News: The special session of city council scheduled for today has been postponed! New meeting date is Jan. 23, 2024. The city also posted a new version of the Waterfront Specific Plan. See https://berkeleyca.gov/your-government/our-work/capital-projects/waterfront-specific-plan under "Get Involved." You also have until 15 days before the meeting to send a communication to [email protected] that will be included in the initial agenda packet.
To: Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley City Council, Parks Recreation and Waterfront Department
Tell Berkeley Officials to Not Sell-out the Marina
The Berkeley Marina is enjoyed by countless locals and visitors from around the region, yet it has experienced years of decay and deferred maintenance. In 2015, the beloved but deteriorated Berkeley Pier was closed due to seismic and structural concerns. Roads are crumbling, security and trash problems persist, and berths are emptying as docks decay and the entrance silts up, while berths in the nearby Emeryville and Richmond marinas are full, with waitlists.
The City of Berkeley is gradually turning its attention to upgrading the Marina, located in one of the prime spots in the San Francisco Bay. It has formed two parallel efforts, one called BMASP (https://www.cityofberkeley.info/BMASP/) and the other the Pier/Ferry project (https://www.cityofberkeley.info/parks/pier/ ). Good news, right? Yes and no. Yes, because it is the start of a planning process. No, because the city is in danger of making a quick deal with the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), a public agency that runs ferry service on the Bay, to swap out the first few hundred feet of the old pier for a new WETA ferry terminal. The downside of this is that it commits the city to a large-scale ferry service favored by WETA that could crowd out and overwhelm core benefits of the Marina. Over the past year and more, the City has hosted separate Pier/Ferry and BMASP project meetings, but has not provided clearly stated ridership projections to support decisions about how big a ferry service the Marina can accommodate. In public questionnaires about a proposed ferry system, the city has proffered only feel-good choices about the trappings of a ferry service (ferries are fun, right?) without consideration of type of ferry, scale, current marina usage, cost or overall future Marina planning. In meetings, pier designs only consider, for example, how the ferry dock should be designed, not whether the proposed ferry service itself is too big to fit properly in the Marina.
Why is this important?
The Marina provides:
• A rich natural environment, providing bird, plant, and marine habitat, plus coastline protection
• A favorite regional fishing spot, even without the Berkeley Pier
• Affordable access to watercraft recreation, like sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, dragon boating and windsurfing
• Locations of cultural significance to Native American tribes
• Environmental education through the Shorebird Park facilities
• Unique children’s education at Adventure Playground
• Berthing for boat owners, fishermen, small-scale ferry service, and liveaboards
• Biking and swimming venue that saw major increase use as a rare outlet during the pandemic
• Existing small-scale ferry service (Tidelines) from inside the Marina
• A regional park with walking trails, off-leash dog walk area, kite flying, picnic areas and festival venues
• Two restaurants, a hotel, a yacht club, a bait shop, a shipyard, and a sailing school
The parallel project approach fast-tracks a large-scale WETA ferry program by separating out a partial-pier-with-ferry project from the Marina area plan. By putting the ferry development ahead of other, perhaps larger, social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits of the Marina, planners are risking a WETA ferry failure as seen in other areas of the Bay where parking has overwhelmed surrounding areas beyond designated parking sites (Jack London Square) or, at the other extreme, ferries are heavily subsidized yet poorly used at the constructed scale, wasting millions of dollars. A slapdash ferry deal could undermine everything that makes the Berkeley Marina an enjoyable place to go and turn it into a parking lot for commuters as cars sit from 8 am until 6 pm each day.
The City’s own Parks and Waterfront Commission (PWC), an advisory council to the City, has raised numerous questions to WETA and the City, many of which go unanswered. A marina users’ group has assembled a document describing the issues in more detail (https://drive.google.com/file/d/120_OZerFZX2CjSaErqm7-zoDgCQ1ldnp/view?usp=sharing ). But we need help to persuade entrenched opinions among city leaders.
What you can do
Help us move City Council to consider a range of options that put the Marina on a “long-term sustainable path” as recommended by the PWC and supported by marina user groups. These options may include ferry service, but only at a scale that is compatible with the Marina’s core recreational uses, cultural significance and environmental benefits. We ask that the City stop the parallel strategy of Pier/Ferry v. overall Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan and unite the efforts for a consistent and representative future for broader set of users beyond just ferry commuters. We also request that the City publicly provide the following information:
1. What is the maximum planned daily ridership of the ferry service?
2. What has been the historical ridership of the existing, small-scale ferry service?
3. What parking lots will be used for ferry riders, and how many ferry riders will park in each lot?
4. How will recreational use parking lots be protected against commuter parking?
5. Will a new restaurant for the Hs Lordships (199 Seawall) space be ruled out by the ferry terminal?
6. Will windsurfer, kayaker and swimmer access to the Hs Lordships/199 Seawall cove be ruled out by the ferry terminal?
7. Will shoreline fishing between Hs Lordships and the existing pier be impacted?
8. How much will the WETA project pay towards the replacement of the fishing pier?
9. What will be Berkeley’s financial liability for the ferry?
How it will be delivered
The BMASP and pier/ferry proposal are still being reviewed and developed. We will continue to deliver the petition and signatures to the mayor, City Council and the Director of the Parks Recreation and Waterfront Department as we hit new milestones in our signature count. Please sign! Thank you!