Opportunities on the Berkeley Waterfront
An open letter to the dragon boat, outrigger, and open-water rowing
communities of San Francisco Bay
February 8, 2001
The planning process is now underway for the Eastshore State
Park. This will be a new waterfront park on lands west of the
freeway and mostly north of University Avenue in Berkeley.
This letter is to alert you of the dates of the first
"stakeholder" meetings, and to explain why I believe that this
park represents an opportunity to create one or more superb
new access points to the Bay.
First the dates: Tuesday February 13 and Tuesday February 20,
7:00 PM. These initial stakeholder meetings will be conducted
by Wallace Roberts & Todd (http://www.wrtdesign.com/), the
planning consultant for the project. WRT has been hired by the
East Bay Regional Park District, acting on behalf of the State
Parks. A copy of the announcement of these meetings can be
Note that space is limited and an RSVP is required.
The direction that the planning process takes will be
significantly influenced by representation at these early
meetings, and also by a strong showing at the first round of
What is really at stake here?
The "North Sailing Basin," also known as Ocean View Cove, will
be surrounded by park on three sides. Protected by over 800
meters of hilly Cesar Chavez Park along the windward
shoreline, this could be an ideal dragon boat venue. It also
offers quick access to the open water of central San Francisco
Bay, appropriate for outrigger canoes and other open-water
small craft. The cove itself is sufficiently protected for
entry-level rowing and public access/outreach programs.
Best of all, there may be a considerable amount of money ready
to flow into park development. Although State Parks hasn't
really tipped their hand yet with respect to the kind of park
they hope to create, there have been hints that they favor an
"urban park" that supports significant active use along with
the expected natural habitat and open space preservation. But
the nature of these active uses will be up to us. It could be
ball fields and skate board parks, or it could be the dream
boathouse for one or more paddling or rowing clubs.
Meanwhile, the waterfront land at the foot of Gilman Street,
outside the park boundary, is slated for major hotel and
commercial development. The hotel zoning appears to have been
a necessary part of the land acquisition process for the
Eastshore State Park, as it allowed the down-zoning to
withstand an inverse condemnation challenge. So a hotel is
almost inevitable near the foot of Gilman, but the City will
probably extract some major concessions along the way.
The concession that I'd like to see extracted is the inclusion
of a boathouse and launch facility for outriggers and/or
recreational low-tech rowboats as a condition for the
commercial development project. This is another possible route
for funding of a first-class facility, in this case from the
private sector. Again, strong presence at the workshops is
what will swing these projects in that direction.
One of the major players in creating of this park has been a
private organization called Citizens for the Eastshore State
Park, or CESP. Although the members of CESP deserve enormous
credit for their past efforts in getting these lands into
public ownership, CESP now advocates a park design that almost
completely precludes any access to the water for active
recreation. There's much more about this on my website, at
The planning timeline can be found at
And there's a chart of the area in question at
Take a quick look at the chart. The big almost-square area
with the words "Berkeley Yacht Hbr" over it is called "the
meadow" and will become part of the Eastshore State Park. An
ideal boathouse site would be near the northwest corner of the
meadow, almost across the street from the Radisson Hotel. This
would provide a launch site in the most protected part of the
cove, and it's close to the existing Radisson hotel and the
long hilly spectator area of Cesar Chavez Park. It would be
hard to find a better venue for large-scale dragon boat
But the meadow is sacred turf to CESP, and allowing a facility
there will require a major concession on their part. On the
other hand, the latest draft of the new "Marina Plan and
Waterfront Overview" generated by the City of Berkeley shows a
possible boathouse very close to this location. So anything is
The strip of land between the freeway and the cove, north of
the meadow, is also part of the park (except for the extreme
north end). This is where pumpkins and Christmas trees are
sold now. Some people don't want anything blocking the view of
the water from the freeway, others think that blocking the
view of the freeway from the water would be a good thing. More
about this on my website.
The trapezoidal-shaped land north of Gilman and south of the
racetrack oval is outside the park. That's where the hotel
development will go, along with a major retail center intended
to compete with 4th street. There's also talk of a ferry dock
at the foot of Gilman, and moving the Amtrak station from U.
Ave. to Gilman to be near the ferry. So this could become very
high-priced commercial real estate a decade from now, and a
great spot for a boathouse and club/training facility.
The lead time for all this is pretty long, but the money's in
the pipeline and the results could be spectacular.
Want to get involved? Here's what you can do:
1) See if there's any interest in this among your club or team
members. If there is, sketch out your dream facility, and spec
out as much of the detail as you can this far in advance.
State Parks just might be in a position to throw some serious
money at this. Note that a public service component is an
important element for state funding, but this is almost always
compatible with the goals of paddling and rowing clubs.
2) Walk the site and see if you can come up with more ideas.
Better yet, if you and some other paddlers would like to come
out for a sailing tour of the site, I can probably get some of
the other Waterfront Commissioners, and maybe even a park
planner or two, on the boat also.
3) If you are in a position to represent an organization,
attend the stakeholders meetings . Call Sigalle Rosner at
1-888-988-7275 to reserve a spot at the table.
4) Attend the public workshops! They begin early this spring,
see the timeline referenced above.
More background material, in the form of a fictional depiction
of what could happen at the public workshops, appears in the
February issue of the local sailing magazine "Latitude 38,"
Please forward this email, and post to the various lists.
Vice-Chair, Berkeley Waterfront Commission