plan. This issue needs to be addressed in the Ceasar Chavez Plan.

My response:

"A--backwards?" Let's take a look at recent history. We have:

1) The North Waterfront (Cesar Chavez Park) Plan from '79 that makes no mention of boating facilities one way or the other, followed by

2) the '86 Waterfront Specific Plan (still in effect) which specifically calls for facilities for sailing, rowing, paddling and small craft rentals at the site in question, followed by

3) the '98 -'99 public hearings for the Marina Plan which call for facilities for non-motorized boating at the site in question, followed by

4) the recently adopted '02 Eastshore State Park General Plan which calls for non-motorized boating on the body of water in question, and

5) the '02 BCDC policy which calls for prioritizing new facilities for non-motorized boating where feasible.

So now, as step 6), the Sierra Club wants to remove any possibility of facilities for kayaks, canoes and small sailboats at this site, serving this body of water, from the Marina Plan. They want to do this before we have a shred of scientific analysis suggesting that these activities at this location would be disruptive to habitat in any significant way.

Who is advocating "planning a--backwards" and who is attempting a "preemptive strike?"

Norman La Force writes:

The second issue with this water access point is that while the City staff proposes to agree to guidelines that derive from the Eastshore State Park for this water access point, the staff still maintains that the city could still proceed first and, essentially, conduct a "pre-emptive strike," to use a phrase bandied about on the national level in another context, on the Eastshore Park Planning process for the water access issues related to the North Basin Cove. This does not reflect the proposed spirit of cooperation with the State Park planning for the Eastshore State Park.

My response:

There is nothing "pre-emptive" about the City proceeding ahead of the State Park. Nothing prevents full cooperation between the two agencies, regardless of who is able to implement their plan first. There is nothing preemptive in proceeding with a policy that has been a clear theme of every public planning process for the Berkeley waterfront over the last 17 years.

On the other hand, the elimination of any possibility of a water access element from the plan without first obtaining a site-specific technical evaluation and without re-opening the public process seems to be a good fit for the definition of "preemptive."

Norman La Force writes:

Finally, the term "enhance water access" which is proposed to take the place of the dock and facilities is vague and open to much interpretation. Indeed, as it is phrased it could actually mean that the city is calling for a launch site for motor boats accessible by autos for Ceasar Chavez Park. While I doubt that is what is meant or intended without a clear statement of what this enhanced water access means, future planners and members of the public can interpret that to mean whatever they want. Since we had the staff drop protecting wildlife as a goal of the marina plan even though it was supposed to be included, (See above), I am very concerned about the vagueness of the term "enhanced water access." Therefore, this issue really needs to be worked out further.

My response:

Agreed, staff should restore the words specifying the general types of watercraft to the plan, and these words should explicitly preclude powered vessels. Previously, the water access point had been labeled "North Sailing Basin dock/launch facilities, rental boat concession, kayaks, canoes" and a single dock (similar in length to one of the three existing docks in the South Sailing Basin) was shown on the map.

The purpose of the dock drawn on the map was to locate the access point, not to design the site. Obviously the operational details of the site and the mix of watercraft types served would have to be determined before the facility could be designed. It might be one or more docks, it might be tidal steps, it might be a "softened" gravel beach for hand launching. It might or might not include on-site watercraft storage (which greatly reduces the need for vehicular access). In removing the picture of the dock in the name of eliminating the appearance of too much specificity, it was not necessary to also remove the words describing the types of watercraft anticipated.

I suggest that we restore the words "access for non-motorized watercraft only" to the plan map. But of course, for the record, no-one involved in this process has ever contemplated a traditional boat launching ramp that would serve powerboats brought to the site on trailers behind large tow vehicles. (And I will note that, sadly, this is still the California Department of Boating and Waterway model for "water access:" A double-wide ramp used almost exclusively by overpowered ski and fish boats with highly polluting 2-stroke outboards, pulled all over the State by oversized SUVs. This model is slowly changing, but meanwhile, every access point designed for non-motorized hand-launched watercraft has the potential to replace many of these destructive forms of recreation with much more appropriate alternatives.)

For what it's worth, here is the proposed wording I submitted to the Planning Dept. Staff on January 23:

The existing document (as of January 23) in Section III, Principle #3, includes part C: "Preserve the areas devoted to marine operations and recreational activities and expand to new areas where feasible."

Suggest that we add a seventh item to the six items already listed under this category:

"Consider a new access point for non-motorized watercraft along the east shore of Cesar Chavez Park. Planning for this project shall be coordinated with Eastshore State Park, the Waterfront Specific Plan and the North Waterfront (Cesar Chavez Park) Plan. Such a project shall not be undertaken without detailed design and environmental review."

This is actually more restrictive than what staff chose to add to the Marina Plan, and it directly addresses the Sierra Club, Audubon and CESP concerns. It leaves the option open to provide a water access point for non-motorized watercraft, but insures that environmental and planning issues are not neglected. I think it's a fair compromise.

Norman La Force writes:

3. General Plan Policies

The proposed plan does not include all of the general plan's policies that would pertain to the marina plan. Planning Commissioner Poschman identified quite a number of these at the Planning Commission meeting with members of the Waterfront Commission. One example is that the general plan has a policy that existing roadways will not be widened. That policy is not included. The fact that it was not included leads me to believe that in the future the planning staff will come back with a proposal to widen Marina Blvd. I know this was discussed and proposed, former Commissioner so stated in public that this was a worthy public project to enhance access to the waterfront and to allow for increased commercial development of the waterfront. So I cannot believe that this idea has been dropped. It remains somewhere in the bowels of the bureaucracy.

Therefore, we must really go through the general plan and get all relevant policies included.

My response:

It's not clear to what extent we need to restate all of the applicable policies of the General Plan in the Marina Plan. I would think the main thing is to avoid conflicts with the General Plan.

The widening of Marina Blvd. is something of a red herring. The Marina Plan includes a very reasonable proposal to re-align the road to the east where there is a gravel parking lot now, move the parking to a new landscaped parking area where the road is now, and add a planted buffer to further isolate the roadway from the Meadow to the east. To my knowledge there have been no proposals to widen Marina Blvd. or any other roads in the Marina.

For a picture of the section of road in questions, see "Photo of the Week" for January 24 2003.

Norman La Force writes:

3. Under "Actions," the statement about working with State Parks on the Eastshore Park remains very unsatisfactory. I don't think it properly captures the idea of the City working with State Parks on waterfront issues. The statement is a general one without any real meat in it. This needs to be revised further.

My response:

I am sure the Waterfront Commission will be receptive to proposed text. In fact, Waterfront Commission comments on the Eastshore State Park EIR were critical of the lack of consideration of some of the likely effects of the ESP on the Marina. So it is safe to predict that language calling for closer coordination will be welcome.

Norman La Force writes:

4. BCDC Policies

While BCDC has a policy of providing water access where feasible, it also has policies about protecting wildlife. We went through this with BCDC some years ago with the Emeryville Crescent, and out of that imbroglio, BCDC improved its policies about protecting habitat. For some reason, staff only latched onto the one policy about providing water access without noting the habitat policies. We need to include all appropriate BCDC policies.

My response:

As noted above, the two goals do not necessarily conflict, and very often they can enhance each other.

Norman La Force writes:

5. Mitigated Neg. Dec.

Mitigation 2 of this document is really inadequate. It proposes that along rip rap if we find Burrowing Owls, once breeding season is over, the city can go in and force the owls to move out. Just why it is an appropriate mitigation measure to force endangered or threatened species to clear out for our use of their habitat remains an abiding mystery to me. I doubt any Commissioner or City Council member would be receptive to removing Berkeley residents from their homes under eminent domain to improve public access or increase the size of parks in Berkeley for recreational activities, at least I haven't seen anything like that in my 20y years here. So, rhetorically, why should Berkeley, a city that prides itself on its environmental record, propose to make the critters homeless?!

This mitigation measure needs to be rethought.

Mitigation 4 also needs to be reconsidered. This is the now infamous mitigation measure in search of an impact. This measure is the proposed access road on the North side of the Meadow for emergency vehicles. As the consultant noted at the last meeting, the proposed marina plan, as a project, does not propose any change in the project to require this "mitigation." Under CEQA mitigations are only for mitigating actual identified impacts of a proposed project. Now where is there identified a change in the "project" that creates an impact which would have a nexus to this mitigation measure.

Indeed, the rational for this "mitigation" borders on the irrational. Supposedly a second access is needed in case of earthquake, But if an earthquake occurs of the magnitude to close University Ave, does anyone seriously believe that the other side of the Meadow will also not be affected?

My principal concern is that Berkeley's fire and police personnel will demand an asphalted two lane roadway as the only form of access. Such a roadway will destroy the Meadow and the northshore of the Meadow.

Another way to look at this, would be to ask why Berkeley has not undertaken to widen streets in the Berkeley Hills which are clearly too narrow for fire trucks in case of another major fire.

The proposed project does not create an impact to require this mitigation. Therefore, under CEQA it has no nexus with the project and should not be included.

My response:

Point taken. The term "mitigation" does seem to be misused in the case of the emergency access road along the north shore of the Meadow. There may still be good reasons for including it in the plan, though.

The appropriateness of the proposed treatment of burrowing owls in the rip-rap is a technical issue. However, note that the vast majority of rip-rap in the Marina is left untouched by the Marina Plan, so it seems unlikely that the impact on the habitat of the borrowing owls would be significant.

Norman La Force writes:

6. Monitoring Program

The proposed monitoring program is good so far as it goes, but it does not include two important elements.

First, there is no funding provided. Without funding there is no monitoring. The Sierra Club sees this all the time with developers who propose monitoring as a mitigation, but provide no funding for it. Without an identified source of funding in the plan now, this monitoring plan cannot be used to justify whatever impacts it is supposed to mitigate.

Second, the monitoring is not adequate. The Eastshore Park Plan proposes monitoring of the impacts of human recreational activities after the initial study to determine what possible impacts there would be. This is done in order to get factual data after activities are approved to determine if the prior assessment of the lack of impact is really true. The city's monitoring program needs to include ongoing monitoring of impacts in the North Basin, and in the South Basin by Shorebird park.

My response:

Specific projects requiring continuing environmental monitoring would presumably include plans for monitoring and funding details. The adequacy of these plans cannot be evaluated until the projects themselves are defined in greater detail.

Paul Kamen 510-540-7968