Letters Continued

Letter from Tom Reilly

Dear Mas. Kesarwani and 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 visitor to this park for many years. I experience it as a place of quiet beauty and wonderful Bay views.  Changing it into a crowded events venue would destroy its essence.  

Please put an end to this very bad idea immediately.

Tom Reilly 
Berkeley CA 94702 

Letter from Michele Ritterman Ph.D.

Dear council members of Berkeley and City Manager:

You have the authority to STOP the plans of the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan (BMASP).

Please do NOT allow BMASP to transform our park from a place of relief from urban stress and enjoyment of nature into a high pressure commercial amusement park.

Creating a “large events pavilion” and/or turning the native plant area into a “large Adventure Park” is a disaster for the natural and animal life of the park; dog walkers; will dirty the waters and shows no concern for the people depending on the area as a quiet refuge.

It is not a “revenue-producer”.
The “plans” are sloppy and Hargreave Jones architect has little experience with established urban parks. They plan to have over the children’s playground on the south side of the marina! They did not reach out to the Chavez Park Dog owners group, Sierra club, Audobon society, the Chavez Park Conservancy.  There is NO consensus.  Big events drive wildlife away possible forever, they bring major noise pollution, traffic jams, littering and crime.  There is no groundswell for rock concerts there: the opposite is true.  Nature is the city-dweller’s lifeline. 

THIS is a DISASTER THAN CAN BE prevented. PLEASE PREVENT IT! Choose life.

Sincerely,
Michele Ritterman, Ph.D.
Psychologist and lover of the marina.

Letter from Connie Rutherford

Dear Ms. Kesarwani,

I am a retired Alameda County Deputy County Counsel who resides in your district. I voted for you enthusiastically and have approved of most of what you have been doing in your position. 

I just recently found out about the proposal to basically destroy Chavez Park by putting in an “Events Pavilion” and turning the Native Plant area into a large adventure park with zip lines. As you know, there are only two lanes in and two lanes out of that area, and parking is extremely limited. What will they do? Pave over more land for event attendee parking? If the city turns that area into an amusement park, the whole tenor of the beauty we now enjoy will be taken away from we locals, and our streets will be cluttered with traffic jams. The only people who will benefit are the developer and those who have enough money to attend events, not we locals. It’s a very bad idea to even consider such a plan.

I’m so upset by this that I will be focusing on it closely. A vote for you in November will depend on how you handle this important issue. It’s very offensive that none of the organizations that care about that piece of land and work to preserve it were never even consulted. The plan is shameful and would destroy this part of Berkeley as we now know it.

Thank you for your attention to this matter,

Connie Rutherford

Letter from Lex Morris

In mid-May I immediately became nauseous upon learning of the 2019 Berkeley Marina Area “Specific” Plan – a plan that would permanently “transform” – ie expensively destroy – our incredible waterfront area. And how I found out was from a man who just happened to place a discarded flyer from off the ground onto my car. Ever since I moved here 3 decades ago to attend UC Berkeley, I’ve visited to walk and photograph – it was called North Waterfront Park then. Now residing in San Francisco, I still go whenever I can. So proximate to so many Bay Area communities, this remains one of the most unique and spectacular but also FRAGILE areas we all cherish and still have open to ALL of us – including countless bird species – some threatened or endangered – not to mention other wildlife.

While working full-time, I’ve also been taking time to learn about all this. read the BMASP deck pdf, articles, letters, online information, teamed up with Jeff Malmuth, joined Martin Nicolaus’ chavezpark.org, CESP and also in late May, began this letter and requested a community meeting with Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani (District 1) to help try to ENTIRELY stop what so many of us view as sheer madness – nothing less than the destruction of an entire ecosystem. Our views are in stark contrast to the “strong” citizen support the BMASP deck claims exists and “overwhelming” support the City seems to presently regard as majority sentiment. Incidentally, a “study” that cites overwhelming public support for anything yet simultaneously doesn’t keep adequate public records proving said “support” – in specific detail – would seem to invalidate any claims of strong support. Excluding the many necessary repairs to aging infrastructure that we can all agree on, so many have already voiced at meetings and in letters why the area MUST BE preserved and protected for all as it is. But I’d like still like to add some thoughts concerning the misleading BMASP deck itself as this “plan” is so out of synch with the entire area. Yes, it’s a “Specific Plan” but it’s a Specific Destruction Plan – for that reason I call it the BMADP.

Under “Support for the following revenue-generating facilities”, the deck pdf cites 979 surveyed participants, mainly from Berkeley: for “Casual outdoor dining” 91% “Strongly Like + Like” (how many “Strongly Like” vs. “Like” we don’t know since they fused that as one percentage), 7 % “Neutral” while supposedly an entirely insignificant 2% “Don’t Like + Strongly Don’t Like”. In “What new or enhanced amenities would you like to see?”, for “Nature viewing areas” a high 88% in favor while yet another insignificant 1% oppose- never mind that the entire area already is a nature viewing area. Next, “Ecological/environmental features” 86% in favor, vs. less than 2% opposed, “Shorebird Park Beach Improvements” 82% vs less than 1%. “Dining” “new or enhanced amenities”, “viewing areas” “ecological features” and “improvements” are not specific, clear descriptions of what they’re actually proposing and those words leave open to interpretation the actual plans – in other words they give themselves endless wiggle room to come up with pretty much any designs they wish. But, take just one example, we don’t need – or want – raised “nature viewing” overlooks to see the bay from higher up and gaze down upon an “enhanced” bulldozed meadow with a concert stage, food stands and beer “gardens” where swallows, red-winged blackbirds and other wildlife presently live. Plans which require displacing (killing) and destroying animals and nature aren’t “improvements” nor “enhanced”.

We’ve also been told that “The BMASP has involved an extensive public process and has provided announcements of public meetings via numerous communication channels: the City’s website, the City’s Community Calendar, the Berkeleyside newspaper, as well as email announcements to residents interested in the BMSASP and Measure T1 projects.”

If people were as sufficiently notified and democratically welcomed in advance to participate, then how is it possible then, that even up to this very day (July 7) countless people who visit the park regularly still don’t know of this plan?? How is it that all of us who have been going and spending weekdays and/or weekends in May and June – directly talking with people in the park itself, how come the vast majority we speak with didn’t know of these proposals until so recently? How is it so many still don’t know? And why would there still be such levels of shock, disgust and outrage if such an overwhelming majority of locals approve these destruction plans as the surveys claim? If so many “Strongly Like + Like” them then why would those we speak with, once they hear actual details – specifics – including proposals cited as “environmental” – why would they be near 100% unanimously opposed to the majority of them? And why would predominantly Berkley residents be opposed to what the Sierra Club and California Wildlife Foundation have already written in opposition to – it makes no sense. If the “random” selection surveyed in the deck are so in favor of the exact same plans that we also go out and describe to people, how could our results be exactly opposite the survey results? And why would so many locals be sending in letters in strong opposition? This simply doesn’t make sense either. Even just this past holiday weekend there was more outreach within the park once again – just as in May and June – and once again100% of those spoken with opposed the plan. Surveys with an unbiased, truly diverse and/or fully informed pool of participants generally tend to mirror overall community sentiment in any follow-up –and should especially be the case here given those overwhelmingly high percentages of “Strongly Like + Like” in those surveys described before. It’s a known fact – it’s very easy to simplify, generalize and manipulate survey questions so that the respondents answers overall reflect what vested interests want reflected – and is exactly why surveys are so often used in “development” schemes it’s a well-known tactic. It’s also easy to achieve desired survey results if you alert certain people ahead of time to participate – whether this happened, it still happens to be another well-known tactic.

As tons of tax payer funded new road work in the marina has already been done, with much still underway, City Hall and the PRW say things like “Remember, nothing has been decided yet.”, “To Be Determined”, “Still to come in the process are..”, “..no decisions will be made without further engagement with the community and Council”, “Staff will revise draft list of potential new revenue-generating uses”, a “Draft Specific Plan will be completed in early Spring 2023 – the deck itself states dates, including an EIR Public Scoping Meeting TBD in 2023 are “To Be Determined” (which I think should have already have taken place – and which also means they could happen late in 2023) and so fourth. Yet, and though I’d like to believe otherwise, the deck itself and road construction already completed and taking place, the insistence on overwhelming “community” support, the many “obstacles” to getting an official PUBLIC RECORD of opposition and Community Meetings and PRW zoom meetings not being recorded – even though many have requested this happen – taken together all of these would seem to indicate an overall pro-destruction stance by – not that “nothing has been decided yet.”

But for now, while we’re all floating around in some presumably “undecided” ambiguity together, here’s another example that seems to counter that ostensible “indecision” – the “June 8 BMASP Update” to Mayor ArreguÍn and City Council. Leaning very much in the pro-destruction direction, the update shows dismissive haste, strong reliance on the afore-mentioned surveys, not adequately addressing other, entirely valid citizen concerns and input in real time, apple to orange comparisons, and overall implicit bias we’re all so alarmed by -versus taking into REAL consideration serious, expressed concerns – including those presented at PRW meetings just prior to this June 8 Update.

The Update begins with “In 2019 the..BMASP was authorized by City Council in order to provide a long-term “vision” for achieving a financially self-sustainable publicly-owned Waterfront in the City of Berkeley.” Wrecking ecosystems isn’t a “vision” nor sustainable – and private enterprises aren’t publicly owned. It further states “Based on community feedback from Community Meeting No. 2 (some specificity finally), the focus groups (who exactly?), and “the community questionnaire” (aka the previously cited survey results), the consultant team and staff WILL REVISE the draft list of potential new revenue-generating and complementary uses at the Berkeley Waterfront for additional discussion with multiple focus groups for September 2022.”

They also say they’ll hear “additional community feedback” – notably though, this feedback as siphoned through their planned Community Meetings, focus groups and surveys. And then, not until yet another unspecified time in 2024 “the final plan and Final Environmental Impact Report WILL BE presented to Council FOR ADOPTION. Once the Specific Plan has been adopted, the City WILL HAVE a roadmap with a specific set of “potential” new revenue-generating and complementary uses at the Berkeley Waterfront that WILL ENSURE that current and future generations of Berkeley’s can enjoy the Berkeley Waterfront for the next 25 – 50 years.” I say Future Generations can and WILL enjoy it is – as a fully protected ecosystem.

Another example of the city “answering” important community questions in the Update: Question 1: Why is Cesar Chavez Park being developed into an amusement park? The highly simplified, again detail deficient response to presumably justify the “increase of the number of special events (e.g., concerts) at the eastern side of the park, and to develop either a portable or permanent stage area and pathway for event equipment”, the answer offered is that pre-Covid, “large public events were held at Berkeley Waterfront for several decades, including the Kite Festival, July 4th celebration, and occasional musical concerts.” And that’s it, that’s the “answer” provided to that most essential question. ‘

These three simply cannot be compared to permanently deforming this entire area into a Berkeley Disneyland/Pike’s Place on steroids. Kite flying and a one time Kite Festival annually entirely fits and works within the landscape and tradition here – and is QUIET. We all know birds and wildlife are highly sensitive to continual sounds, vibrations and of course, excessive crowds. Second, “occasional musical concerts” and the 4th of July are infrequent events which, yes, generate sounds and disturb birds, but have nowhere near the same impact as ongoing and frequent revenue-generating events in an amusement zone – and all that goes along with that. It would drive away countless species we are supposed to be PROTECTING and SHARING our planet with — not stealing from.

The entire “plan” is so out of step with Berkeley’s long-standing, pro-environment history so unique among cities, not sufficiently documenting public opposition is alarmingly out of step with the city’s Free Speech Movement history, entirely out of step with of the solar calendar monument PERMANENTLY honoring Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta and their enduring commitment to PRESERVE and PROTECT PEOPLE, NATURE and all species in it, out of step with the already ever increasing traffic along I- 80, Frontage Rd., University Ave (and only one road leads in and out of the entire area), out of touch with the REALITY of the range of diverse economic/social backgrounds of countless people who enjoy FREE parking, ample, FREE recreation, exercise and relaxation, out of step with the idea of Berkeley SUPPORTING the MANY EXTREMELY CLOSE, INCREDIBLE LOCAL BUSINESSES who, incidentally, also so happen to still be struggling to get past Covid impacts and all other chaos hitting our economy and globe – and entirely out of step with the direction all of us – as CO-INHABITANTS of OUR PLANET IN PERIL – are supposed to be moving in TOGETHER. There are FAR MORE productive, interesting and COMMUNITY, CIVIC & ENVIRONMENTALLY PROTECTIVE ways to generate revenues versus destroying the increasingly rare, nature areas and species around us – who also have a right to their survival. We simply cannot not pave another paradise and need to recognize all our Interpendence.. Let’s honor the area, the species, those who protected it for us in the past so that we can ALL CONTINUE to protect this highly specific, incredible place TOGETHER – for now and for everyone’s future.

Thank you for your strong consideration to what all of us are trying to protect and all we’re trying to convey to you,
Lex Morris
ps: https://chavezpark.org/cesar-chavez-memorial-solar-calendar/
EcoCitizen – website in progress
Chavezpark.org – member UC Berkeley, former Berkeley & Oakland resident
San Francisco, current resident

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2 thoughts on “Letters Continued

  • July 10, 2022 at 7:49 am
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    Dear Council Members and City Manager,
    I have been a frequent visitor to the Chavez Park for many years, stretching back to before it was actually visited by a fraction of the numbers today. It has become a therapeutic walk for me and for a dear friend with Parkinson’s disease in the last couple years. It is a curious fact that so little was known about the early conceptions for this plan by those of us who depend on the park for meeting our daily needs. I think it is irresponsible to have moved so far without verifiable public input which is truly representative of us, the public. I would propose, and will help any volunteer movement which would share responsibility, that we draft a petition and solicit signatures in person, at the park, which will yield concrete data regarding the value of the park to those of us who are very upset and frustrated by the procedure so far implemented. No one can assess the value of this reclaimed landfill as well as those of us who rely on the solace and healthy experiences it provides currently. We feel left out. Please do the right thing by simply asking the folks who are very content with the park the way it is.

  • July 9, 2022 at 6:37 pm
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    Hi Martin,
    Ok, in light of so many other letters that have come in re this awful proposal, here is mine that I wrote back on May 12th. You can go ahead and post it with others. (I originally included my full address in my original letter to the mayor and council, but deleted it here.) Thank you very much for your leadership in this effort to save our beautiful space the way it is and everything else you do for the park. Here’s my letter:

    Dear Mayor Arreguin and Berkeley City Council, 5/12/22

    I want to tell you that I think the proposed development involving Cesar Chavez Park is horrifying to me and just about every other Berkeleyan I know and have discussed this with. I’ve been a resident of Berkeley for 48 years and have enjoyed the open space and quiet nature of the CCP area as a nearby refuge from urban life through those many years. I especially love watching the many varied birds that also call the park home. The Events Pavilion and amusement areas shown in the plans are especially disturbing.

    I urge you to please reconsider destroying the current tranquility and natural beauty of this park with these chaotic BMASP proposals. Or at least you could put it up as a referendum for the citizens of this city to vote on — not just a survey soliciting which awful current commercial proposal we would prefer. It’s our land. Thank you.

    Michele J. Bernal, Berkeley

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