Letters and comments about the proposed commercialization of Chavez Park continue to come in. Here is a selection, some penned much earlier, but arriving too late to be included in the Love Letters to the Park book. Maybe for the second volume?
Letter From Alan J. McCornick
Dear Mr. Mayor, Ms. City Manager, Council Members of the City of Berkeley:
I’m writing to urge you to stop the plan to turn Chavez Park from the magnificent place it is today into a commercial enterprise where the peace and quiet is shattered by electronic sounds and crowds that come for reasons other than to enjoy the sun, fresh air and incomparable views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline.
Twelve years ago my husband and I adopted two little dogs who have been the center of our lives ever since. Our chief family activity is taking “the girls” for walks around the East Bay and nothing has come close to providing us with the pleasure we get from walking the perimeter of Cesar Chavez Park and watching them run free in the off-leash area. Cesar Chavez is also top of the list of places we take visitors. Not once have we failed to elicit comments like, “You guys are so lucky to live in Berkeley!” When they hear the story of a city dump converted into a place where groundhogs dart in and out of the rocks and the sky is filled with kites and dog lovers can sit at picnic tables and meet other dog lovers, they envy us even more. And we feel proud to have such a treasure to share with them.
Please don’t let this wonderful transformation from something ugly to something beautiful be turned back into something ugly again. With so many other places available around the Bay Area for musical entertainment and park pavilions, why would anybody take this gem to create one more?
I hope you will rethink this extraordinarily bad idea. Please reconsider. Please stop this destructive plan.
Alan J. McCornick
Berkeley, CA 94705
Comment by Lindsay Vurek
Please do not destroy this remaining Berkeley shoreline open space with more unnecessary and destructive construction, so a small set of people can make money. Remember we have climate change and sea level raise among other problems.
Letter from Railyn Taylor
Dear City of Berkeley:
Council Members, City Manager, and All Whom Hold Power in Decision Making
I am writing today because it is heavy on my heart that some of our last native Berkeley land with rich history, ecosystem, and nature space for learning and connecting in community is under potential threat of being built over for a massive events space pavilion.
Hundreds of native species of birds fly in and out of this precious land, as well as land to breed. This space is sacred to our native peoples, and it’s river port is one that holds one of the last places for our wildlife to thrive.
It has been argued that spaces like the one being proposed is a place for community to gather and have fun, which I too enjoy listening to live music and the idea of a zip-lining area; however, smaller recreation areas like this could be established other places without displacing this specific place.
Much trash will be brought to this space that is otherwise for our local birds and plants. The nature of events spaces are impermanent. Hence, there being no real way to make them sustainable. Research shows, making events more sustainable is not the answer. And, however sustainable one could create an events space, nothing can replace the land, wildlife, or the detriment to the species themselves whom will inevitably be harmed, with their land being replaced with concrete.
Please, take into consideration the future of our earth, fast disappearing native lands, and the health of our whole community in making this important decision. Our environment needs us to defend her, and the time is now.
It would mean a lot to have you refer to the following resources for more information, to make an educated decision:
3) As well as any others fellow community members provide **
Given what you know now, I would hope your decision to support myself and many others in this community with the same concern, bares weight. May I remind you that your duty in office is to protect the voice of the people, and act in ways that represent us well.
In moving forward with this planning without consulting vital cornerstones to this Berkeley community, including: Chavez Park Conservancy, the Chavez Park dog owner’s group, the Solar Calendar organization, the model airplane group, 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, means our community is going unrepresented in this. Please, do not hesitate to reach out if you’d like to speak with a community of future acupuncturists who are all very passionate on this issue.
It is my ask you uphold your duty as our decision makers & powers of change, by consulting all who will be impacted, and listening to what I’ve shared today.
Letter from Lee Tempkin
There are two issues coming before the city council that I have strong feelings about. I have lived in Berkeley for over fifty years, am a retired school teacher, and was fortunate to be able to buy a house in Berkeley in 1980. I am not against change in Berkeley, but I do want to see the citizens of Berkeley, through their representatives, advocating for and approving responsible and thoughtful change that keeps the values of our city at the front.
The first is the zoning for new housing at the North Berkeley Bart station. I don’t understand the reasoning of the planning commission to allow 12-18 story buildings on that site, especially since their own staff and the neighborhood are against this decision. These buildings would tower over the neighborhood and would be an eyesore in that area. I also believe that the need for affordable housing is paramount for city workers, teachers and their families who work in Berkeley and can’t afford to live here. Please limit the housing to a maximum height of 7 stories and a maximum density of 75 units per acres, create more affordable housing at this location, and use environmentally friendly wood, not concrete or metal.
The second is the Berkeley Marina Plan that would destroy the natural use of Cesar Chavez Park that so many of us cherish. The proposed change to create an adult adventure park in the natural plant area as a money-maker is dubious at best and tragic for the birds and other animals that live and visit there on their migrations. And the proposed change to create an event pavilion is again dubious at best as a money-maker and would create a headache for staff workers with noise pollution, sanitation and litter issues, and more. There are many indoor music venues for events and streets that could be closed off if Berkeley wanted to offer outdoor areas for events. What is needed at that park is a real restroom, good trash cans with lids, and a more controlled dog area to protect the birds and other animals from wayward dogs.
Please consider these points and reject the changes that are being proposed for our city.
Comment by Atsuko Itakura
Dear Council Members & City Manager of Berkeley:
First of all, let me thank you. I thank you for the work you put in and, although I do not assume to know the level of work, stress, and busy-ness in your lives, I’m sure it’s not easy to do what you do. So, thank you (from someone who is not doing that work myself). I am writing to you because I’ve recently been notified of your potential plans to develop the Berkeley Marina area, and before you make the decision to do so, I believe you should really understand the multilevel impact this will have on our community. This is how I see it and I know I am not alone.
As a local resident who not only enjoys the park and marina area often and with fondness (I grew up here), but lives within hearing distance, I can guarantee that most people in the neighborhoods, stretching far beyond my Strawberry Creek district, would be mortified to have this blunder of a “development” just on the other side of the freeway. However, there’s more to it than just that.
“The BMASP recommendations are tone deaf to our environmentally conscious time,” one article states. Not only our environmentally conscious time, but completely disregarding of the people who make up the culture of what Berkeley is and what makes it a very attractive, unique and special place (people like buying houses here for a reason). There is something to be said of change, certainly. Change is inevitable, but the course that those changes will take is and should be up to us as the community of diverse residents that live here, ultimately. BMASP may just be proposing what they think is their best recommendation and doing what they do to the best of their ability, but they aren’t the ones that will be living right next door to a potential pavilion or amusement park. It will be us – you, me, your family, my family. As much as I would like to believe that they are just doing their best given their experiences, it is clear to me that they make these recommendations out of context. Out of context for the realities incurred by those living right by the marina (some for generations) as well as the ripple effect it will have on people and cities a little further away, on the culture and community of Berkeley as a whole – irreparable changes. It is perhaps one thing for construction of that nature to occur in wide open spaces, but in a place like Berkeley that is bordered by water on one side and the steep hills of beautiful Tilden Park on the other, that already has its own issues with road congestion, we will literally have no escape from the sounds, traffic, people, and inevitable amounts of TRASH that will accumulate in the area (let’s be real – when you have an event space or amusement park that disallows children, you are basically coaxing the sale of alcohol and with that comes TRASH, drunk driving, who knows what else)…
Something I love about Berkeley and the Bay Area in general is the work that is being done to be culturally attuned as well as the the efforts placed in the restoration of wetlands, to create shared & safe public spaces that we all (across the board, regardless of background or age or what-have-you) that we get to enjoy TOGETHER. Tell me, when no one else is asking for this, why would you take that away from us? How many spaces are there where we can do that? Not many and how sad is that. Not too long ago, the local government consisted of activists themselves, people who wanted Berkeley to prosper as a symbol of diversity, inclusion, togetherness. How can we keep that going if you take one of the few large, open, publicly-shared spaces that are connected by the Bay Trail to other communities away from us? Growing up here, attending public schools here, leaving and then returning with a newfound appreciation after experiencing other worlds, I’ve come to understand how precious a place like this truly is, entirely because it’s NOT like everywhere else. I believe this is what Berkeley has here, what our predecessors in the council, local government, in the communities of past and present have worked SO HARD to preserve. Many other places have pavilions, amusement parks, as well as strip malls and shopping centers. But not everywhere else has our political and social justice history. And those places with the pavilions, tell me what the surrounding areas look like now? Oftentimes, it’s the most sacred of things that are the most fragile, only in the sense that they can be destroyed in one fell swoop by the fickleness of today’s world. Yet, that which is sacred is so enriching and far-reaching in a way that cannot be quantified. That being said, if numbers are what you want, then at least allow time for us to demonstrate them. Together, as residents and council members, as local government and citizens (together), I’m sure we can hear your concerns and come up with a solution.
Please keep restoring the Bay, committing to shared public spaces. Please keep Berkeley as a community that is evolving into its own thing and not metamorphosing to be another blip on the radar. Maybe in the quest to manage the budget, it can be easy to get a little tunnel visioned. I get that. But please remember that Berkeley is about far more than money and what we have here now, no amount of money could every buy back.
Comment by Mattjanine Perrybrown
Hello City Council and Manager
I have been a Berkeley resident for more than 50 years and a frequent visitor to Chavez Park. The VALUE of the park is its relatively unimproved nature. It is close to town, free for all, and a wonderful way to experience the bay and have a respite from urban life. The BMASP plan would ruin this experience. Do not waste taxpayer money further pursuing major changes to Chavez Park.
One improvement would be valuable. Please improve the paved path. Either replace it with crushed granite or provide a graded edge to it. The path is not wide enough for people, dogs and bikes to pass and the abrupt edge is dangerous and caused me to break my ankle. Please prevent others from this accident. It is easy to correct and an inexpensive improvement.
The uncertain promise of income is not a good reason to destroy an amenity that many residents currently enjoy.
Letter from Randall Marks
Hello, Berkeley city council & mayor:
I visited Cesar Chavez Park yesterday. I’ve been a park user for over 3 decades.
Beautiful Open Space. Many happy park users.
There aren’t many spaces like this in Berkeley that are as well utilized.
It would be ludicrous to bulldoze & develop this for commercial purposes.
The only ingress & egress may be freshly paved & re-aligned, but it will not support the anticipated traffic. Please join the opposition to this project.
Thank you, Randall Marks
Letter from Kelly Hammargren
Dear Mayor Arreguin, City Councilmembers, Mr. Ferris and Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Commissioners,
I was touched and moved by all the public comments to preserve Cesar Chavez Park at the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Commission at the July 13, 2022 meeting.
There were no members of the public that supported the City’s Plan through the hired consultants though the commission meeting was publicly announced, that came from a commissioner with a relationship with the consultants. Whether that relationship is only in the past or continuing is unknown, but it should have been disclosed and the commissioner should have recused.
At the meeting, I read a statement from the Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) of which I am a board member. CESP has a long history of activism to preserve open space. Even though I have been on the board for several years, I find I am still catching up in the importance of parks and open space. I support the position and letter from CESP.
Last evening, I turned on the CNN special program Patagonia. The focus was conservancy and restoring land a nature preserve with native animals, creating the ecosystem balance that had been destroyed by man and domestic animals.
As the program closed, I thought about how here in Berkeley the movement from the City of Berkeley administration is to destroy the little open space we have left with overdevelopment and commercialization.
The members of the public are joining together to preserve the Cesar Chavez Park and open space in opposition.
I join with the many citizens who oppose development and commercialization. I hope all of you receiving this email will come to your senses and support continued restoration of nature preserve and habitat though I have little faith that you grasp the importance of quiet places with nature free from constant over stimulation of entertainment.
Placing an amphitheater in Cesar Chavez Park is abhorrent.
The process for the BMASP is disappointing at best and more often described as action suppress and censor public input.
The BMASP process is what I observe over and over in the City of Berkeley. The City staff, City administrators, the hired consultants come with what they have decided is the solution and then present it as which arrangement of these unwanted things do you like best. This process most often includes push polls to achieve a false narrative of support.
The fact that meetings are not recorded where contrary comments are given is another example of the City of Berkeley’s effort to censor and suppress. It is the opposite of a city that professes openness and transparency.
One thing the City did right this year was to cancel the July 4th fireworks. Fireworks are a disaster for nature and nesting birds and detrimental to the environment. Fireworks should not be resumed.
We are in a climate and environmental emergency and we need to think differently of how we live, plan this city and plan regionally.