Copy of a Public Comment sent to the California Coastal Commission June 24 2022 for its meeting on July 22.
To: Executive Staff, California Coastal Commission
Public Comment on July 2022 Agenda Item Wednesday 6b
A pioneer California Native Plant ecosystem established in 1984 with California Coastal Conservancy funding is threatened with demolition and commercialization.
The Conservancy granted funds in 1984 to establish a Native Plant Area on a bayside slope on a former landfill in the Berkeley Marina. The grantee was Design Associates Working with Nature (DAWN), and the Berkeley City Council contributed matching funds.
This was a pioneer effort. Planting a native plant ecosystem on a former landfill on a waterfront slope exposed to prevailing winds and salt spray had never been done, and there were doubts it was possible. Nearly 40 years later, the project is a thriving, vigorous oasis of trees, shrubs, grasses and forbs, forming an environmental jewel of 3.5 acres in the City’s largest green area, now known as Cesar Chavez Park.
Thousands of park visitors have taken delight in this leafy retreat, and a hardy corps of volunteers has joined City staff in weeding, pruning, cleaning and other stewardship activities devoted to this Native Plant Area. Two local entities have given grants to establish a Native Plant Pollinator Garden in the area.
Recently, however, a landscape architecture firm hired by the City of Berkeley for other Marina business has proposed profound changes in the nature of the park, designed to monetize its 90 acres. One of the proposals is to flatten and pave a Central Meadow and build a giant concert stage. Of direct concern to the Commission’s jurisdiction is the consultant’s plan to demolish the Native Plant Area and replace it with a commercial zip line and ropes course operation.
These proposed modifications would destroy the quality of the California coastline. It would impose a regime of commercial entertainment reminiscent of Coney Island on the fragile California shoreline habitat.
As head of the Chavez Park Conservancy, a nonprofit of volunteers dedicated to this beloved park, I call on the Commission to use all its powers to halt the proposed destruction of Cesar Chavez Park on the Berkeley Marina.
Chavez Park Conservancy