Let’s Stop the Plan That Would Destroy Our Park

The City has hired a consultant to propose changes in the Berkeley Marina. The project is known as the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan – BMASP. The plan would transform the park from a place of relief from urban stress and for enjoyment of nature into a high-pressure commercial amusement park.

Two proposals in particular stand out. Number One, BMASP wants to create a big oval “Large Event Area” with an “Events Pavilion” in the middle of the park. Number Two: BMASP wants to turn the Native Plant Area into “Large Adventure Park II.” Let’s take them in turn.

BMASP MAP FOR “EVENTS PAVILION”

The proposed “Large Events Area” would require bulldozing and paving the big central meadow in the park. There would be a huge concert stage with a roof, screens, and a big sound system. As an example, BMASP gives the “LOVEBOX” installation in the next photo, below. The Events Area would cut off at least half of the current Off Leash Area. BMASP also proposes undefined other “PARK PAVILIONS.”

BMASP ILLUSTRATION FOR PROPOSED EVENTS SPACE

The idea behind the “Events Space” is to generate revenue. That’s a fantasy. Events, whether regional or otherwise, have never generated net revenue for the Marina Fund. The lineup of Marina Fund revenue sources given in BMASP’S own documents makes no mention of event revenues, because there haven’t been any. Even the biggest events, the Kite Fest and July 4, cost the City major sums of money to put on.

Once or twice a year, a big charity may hold a fundraiser that draws a few hundred people, but the City’s expenses in cleanup and staffing always eat up more than the rental fees. Even the disturbing Cannabis Festival that some elements in City government want to put on would not cover the cost of fencing, groundskeeping, staff time, police and fire overtime, DUI cases, and the enormous cleanup necessary after marijuana events.

Cesar Chavez Park doesn’t pencil out as a regular events venue. The only access is via Marina Boulevard, a two-lane road, and parking is already tight in normal usage. The other problem is weather. Even in summer there’s regularly a chill northwesterly wind. That’s good weather for walking but not for sitting still. There are other venues in Berkeley that work much better. An event venue in Chavez Park is sure to lose money.

Big events bring major noise pollution, traffic jams, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, littering, and crime. Wildlife is driven away, maybe never coming back. The effect of the BMASP “Events Space” plan is rip the gut out of Cesar Chavez Park.

The second main impact of BMASP is even worse, if possible. BMASP proposes to create a so-called “Large ADVENTURE PARK II” in the spot occupied for the past 40 years by the Native Plant Area on the southwest side of the park. Here’s the map from BMASP documents:

BMASP MAP FOR “Large EVENTS” and “Large ADVENTURE PARK II”

What BMASP wants to put here is a commercial sporting facility consisting of zip lines and ropes courses. BMASP gives as an example one such place in Orange County. This operation is open to groups for $350 a day, and people under 60 inches aren’t welcome.

If this plan succeeds, forget the Native Plant Area in our park. This shaded oasis where dozens of varieties of California native trees, shrubs, and grasses thrive will go under the bulldozer. Forget the California Coastal Conservancy that paid to establish this habitat 40 years ago. Forget the progressive Berkeley City Council of the time that paid for the other half of it. Forget the hardworking, nature-savvy trio of Charli Danielsen, David Amme, and Dave Kaplow and their associates, environmental heroes who worked from sunup to sundown to establish native plants in this challenging site, a historic project. Forget the dozens of volunteers and concerned supporters and the City staff who have weeded and trimmed and watered in the Native Plant Area in recent years. Forget the Native Pollinator Garden project just funded by Alameda County and by East Bay Community Energy. It will all be scraped away.

It might be a different matter if there were a groundswell of popular demand for rock concerts and zip lines on the Marina. But BMASP’s own public opinion polling shows just the opposite. No less than 87 percent of the respondents go to the Marina for its walking/biking pathways. Similarly, 79 percent go there to enjoy the parks. These are by far the most popular reasons why people go there. Nothing else is even close. People go to the Marina overwhelmingly to enjoy being in nature. Nature is the city-dweller’s lifeline, now more than ever. The BMASP recommendations are tone deaf to our environmentally conscious time. They run absolutely counter to what people want and need to see in the park. If BMASP succeeds, the park will be wrecked beyond restoration.

Other signs of BMASP’s distance from park visitor’s concerns abound. BMASP completely ignores the Cesar Chavez/Dolores Huerta Homage Solar Calendar, a park landmark.

BMASP envisions only one real bathroom in the 90-acre park, to be built years from now. This ignores a petition signed by nearly a thousand park users and the clear recommendation of a citywide study.

BMASP also plans to pave over the Adventure Playground on the south side of the Marina, where generations of Berkeley kids have played and learned.

BMASP claims to value public opinion, but it never contacted the Chavez Park Conservancy, the Chavez Park dog owner’s group, the Solar Calendar organization, or the model airplane group. And it didn’t reach out to the Golden Gate Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the California Native Plant Society, or Citizens for Eastshore State Parks, all of which have long records of engagement with Chavez Park. BMASP’s few public events have been lightly publicized and heavily staged, with tedious talking heads and tightly controlled breakout groups. It has fabricated a fake show of consensus for its outrageous plans, when there is in fact widespread and deep opposition.

The consulting firm that is driving the BMASP project, Hargreaves Jones, is an international landscape architecture giant that specializes in post-industrial brownfield sites. It has little experience with established urban parks having well-developed constituencies. The firm’s work so far has been shallow, insensitive, poorly researched, and sloppy. It has brought no landscape design ideas. Its only proposals are for commercial ventures that would destroy the beautiful and beloved landscapes we have long enjoyed here. The City should cancel its contract and replace it with local firms that know the park and its people.

What Can We Do to Save Our Park?

The authority to stop the BMASP park wrecking plan lies with the City Manager and ultimately with City Council. The matter will come on the City Council agenda at some point in 2023, but we need to derail it immediately before it ever gets there. We can do that by expressing our views loud and clear in emails and hearings.

A key City Council member is Rashi Kesarwani in District 1, where Chavez Park is located. Kesarwani’s term expires November 2022. She needs to hear from voters in her district that her chances of being re-elected depend on a strong and clear public statement about the BMASP park wrecking schemes.

Email rkesarwani@CityofBerkeley.info

To reach all council members and the mayor, email council@cityofberkeley.info

City Manager: manager@cityofberkeley.info

Please send copies of your messages to info@chavezpark.org. The chavezpark.org website has published a number of such messages and will publish more.

An earlier version of this content appeared in Berkeleyside on April 29 2022.

A trifold brochure with this content is in print. You can download a copy here; it wants to be trifolded.

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8 thoughts on “Let’s Stop the Plan That Would Destroy Our Park

  • July 26, 2022 at 4:37 pm
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    I think I already expressed my opinion to the powers that be. But just in case, I’m writing again. I suggest that whoever is in charge of organizing the opposition to the miserable suggestion to commercializing Cesar Chavez park should now move from words on paper/computer, etc. to action. I do not have leadership qualities, but I would certainly be delighted to participate in any feet-on-the-ground action; a march, a demonstration, etc. I would be delighted to help anyone who can organize such protests, I just don’t know how to initiate them. I have experience and some talent in writing, I can make phone calls, I can take orders. Please, someone out there take the lead! Sincerely, Rose Glickman PHhD/
    510 524-7913 rosieglick@gmail.com

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  • July 3, 2022 at 12:15 pm
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    Carla, Please reach out to Jeff at Save CC savecc6@gmail.com. Below is the email from Save CC a few minutes ago:

    Dear Friends of Cesar Chavez Park,

    In a little less than 2 months we have grown to a group of 248 concerned park goers. Just think, before the Berkeleyside article appeared at the end of April, not one of the hundreds of park goers I have personally spoken with knew anything about the proposed commercialization of the Berkeley Marina in general and Cesar Chavez Park in particular. Not one person, despite the June 8, 2022 memo from the City Manager claiming that the “project has involved an extensive public process and has provided announcements of public meetings via numerous communications channels.”

    Regardless, we as a group now have an opportunity to voice our opinions about the proposed plans at the next Park Recreation and Waterfront Commission Zoom meeting on 7/13 at 7:00 p.m.—Zoom link TBA. Please mark your calendar.

    All you need to do is “raise” your Zoom hand and speak for up to 2 minutes. For those who prefer to type, a live “Chat” function is available during the meeting for public comment. “Chats” can also be copied before the meeting ends, so at least there will be a record of THAT.

    I would like to stress that public interest in this is key — so please attend even if you don’t expect to speak! Also, I urge you to continue to send in letters.

    Thank you again everyone for caring about the Cesar Chavez Park and the off-Leash Dog Area, Jeff

    Suggested talking points:

    PLEASE NOTE: Not everyone is comfortable speaking publicly. For those that aren’t you can still participate and here is how: All you need to do is “raise” your Zoom hand and state simply, I agree and support what the prior speakers said about the park. That simple sentence registers as another speaker and is very important.

    Otherwise, additional talking points include:

    What makes Cesar Chavez Park special to you? (The park is for our mental and physical health. We enjoy Park activities such as walking, jogging, flying kites, socializing, meditating, picnicking, enjoying family outings, hiking, walking our dog in the off-leash area (OLA), flying remote controlled aircraft, etc.

    How long and how often have you been coming to Cesar Chavez Park to enjoy these activities?

    We oppose the proposed plans because they will transform the park into a commercialized development forever destroying the unspoiled natural space that makes this park so unique. The park does not need any artificial revenue producing attractions. The park already has plenty of attractions for all of its visitors to enjoy: the great vistas and views of the bay, its wildlife and opportunities to experience the changing seasons and the social connections with other park goers.

    For Off Leash Dog walkers: The Off Leash Area needs better and more regular maintenance, including a plan to rid the park of foxtails and other harmful grasses.
    Open space is invaluable. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. (Berkeley shouldn’t do anything that reduces open space anywhere in its parks. Land that is undeveloped isn’t just waiting to be developed…it’s set aside for posterity.)
    Rather than degrading outdoor recreation, Berkeley should be seeking to improve it. (Adventure parks and band stands aren’t outdoor recreation, they’re concessions and development. Adequate maintenance is long overdue, including better signage, management of foxtails and other non-native invasive weeds, etc.)
    Supporting open space is egalitarian and progressive. (Supporting development of pricey amusements is not. Many park visitors would never use an adventure park. Many couldn’t afford to. Open space is affordable and accessible for all — the young, the elderly, those with disabilities, people of all backgrounds and all income levels.)
    Berkeley can’t give lip service to supporting wildlife, native plant restorations, recreation and the environment — while actively planning to reduce or eliminate all of those things in its biggest park. (What does Berkeley stand for? How this project evolves will make that clear. Introducing noisy events to the park is antithetical to protecting burrowing owls and other wildlife. Ditto building on top of native plant restorations. Let’s not pave paradise and put up a parking lot, as Joni Mitchell might say.)
    The BMASP process so far has not worked. It has not been inclusive and transparent. We do not support it going forward, at this point. (Notification has not been adequate. Recording of public opinion — in the sparse minutes, and with the lack of Zoom meeting recordings — has been inadequate.)

  • July 1, 2022 at 5:27 pm
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    Following Martin’s advice, I just emailed this letter to the City Council members and City Manager:

    Dear Mayor Arreguín and Berkeley City Council Members,

    I’m writing in response to the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan (BMASP) proposal for the Berkeley Marina/César Chávez park.

    The plan would transform the park from a place of relief from urban stress and for enjoyment of nature into a high-pressure commercial amusement park. We do NOT need more money-making schemes: hotels, food courts, events pavilion, or a large adventure playground for adults.

    Currently, the park is amazing and beautiful, serving a diverse community of people with varied interests: walking, running, cycling, birding, flying kites, meditating, singing, playing music, sailing, enjoying the wildlife and the quiet.

    The park does not need any more development, leading to the destruction of this beautiful environment. We need to keep our beautiful waterfront park and continue to support its maintenance, not further development.

    I have been a frequent birder in this park for the last 40 years. I have also led Christmas Bird Counts for Golden Gate Audubon in this area. We have had a great number and variety of birds, several of which are not seen in other parts of the count area. If the current version of BMASP were to go forward, I can confidently say that the birdlife would be negatively affected. I am sure an Environmental Impact Report would confirm my prediction.

    Please put an end to this ill-conceived idea immediately.

  • July 1, 2022 at 5:17 am
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    It has been disappointing to hear about a possible invasion of the parks natural habitats! We have worked for years to develop the park natural setting for the public to enjoy as a free space that is safe for families and individuals to learn about plant life, view the distant landscape of san francisco, see the 3 bridges all in a environment that captures the essance of the bay area!! Maintaining our health thru exercise regardless of age is what this park has become! Family generations continue to use this and raise their children to do the same into the future! This area has become a part of the wild that is disappearing in local towns and neighborhoods!!! This is an extension of the Water Fronts artistic design for free space and public use! A major change in road use would distroy the newly developed paving and smother the environmental use! So many community based organizations, local schools and Universities continue to use this sight as a part of there developmental educational correculum! Berkeley has been known as a city thats support our natural environment including our coast line! People come from around the world to see what we are doing!! Lets keep this sight as natural a possible without the distructive forces that would end our relationship with Mother Natures Natural Resouces!!!

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  • June 29, 2022 at 5:14 pm
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    I would like to help stop these proposed projects in the Berkeley Marina. Could someone email directly so we could discuss ways to get the word out to the entire Berkeley community?

    Many thanks,

    Carla

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