Violates Covenant

The City of Berkeley does not own the land that makes up the Marina. The State of California owns it. The City holds it in trust. The California State Lands Commission administers State lands held in trust. The Commission has announced its next regular meeting for June 23. The following is a written Public Comment submitted to the Commission in advance of its meeting.

I am writing to call the Commission’s attention to a pending violation of the terms under which the City of Berkeley as trustee holds the State-owned lands commonly known as the Berkeley Marina, and in particular that part of the Marina located north of Spinnaker Way formerly known as North Waterfront Park, now Cesar Chavez Park.  

The fundamental agreement under which the City holds that land is that it should be used “for unstructured public recreation.”  This land use covenant was confirmed by Berkeley City Council resolution No. 47,935-NS in May 1976 and confirmed verbatim in the Master Plan in 1977, and in all subsequent conceptual and specific planning documents.

In March 2022, however, a landscape design firm hired by the City of Berkeley proposed fundamental modifications to the “unstructured public recreation” covenant. Among other changes, the firm proposes demolishing a historic 3.5 acre portion of the park known as the Native Plant Area and converting the area into a privately owned commercial enterprise offering zipline and ropes courses for fee-paying adults.  The firm further proposes bulldozing, grading, and paving a verdant central meadow of the park into a concert venue complete with a giant sound stage structure.   

The proposed changes absolutely violate the “unstructured public recreation” covenant under which the City holds these State lands.

As a member of the Chavez Park Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to Cesar Chavez Park, I respectfully request that the honorable Commission members Investigate this pending situation and exercise their power to hold the City of Berkeley to the covenant under which it holds these State lands; or in the alternative, restore possession of these lands to State hands.

— Martin Nicolaus

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