The petition to City Council and City Manager has topped our initial goal of 1,000 signatures. As I write this there are a bit over 800 online signatures, and volunteers have collected more than 300 ink signatures on paper. We’re continuing the petition movement all month, finishing with a final day of collecting signatures at the Solano Stroll on September 11. Can we hit 2000? We’ll turn in the signatures on the day City Council returns from its summer recess, September 12.
You can help gather signatures and spread the word at the Conservancy kiosk in the southeast corner of the park this Saturday and Sunday, August 6-7, between 2 and 6 pm. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule or just show up. You can also download blank petition forms by clicking here.
A number of additional letters have come in about the BMASP proposals. These came too late for inclusion in the Love Letters to the Park collection. I’m printing them below. But first I want to feature a clever homemade yard sign sent in by Jonathan Newman, who writes, “Thanks for alerting the public to the disastrous BMASP proposal and organizing the petition. We now have this sign in front of our home on Virginia Street.”
If you’re thinking of making a similar sign, you can include a printout of the QR code that will send people directly to the petition page in two clicks, without having to type the web address. We now have this code on the new bumper stickers that will be available at the Conservancy kiosk this weekend, along with copies of the new Love Letters to the Park book.
A notable signer of our petition is Elisa Mikiten, who this week announced her candidacy for Berkeley City Council in District 1. She will be challenging the incumbent, Rashi Kesarwani. Kesarwani has not signed this petition, and instead has been on the receiving end of an earlier petition addressed to her specifically, asking her to take a clear position on the BMASP proposals. She’s issued a supplementary statement that in the opinion of a number of her constituents is still waffling. More on that in another post in due time.
Last Saturday morning was another in the series of Stewardship Days in the Native Plant Area on the southwest ridge of the park — the habitat that BMASP wants to rip out to install a zip line and a ropes course. We’re not going to let that happen. Instead, we remain committed to tending the native plants we put in the ground here last winter. We will be planting many more come the rainy season later this year (fingers crossed). Thanks to Sue Black’s donation of a 100′ garden hose, the chore of getting water to these plants was much lightened. It’s a pleasure to see how well most of these new plants are doing. Here’s a sample: a Pacific Aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) in full bloom with a bee on it.
The Native Plant area narrowly averted a serious disaster late in July when a fire of unknown origin burned a small patch of dry grass and acacia bushes on its north margin. Fortunately the prevailing westerly wind blew the flames uphill and away from the Torrey Pines and other native trees and shrubs.
The Berkeley Fire Department responded, contained the blaze, and made certain that it was completely out. In the absence of lightning, the fire had to be caused by human action or neglect — a tossed cigarette? Smoking is illegal in the park, for good reason.
Park visitor Audrey Webb captured this spectacular sunset image taken from the same path at the northern margin of the Native Plant Area on July 25. She framed it expertly, screening the hot white of the sun’s disk with the tree branches, while catching the low slanting red rays reflected in the sand on the path. This is Audrey’s first contribution to the chavezpark.org website. Welcome and well done!
Now to the letters.
Letter from Nell F. to Rashi Kesarwani
Dear Ms. Kesarwani,
I oppose the Cesar Chavez park proposal to build a concert stage area and an adventure amusement park.
I will not vote for you or any candidate that supports this bad idea. Listen to what the Berkeley voters and visitors want. We want open space for walking and recreating in peaceful, natural habitats.
Thank you for protecting the Cesar Chavez Park from unwanted and detrimental development.
Sincerely, a voter in your district,
Letter to Council from Shoshana Dembitz
Cesar Chavez Park has been one of my favorite places to walk in nature since I moved to the Eastbay in 1995. Now that I am 82 and prefer walking in relatively level areas, walking around the bay side of the park is an even more important part of my recreation plan. please keep the park for us who love to walk there
Letter from Colette Turenne to Rashi Kesarwani and Council
Please don’t! Open space is necessary for the vitality of a community. I’ve been using this area frequently since 1997. It is perfect how it is. It gets a lot of use from all sectors of the community from water sports folks, dog walkers, picnicking kite-flying citizens, and I think I speak for most of us when we say leave be. More development on the Bay means more people, cars & litter- there is already plenty. – Colette Turenne
Letter from Joanne Howell to Rashi Kesarwani
I wanted you to know that I, and my family, are very upset at the idea of changing our park areas to a Large Events Area. Children playing in the grass, dogs roaming the off leash hill, kites that you can see from the freeway, disabled people like myself being able to still take our walkers or wheelchairs around the paved area and still be by the water, watching the ground critters romp around on the rocks. These are the things that need to be protected. To turn it into a commercial area, with all the traffic, seems to be the last thing our world needs, and while I can still remember when going to concerts and being with mobs of people was very exciting, there are so many side effects to courting those activities that don’t seem desirable to me.
There is already enough effort to monetize the qualities that make Berkeley special that I feel really sad about. Please, please don’t destroy this area also!!! Joanne Howell
Letter from Sarah Van Cleave to Rashi Kesarwani and Council and City Manager
To whom it may concern:
I hope this email finds you well. By means of an introduction, my name is Van (they/them), and I’m a longtime resident of Oakland. I’m autistic and have a small emotional support dog named Choux (after the pastry) who I often take to the Berkeley Marina and Chavez Park.
Last time we were there, some volunteers from the Chavez Park Conservancy alerted me to city plans to create an event area and adventure park at the site. In this message, I’d like to humbly implore you to consider protecting this park area. I realize I am not a Berkeley resident, but I wanted to share how much this park has meant to me in my time here.
First and foremost, as an autistic person, it has provided me with a rare area to recuperate. I love the Bay and the community here, but it’s no secret that urban environments pose many unique challenges to disabled people like me. This park has allowed me to feel safe and to exist in public (with my dog!) in a way that is healthy for both of us.
Furthermore, this park was where I trained for my first half-marathon with my friends. As a former college runner, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to participate in training for such a race; to be honest, I didn’t know that it would ever be possible for me, given the intense stimuli of running outside. As a result, I came in third place at the Tahoe half marathon in June. This is one of my proudest accomplishments, made possible in part due to this green space.
Lastly, while I certainly understand the necessity for revenue-generating opportunities for the city, I am concerned about the environmental impact of such a large installation. My partner works in environmental consulting, specializing in reporting whether buildings will have detrimental impact to the environments they are constructed in. She has built her life around trying to save native Californian plants and reduce the effects of climate change imposed by humans. I am writing this letter in part to honor her dedication to protecting our limited and fragile environment.
I recognize that you all have incredibly difficult jobs considering the needs of the people of this community and, inevitably, compromises must be made in order to do so. But if it’s at all possible, I would greatly appreciate your careful consideration of this compromise. I am sure that you are by now aware of the environmental costs of this construction; I hope that in some small way, my story can help demonstrate the human costs as well.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration in reading my letter. I am wishing you all the best.
Letter from John Porter to City Manager
I want to express my very strong opposition to the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan – BMASP. Leave Cesar Chavez Park alone! (I don’t have any objection to upgrading the porta-potties). Maybe someday re-pave the perimeter path so old folks don’t trip on the pot-holes and cracks/offsets.
But please! No commercial development! The “Major Event Space” and the “Large Adventure Park would both have huge negative and permanent impacts on this basically unique quiet open space in West Berkeley that I’ve love- as is -for many, many years and visit often.
Also, leave Adventure Playground alone! I don’t currently have young ones to take there, but I have taken many kids there over the years, and
I enjoy their love for the place!
John Porter, resident of west Berkeley
Letter from Rose Glickman to chavezpark.org
I think I already expressed my opinion to the powers that be. But just in case, I’m writing again. I suggest that whoever is in charge of organizing the opposition to the miserable suggestion to commercializing Cesar Chavez park should now move from words on paper/computer, etc. to action. I do not have leadership qualities, but I would certainly be delighted to participate in any feet-on-the-ground action; a march, a demonstration, etc. I would be delighted to help anyone who can organize such protests, I just don’t know how to initiate them. I have experience and some talent in writing, I can make phone calls, I can take orders. Please, someone out there take the lead!
Sincerely, Rose Glickman PhD