September 1, 2002




Robin E. Ettinger, ASLA

California Department of Parks and Recreation

Northern Service Center

1 Capitol Mall, Suite 500

Sacramento, CA  95814


RE: Comments on the Eastshore Park Draft Environmental Impact Report




Dear Mr. Ettinger:


Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Eastshore Park (“the Park”) Draft Environmental Impact Report (“DEIR”). City of Berkeley staff and citizens have actively participated in the year and a half-long planning process and, overall, we believe the Preliminary General Plan offers a reasonable balance of preservation, conservation and recreational opportunities.


Our comments on the DEIR are listed below: first general comments and then comments on specific EIR issues.


General Comments:


The City of Berkeley believes that the Eastshore Park Draft Environmental Report (DEIR) provides excellent baseline information, but that it is inadequate in two broad areas:


A. Insufficient Evidence of No Substantial Impact on the Environment

There is insufficient evidence in the record to support, in many instances, the findings that the proposed project will not have substantial impacts on the environment. The document's deferral of analysis to future projects is insufficient and inappropriate. While this is a programmatic environmental impact report, it is still required to identify, evaluate, and mitigate potential environmental impacts at a level of detail commensurate with the information at hand. Generally, this has not been done. Instead, the document frequently relies on the existence of General Plan policies that, in turn, only call for further study.


B. Insufficient Analysis of Impacts on City of Berkeley Resources and Facilities
The DEIR does not analyze impacts beyond the State Park boundaries. In particular, the DEIR does not provide adequate analysis of the potential impacts this project may have on the City of Berkeley’s facilities and resources, such as the Marina, Cesar Chavez Park, and Aquatic Park. The EIR needs to consider regional impacts beyond the Park boundaries, including the affected resources and facilities east of I-80. While we understand that many impacts cannot be determined until site-specific projects are further developed, a programmatic EIR does have some responsibility to identify, evaluate, and mitigate potential impacts, as they are now known.
For example, Eastshore Park is expected to draw users from throughout the state and the nation, not just from the Bay Area. It is reasonable to assume that these Park users often will not differentiate between state and local facilities. It is also reasonable to assume that use of City of Berkeley facilities, particularly roadways, parking areas and recreational facilities, will increase as a result. The EIR should address the impacts of the General Plan on the existing City resources and services, including the increased demand for police and other emergency services.  [By the same token, the EIR should note that accommodating certain active uses (e.g. non-motorized boating, field sports, etc.) to locations convenient to a large population center might have a positive impact on regional air quality and traffic congestion. This is especially true for activities like kayaking and windsurfing, which normally require a vehicle to transport the equipment to the launch site. - pk]


Additional comments, below, are arranged by EIR issue areas and, in many instances, clarify or elaborate on the issues raised in the general comments above.


            I.     AESTHETICS
Views of the Brickyard and SF Bay from Bike/Pedestrian Bridge

The City of Berkeley believes it is important and appropriate for the EIR to acknowledge potential visual impacts of locating the proposed uses, such as an operations and visitor center, in the Brickyard area. Berkeley’s new bridge provides an important pedestrian and bicycle access to the central portion of Eastshore Park and crossing the bridge also offers spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay and the city’s skyline, with the Brickyard area in the foreground. The view of the Brickyard will set the stage for the visitor’s experience of the Eastshore Park, the Berkeley Marina and the San Francisco Bay. It is, therefore, imperative that the uses proposed, as well as the eventual specific designs, are suitable to such a high-profile location. Any development in the Brickyard should not block or negatively impact the extraordinary views to the west. [This is a strange comment, considering the fact that the view to the west is already completely blocked at the level of any structures or facilities by Hs. Lordships peninsula. The comment appears to reflect a bias opposing facility development - pk]



City staff has noted killdeer and plovers currently nest within the Meadow and by University Avenue near the Seabreeze Market. The EIR should acknowledge the killdeer and plovers in these locations.


        III.     GEOLOGY & SOILS
Seismic vulnerability maps are now available and should be analyzed in the EIR. The City is particularly concerned about the impacts of the project in the event of an earthquake? What would be the effect of the liquefaction that is likely to occur in this area? What happens to the cap in the Meadow as a result of a large seismic event? The EIR should also acknowledge that unless the slopes are adequately stabilized, removing riprap may increase the impact of a seismic event, particularly in the Meadow area. Reconfigured shoreline areas, as well as constructed wetlands, may require mitigation to re-stabilize the landfill material. [And, the EIR should also note that standing water on landfill (e.g. seasonal ponds in the Meadow) is generally not a safe design feature - pk]


       IV.     HAZARDS
There is inadequate analysis of potential hazards that may result from implementation of the project. For example, Hazards 2.b. (4) states that exposure to existing chemical toxics could pose a potential health hazard. The section goes on to conclude that this potential could be eliminated or minimized through the implementation of the General Plan's guidelines that call for future plans and analysis. The following are additional comments regarding specific areas:


Berkeley Beach Area
The shoreline area just west of West Frontage Road is identified in the General Plan as Berkeley Beach. The word "beach" connotes a place where one can spread a blanket on clean sand and go swimming in clean ocean water. But, the area is basically a mud flat with potential safety obstacles such as mud, opaque bay water, concrete chunks, variable water quality and other hazards. The City is concerned that even with the clean up proposed, it may not be wise to encourage people to use this area as a beach. The EIR should provide better evaluation of the existing conditions of the proposed beach areas and should recommend mitigation measures needed to make this area suitable for increased public access. [Depends on the tide. Parts of this area are already used for activities associated with beaches (e.g. surf fishing, dog running) - pk]


Toxic Areas in Berkeley Meadow
The EIR should address the condition and integrity of the existing cap in the Meadow. For example, is the cap patchworked? Does it need to be improved? What is the plan for maintaining the cap? What is the impact of a major seismic event on the cap in the Meadow and on the Meadow itself? [And, as noted above, can a technically competent plan call for standing water above fill without such analysis? - pk]
City officials have observed garbage protruding through the cap. Ground squirrels penetrate the cap and bring garbage up to surface. The high wave activity on the south side of the North Basin, along with proposed “softening” of the shoreline, could increase erosion and expose more garbage in the northern portion of the Meadow. There is the potential for water contamination as water filters through the cracks in the cap.  These are also questions that are not addressed in the DEIR. [Presumably the softening or "naturalization" of the shoreline in this area would be additive, and not compromise the cap. This might involve a small amount of fill - pk]


The EIR should also identify the need to ensure that any site improvements, including vegetation removal, do not compromise the integrity of the cap. The EIR should clearly state that all future site improvements, such as pathways, trails and roads, should, in fact, improve and extend the cap as much as possible.



There is inadequate analysis of potential hydrologic and water quality impacts that may result from implementation of the Eastshore Park project. For example, Hydrology and Water Quality 2.b. (8) properly addresses potential water quality impacts from construction and creating new parking areas. But the section goes on to find that these impacts can be mitigated to less-than-significant levels through the General Plan guidelines that appear to be unrelated to the impacts. These are potential impacts that can be analyzed, at this time, in general terms, and mitigations can be developed at a matching level of detail.

Water Quality
The DEIR recognizes that the water quality in the project area is impacted by storm water runoff that may contain pollutants and that, in the past, there have been occasional spills of raw sewage or runoff from industrial, residential or commercial zones upstream that end up in the project area at the creek outfall locations. However, the DEIR does not adequately analyze the ramifications of bringing more people in close contact with these water sources when the water quality does not meet regulatory standards. For example, the State advises that heavy metals and persistent chemicals are found in Bay fish species, in all Bay waters. According to the City of Berkeley’s Environmental Health Division, the quantity of these toxins is sufficient, at times, to warrant concern for individuals who eat Bay fish only once or twice per month. The City has been diligent about posting advisory signs in the Marina, North and South Sailing Basins, the Berkeley Pier, and along Frontage Road. Since the Eastshore Park General Plan proposes to improve the Berkeley Beach area as a fishing zone, the EIR should identify the mitigation measures necessary to protect the health of Park users who may be exposed to potentially toxic fish and water. One example might be for the State to coordinate posting warning signs with local jurisdictions. [Oh come on. Eating fish from the Bay is entirely unrelated to "bringing more people in close contact with the water" for anything except fishing. Invoking fish toxicity as an argument against active water-related recreational uses is dishonest and transparent - pk]

Specifically, the EIR should recognize that drainage from industrial areas is different than that from residential and commercial areas, and should address the following:


1.     the impact of providing public access to constructed wetlands/creek outfalls that that may be contaminated by heavy metals, organic chemical and sewage spills coming down creeks, including unreported spills;
2.     the need to coordinate water testing with local jurisdictions;
3.     the need to trap and remove floating trash without affecting fish migration;
4.     the need to coordinate posting advisory signs regarding fish and water quality;

5.     the need for the State to conduct a study and monitor the water quality to determine if it is appropriate to encourage swimming from the shore in areas where that activity is being encouraged.

Constructed Wetlands/Water Treatment
The Preliminary General Plan indicates that wetlands will be constructed at the outfall areas of both Strawberry and Schoolhouse Creeks in Berkeley. Presumably, these wetland areas will serve to clean the debris and water coming out of the creeks, provide increased habitat, and also provide an educational opportunity for the public. Constructed wetlands/water treatment should also be considered at the Potter Street and Gilman Street outfall areas. It is important to note that at certain outfalls, particularly at Gilman Street, there may be chemical contamination due to the proximity to an industrial area. Constructed wetlands at creek outfalls should be of adequate size to effectively treat the water.


Creek Outfalls
As mentioned above, the creeks periodically experience discharges from sewer lines. Occasionally, there have been unreported sewage discharges that can only be detected by pro-active sampling for coliform bacteria. The creeks have to be posted when Regional Water Quality Control Board guidelines are exceeded. Typically, the City has notified the SFBRWQCB (water board) and the posted the area of the affected creek. All the creeks have been posted in the past, but Strawberry Creek seems to be more problematic and closest to the proposed "beach". The EIR should evaluate these impacts.


In addition, trash frequently collects at creek outfall areas and the EIR should address means to minimize and correct these occurrences at all creek outfalls within the Eastshore Park, including at the Potter Street and Gilman Street outfalls.
The DEIR references the City of Berkeley’s 1986 Waterfront Plan, but the Eastshore Park Preliminary General Plan is not consistent with it and other City of Berkeley planning documents in some instances. For example, the plan identifies the Gilman area as an attractive passive use area; this conflicts with plans to locate a future ferry terminal at the bottom of Gilman Street and is inconsistent with City’s 2002 General Plan (which incorporates the 1986 Waterfront Plan.) Restricting use of the North Sailing Basin during the winter months is also inconsistent with the City’s General Plan and could have significant consequences for the use of the privately held developable lands along the shoreline, including a future ferry terminal. The General Plan needs to better define the limited areas of the North Basin to still allow for access to the privately owned shoreline parcels. These impacts are not adequately identified nor analyzed in the DEIR. [Note that the 1986 Waterfront Plan also calls for land and water uses that "encourage sheltered water sports such as small boat launching and mooring (sailing, rowing, paddle, and sail-boating)" in the North Sailing Basin. - pk]


     VII.     NOISE

The Noise 2.b. (2) section identifies portions of the project, the park and bay trails, which would be exposed to noise levels in excess of standards. On its face, this appears to be an unmitigatable adverse impact, but the document justifies the excessive noise levels by citing the absence of available land. This situation should, instead, be identified as a significant impact and either mitigated or addressed at some future time by making findings of overriding considerations, not by simply finding that the impact would be less-than-significant. In the following section (3) no analysis of construction noise is attempted, but is rather deferred to the evaluation of specific future construction projects. An appropriate level of analysis could be completed now, given knowledge of the noise levels typically generated by construction activities and the general location of proposed projects. [Why no mention of noise-blocking berms between the freeway and the waterfront, especially on the relatively narrow North Basin Strip? Similar berms already exist within the Berkeley Marina, and seem to be both effective and attractive.- pk]


As stated above, the DEIR fails to adequately evaluate the impact of the Park development on neighboring jurisdictions, particularly as they relate to police and fire safety services. Development of Eastshore Park will clearly result in an increased demand for these services. Who will be responsible for providing these extra patrol services that will be necessary? How will Park police services, for example, be coordinated with the local agencies’ services?


Additionally, the Eastshore Park General Plan and EIR should acknowledge the potential safety concerns with regard to parking areas, and the importance of maintaining visibility, access and appropriate lighting in all areas of the Park. The Plan and EIR should also address the need for a vegetation management program that is compatible with fire safety concerns.

The City also questions the need for both a visitor center and an interpretive center in close proximity of one another.  The need for these services has not been adequately determined. No alternatives have been explored for utilizing already existing facilities and resources, such as the City’s maintenance facilities and the Shorebird Nature Center.


Perhaps the weakest area of the DEIR is its analysis regarding the State Park’s impact on traffic, circulation and parking. The City of Berkeley does not agree with the conclusion that this project will result in no significant impact in these areas. Quite the contrary, the City is very concerned about potential impacts to the traffic and parking facilities in the Berkeley areas near the Park.
A number of sensitive transportation issues are not addressed in the DEIR, including those listed below:

Potential Ferry Service at Gilman Street

For example, the DEIR notes the Bay Area Water Transit Study (1999) that identifies several potential passenger services routes in the Berkeley area as well as other locations near Eastshore Park. It does not, however, analyze the impact that the Park would have on a future ferry terminal at Gilman Street. The ferry should be further discussed in light of the Water Transit Authority’s recent report, and with regard to the City of Berkeley’s 2002 General Plan (Policy T-9) as well as City Council action (Res. No. 61,726-N.S., 7/23/02) in support of environmentally responsible ferry service. The City of Berkeley believes this is a significant oversight and that impact analysis is sorely needed. [Possible ferry service from Fleming Point, the Berkeley Municipal Pier, and the existing ferry pier inside the Berkeley Marina should also be considered in the transportation analysis- pk]


Impact on Traffic

The City does not agree with the assessment that there will be no impact to traffic and circulation in several areas, most notably at the Frontage Rd. intersections with both University Avenue and Gilman Street. The City believes that the DEIR uses inadequate criteria for determining a significant impact: if the LOS is already at F, the percentage beyond level F is irrelevant. This means that the intersection does not adequately function now and will certainly not function well when the new park is established.


The City also questions the use of traffic generation examples. It might be appropriate to use examples from other urban parks, whether federal, state or locally owned.


[See earlier note about possible positive impact on regional traffic congestion. Also, the role of onsite storage for water-related recreational equipment (kayaks, windsurfers, open water row boats and small sailboats) in reducing traffic congestion (by reducing reliance on vehicular access) should be considered. By the same reasoning, the positive transportation impact of cooperative non-profits using group-owned rather than privately-owned equipment should also be considered. - pk]



The City of Berkeley believes that the DEIR analysis of parking is inadequate—one paragraph only. If Eastshore Park does not provide parking near the Meadow, the existing City of Berkeley parking areas—now operating at capacity during most weekends in the summer and during special events—will be greatly impacted by the increased use the entire area will experience as a result of the Eastshore Park.


For example, the park user will not distinguish between State Park, City, or Marina facilities. Once the user passes the parking areas accessible from Frontage Road, he would then enter University Avenue and the only option would be to park in the City of Berkeley parking areas, which would greatly impact the City’s facilities. This impact will be even greater if fees are charged to enter and/or park at Eastshore Park facilities. There is no discussion of park fees in the EIR. The EIR should propose mitigation for these impacts, such as adding parking along University Avenue or Marina Boulevard, and/or providing shuttle service from well-signed off-site parking lots.


The EIR needs to evaluate parking capacity during weekends, the summer, and special events, such as the Fourth of July and the Annual Kite Festival. Particularly significant is the demand for additional egress from special events in the Marina area, which will be exacerbated by increased use as a result of Eastshore Park. The EIR needs to address these impacts and propose appropriate mitigation measures. One such mitigation might be to allow special event egress, in addition to emergency vehicle access, at the Virginia Street extension pathway.


In conclusion, the City believes that further work on the EIR is needed to adequately identify all impacts that are now known. Further, since so much of the EIR analysis is deferred to the project development stage, the City of Berkeley believes it is crucial that the public and local communities be offered adequate opportunity to comment on the detailed designs, as they are developed. This should include public meetings in locations near the affected communities, much the way the planning workshops have been held in local areas.


We thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report and look forward to continuing our partnership with the State and East Bay Regional Parks District.






Lisa Caronna

Director of Parks Recreation & Waterfront


Cc:      Weldon Rucker, City Manager

            Peter Hillier, Assistant City Manager for Transportation

            Carol Barrett, Director of Planning & Development

Roy Meisner, Acting Police Chief

Reg Garcia, Fire Chief

            Zach Cowan, Assistant City Attorney

Cliff Marchetti, Waterfront Manager, Waterfront Commission Secretary

            Jay Kelekian, Parks & Recreation Commission Secretary

Steve Solomon, CEQA Officer

Alex Schneider, Environmental Health

Nabil Al-Hadithy, Toxics

Paul Church, Disability Compliance Program

Lorin Jensen, Public Works Engineering