Chris Barton, EBRPD planning director for the Albany Beach and Neck project, asked in email for my snail-mail address so he could send us a response to my letter to the Park District directors.
I called on his voice line and we had a nice talk.
He took some time to explain the various constraints, agreeing that EBRPD is really bound by the State Park dog rules, and to make an exception requires an amendment the Eastshore State Park general plan. That could be a long and cumbersome process - probably a lifetime in dog years.
Discussing the parking shortage, he mentioned that on non-horse race days, it seems to be okay to enter via Gilman St. and park in the racetrack parking lot to access the beach. He's not aware of anyone ever being towed or ticketed. When he first mentioned this it sounded like there was some sort of agreement in place with the track, but he says that's not really true when I emailed again to confirm. In any case there should be no fear of being ticketed or towed if there's no racing that day. (But there's a reverse problem on race days: People park in the small beach parking area to avoid the track's parking fee.)
On Cosco Busan funding: Chris does not yet know how much money will be available - the damage assessment should be released soon. I asked "are you expecting hundreds of thousands, or millions?" He said "probably about a million" but cautioned about distributing this number, it's just for order of magnitude, and not to hold any expectations. We both seemed to agree that this could be mostly used up on South Neck shoreline stabilization, and that that would be a lot less controversial than physical modifications to the beach. However it's not clear if this will be allowed - the Cosco Busan money is primarily intended for the beach and habitat restoration.
On the dunes area: It will have to be fenced off to effectively keep dogs out. I expressed skepticism - if you change the aerodynamics you change the dunes in unpredictable ways. Chris noted that there have been successful fenced dune restoration projects. It might work, but the wind environment is different at each site. I don't think the dunes are of much importance for dog access, but the proximity to the beach could be problematic unless there's a fence.
I tried to emphasize the "cultural infeasibility" of keeping dogs off the beach, and that the only way to really determine dog-related use v. dog-free use was to partition the beach (e.g. South Beach dog-free, Albany Beach unrestricted) and observe use patterns. (My guess is that use pressure is 90% dog-related or dog-tolerant compared to 10% dog-free. But it's still a guess 'till we have data.) And that dog owners, as a group, never agreed that Point Isabel would be the only off-leash area in Eastshore State Park. Dog owners as a group can never really agree to anything. And most of our dogs weren't even alive back then!
So we have three basic problems:Even worse, Cosco Busan money might be restricted to the beach only, and specifically for habitat restoration, which is difficult to reconcile with dog access. One has to wonder how difficult it would be to simply turn off this potential funding source (as distasteful as it would be to let the Cosco Busan onwers get away with paying less for that spill.) Maybe the money could just sit in a protected fund 'till we figure out how to spend it effectively?
1) State Parks Eastshore State Park plan says "no dogs on the beach" and needs to be amended.
2) Money for habitat remediation or restoration cannot be shifted to bathrooms and parking.
3) Cosco Busan money has to be spent on-site, even if re-directing funds to other sites would protect or restore much more habitat.
But Chris does seem to think there's a chance that it can be spent on the South shoreline of the Neck. We'll know more after the damage assessment is released.
I asked for the response letter in electronic form so I can distribute it to the group. Chris estimates it will be out in a few days.
Paul Kamen, Naval Architect, P.E.
Chair, Berkeley Waterfront Commission