Shortly after the City announced that BMASP (the park wrecking scheme) was NOT going to include “development” at Cesar Chavez Park, I sent out an email to the people who had signed our petition to share news of this victory. The online petition got 1,150 signatures before closing. The paper petitions had 806 signatures, for a total of 1,958. (More came in later.) From those, we were able to winnow 1,631 email addresses for the MailChimp send. Of these, 1537 or 94 percent were successfully delivered; the other six percent bounced. Of the successful deliveries, 67 percent or 1,087 were opened. That’s more than double the average open rate for commercial email campaigns. (Many people opened it more than once, for a total of 2,201 opens.) Of the people who opened the email, a total of 330 clicked on one of the links in it, either to subscribe to chavezpark.org, or for a book, or a hat. That click rate of 22 percent is almost four times the average clickthrough rate in commercial email campaigns. These numbers speak to the high interest and sense of engagement that people feel for Chavez Park — a force that the City could not resist.
Those feelings aren’t confined to Berkeley. The paper petitions asked people to fill in their residence address. Of the 806 paper signatures, 768 had legible city data. The online petitions yielded signers’ public IP addresses, which encode city data. Adding the paper and the 1150 online signatures we got city addresses for 1,918 individuals. Of these, 907 people, or 47 percent, lived in Berkeley. An additional 18 percent lived in nearby cities in Alameda and Contra Costa County. Adding Berkeley and these other nearby cities, 65 percent of the petition signers lived in the area served by the East Bay Regional Park District. An additional 24 percent lived in other California cities. Nine percent gave addresses out of state. Two percent came from abroad. What these numbers say is that the user base of Chavez Park is only a minority Berkeley; the majority is region-wide and state-wide. From its early beginnings, when it was still called North Waterfront Park, it was designated a regional attraction. These recent numbers confirm that.
Now for a different kind of number. How long does it take to remove graffiti in the park? On January 12 this year, I sent an email to seven top managers of SCS Engineers inc. listed on that firm’s website. SCS Engineers has for many years had the contract to maintain the flare station and its associated network of gas wells and conduits. In the email I pointed out that there was a big graffiti high up on the flare station smokestack; that the SCS field engineers I talked with on the ground were well aware of it and had reported it up the chain, but that nothing had been done to remove it. I wrote “The next time your contract with the City comes up for renewal, I will appeal to City Council and the City Manager to audit your performance on the theory that if you neglect such an obvious issue, what else are you not taking care of.” Other than an automatic vacation responder, I had no reply, zero, from any of the SCS managers. But then last weekend suddenly the graffiti is painted over. So, in approximate numbers, it took 1,300 days, or 3.5 years, for SCS Engineers to remove the graffiti. Oh, and why? Well, thanks to the ever-vigilant Kelly Hammargren, I learned that the draft agenda for the upcoming September 20 City Council meeting has as item 8, “Contract [renewal] $714,022 with SCS Engineers to provide engineering, maintenance, and monitoring services for the landfill to meet mandatory compliance requirements at Cesar Chavez Park from 1/1/2023 – 6/30/2026.” Someone at SCS had read my email and was taking no chances.
Another graffiti removal number. On August 24, 2021, I sent an email to Alexandra Endress, the Waterfront Manager, pointing out that the fence around the flare station has been tagged with graffiti, some of it at least 8 months old, some of it just a month. I asked the City to please supply paint and a roller for Chavez Park Conservancy volunteers to cover up the tags on the fence. On Sept. 9, Ms. Endress replied that someone from “our maintenance team will be in touch about supporting your volunteer efforts for cleaning up the graffiti on the fence.” On Sept. 14 I emailed Ms. Endress to say that nobody has been in touch. There was no response. Dead end.
And now, last weekend, a year after my email to Ms. Endress, the fence tags were painted over. What was that about? Well, the previous week, Ms. Endress had emailed me to say she had directed her staff to remove the bumper stickers that said “Save Our Park – Sign the Petition – Go to chavezpark.org.” I replied that removing these specific items was content-based censorship, a First Amendment violation, in view of the city’s long-standing tolerance for other speech content, such as the graffiti on the flare station fence. Luckily, the higher-ups within days of this exchange backed off the park commercialization schemes, mooting a possible First Amendment dustup in court. Unluckily, taggers within days posted more graffiti on the east side flare station fence. I wonder how long it till take for that to come down. My offer to recruit Chavez Park Conservancy volunteers to do the removal work if the City will supply the paint and rollers still stands.
Here’s a number with a dollar sign in front of it: $15 million. This sum, as I noted here on August 10, came in response to a set of specific requests from the city. The biggest item, $6 million, was for dredging the entrance to the boat basin so that the largest sailing yachts could pass at low tide. The next item, $4.5 million, was for dock conversion to accommodate more medium and large boats. This money, more than two thirds of the total, will benefit the upper tier of sailboat owners, a population of maybe two dozen individuals. Down at the bottom, a bone thrown to the poor, is $1 million to upgrade the paved perimeter path in Chavez Park to ADA standards. Even that was in doubt when the August 9 Berkeleyside story swooning over the award failed to mention the park item at all. Reassuringly, a recent public email by Mayor Jesse Arreguín confirms the spending for “reconstructing the Cesar Chavez perimeter path.”
Note incidentally that large sailing yachts can pass in and out at low tide without problems, according to well-informed boat activist Paul Kamen. The dredging is not needed. Maybe a piece of this surplus $6 million can be spent more effectively on other projects, like, say, real permanent bathrooms, at least three of them, in Chavez Park.
Lastly, an item with a very small number: 5. The excellent Friends of 5 Creeks newsletter, produced by Susan Schwartz, has just been published. You can get a copy from the F5C website. There is no better compendium of all that’s shaking with East Bay parks and the larger environmental policies that affect us. If you care about these issues, you should subscribe.