The following letter is by Eileen Cohen, a long time Berkeley resident and park visitor. She makes the central point that the process by which the City has gone about shaping the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan (BMASP) is deeply flawed. To amplify her point, I can add that nobody reached out to the Cesar Chavez Conservancy about the BMASP plan, nor to the Cesar Chavez/Dolores Huerta Homage Solar Calendar organization. The BMASP planners also did not contact the Chavez Park Off Leash Dog Area group. Nor did they seek the views of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the California Native Plant Society, or the Citizens for East Shore State Parks. In other words, the BMASP planners went out of their way to avoid seeking the views of major organizations having a long and well-recorded history of engagement with Cesar Chavez Park. Deliberately shutting out major stakeholders is a strange version of “democratic process.”
Here is Eileen Cohen’s letter:
June 10, 2022
Dear Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront commissioners and staff:
As a Berkeley resident, I am deeply concerned that the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Project (BMASP) process has been seriously flawed. In my opinion, it needs to be restarted virtually from scratch — this time with better communication to the public about the meetings; comprehensive minutes; and recordings of the public meetings.
Currently, once a PRW [Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Commission] meeting is over, there is effectively no public record of concerns expressed about or opposition to BMASP proposals. PRW meetings should be recorded and made available to the public immediately and in perpetuity. (The minutes are simply too high-level for that purpose.) The lack of recordings and/or complete transcriptions of the proceedings undermines confidence in the public process.
To compound the issue, two erroneous assertions were given at the June 8, 2022 PRW meeting as reasons for not recording the Zoom meetings.
First, it was stated that although the PRW is not recording its meetings, any participant can record a Zoom meeting. However, that is true *only* if the host has enabled “local recording.” (For instructions, see the Zoom support article at https://tinyurl.com/yx4d6725.) The PRW did not enable local recording at any of your meetings, so participants have never had the option to record. Regardless, though, the burden shouldn’t be on the public to capture a public meeting.
Second, it was asserted that recording the PRW meetings would saddle the PRW or the City of Berkeley with huge files on the secretary’s computer or the city’s servers. That is untrue. Paid Zoom accounts, which Berkeley’s certainly is, allow recording directly to the cloud. After the meeting ends, the host automatically gets a link to the recording. That simple link can then be posted online, along with the agenda, slide presentations, and other documents.
Another reason given at the June 8 meeting for not recording the PRW meetings is that the meetings will soon be back in-person anyway. That explanation misses the point. I urge you to hold hybrid meetings even after in-person PRW meetings can resume. Not only would recording via Zoom obviate the need to produce traditional video recordings, but — and far more to the point — the ability to attend online would enable and encourage more public participation.
Finally, it appears that perhaps not all written comments sent to the PRW and BMASP were shared with all commissioners or subsequently appeared online in the public record. An audit of that process may well be in order.
I’m sending this message to the PRW secretary and to the BMASP email address. I ask that all PRW commissioners receive a copy. Please also add this message to the BMASP and PRW documents available online to the public.
I’m copying the city councilmember for my district, Terry Taplin, and also Santiago Casal, Shirley Dean, Martin Nicolaus, and Norman La Force, all of whom have expressed concerns about the BMASP process (communication and transparency) and/or proposals to reduce open space at Cesar Chavez Park. I share those concerns.
Eileen Cohen District 2