Today’s update of the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan (BMASP) website says in bold letters:
“Please note that no development is being considered at Cesar Chavez Park in the BMASP process.”
BMASP will, however, continue to “discuss selective redevelopment opportunities at the Waterfront in non-park areas.”
BMASP’s retreat comes as the Petition to Save Chavez Park from BMASP reached just short of 2000 signatures, twice as many as the 979 responses that BMASP claimed as support for its development plans this past Spring. BMASP’s claim was always dubious because their questionnaire was poorly drafted, skewed, manipulative, and incomplete. Additional signatures on the anti-BMASP petition were in the pipeline as the Berkeley Neighborhood Council broadcast the online link and the Conservancy was set to collect ink signatures in the park and at the Solano Stroll.
It was increasingly clear that with the petition growing and an election looming, City Council was not going to support BMASP for Chavez Park development. Although only Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Vice Mayor Kate Harrison came out with clear statements of opposition, it was known that Sophie Hahn was strongly opposed, and Ben Bartlett intended to vote against it, telling one constituent “nobody is in favor of this.” At least two other council members were reportedly leaning in opposition to BMASP.
It was also increasingly clear that BMASP commercialization in the park was going to collide with litigation, permit issues, and a voter referendum, not to mention the economic and practical shortcomings of this poorly thought-out set of projects.
This is a victory for all the dedicated volunteers who took up the cause to stop commercialization of our beloved Cesar Chavez Park, and all those who showed their support by sending in letters and comments, speaking and texting at meetings, signing the petition, making donations, buying hats and books, and spreading the word to their family, friends, and neighbors. It shows that if we organize early and energetically and use all the resources at our disposal, we can defeat bad development and protect the public interest. Yes we can! Sí se puede!
Although this is a victory, it’s wise to remain alert and to prepare to get active again if BMASP comes to believe that we are asleep. Berkeley politics is increasingly opaque and manipulated by unelected bureaucrats. Council members often have little idea of what is actually happening, and don’t have the energy and/or the resources to get on top of an issue. It is up to us, the citizens, to shed light and to exercise our power for good.