Open Letter #10

Update on the Eastshore State Park (and other Berkeley Waterfront Opportunities)

An Open letter to the Paddling, Rowing, Windsurfing, and Sailing Communities

February 22 2002

After several relatively quiet months, we are about to see a flurry of activity on Eastshore State Park waterfront planning. March 8 is when the planning team releases the "Preferred Alternative" to the public. After a year of public input and adversarial advocacy, we will finally get a glimpse of the most likely shape and structure of the new park.

Naturally it will be attacked from all quarters, but with any luck it won't really be such a bad plan when the dust settles. My best guess is that it will include a place for a new boating facility on the North Basin Strip, supporting kayaks and possibly rental rowboats in the North Sailing Basin. (The northwest corner of the Meadow would have been a better spot, but every square inch of the Meadow appears to be sacred.) Windsurfers will probably not get the much-needed vehicular access to the southeast corner of the Albany Bulb - although the last word has certainly not been said on this one.

The first meeting to provide public input on this plan is set for Thursday March 21, 7:00 pm (location to be announced, but probably at Hs. Lordships - check the website). [Location set for Berkeley Community Theater as of 2-27-02.]

Watch the Sierra Club continue to insist that boating activity of any kind is inappropriate in the North Sailing Basin. This despite the fact that in the summer there is no conflict with duck habitat, and despite the fact that winter the duck populations in the South Sailing Basin seem to be unaffected by the sailing operations there. Meanwhile the playing field advocates, off-leash dog runners, BMX bikers and artists will all claim that they get short shrift in the plan (and for the most part they will be right).

Even before the Preferred Alternative Is on the table, there is an "Environmental Scoping Meeting" scheduled for this Wednesday, February 27, 4:00 pm at Hs. Lordships Restaurant. The purpose of this meeting is to define and delimit what is to be considered in the environmental impact report for the Eastshore State Park.

Again, all interest groups will push their own respective agenda. Sierra Club and CESP are likely to argue for the impact studies to focus on the effects of boats on diving ducks, of off-leash dogs on birds, and of playing fields and parking lots on their aesthetic sensibilities.

I think it's important to include the regional effects as well. For every kayak, canoe, rowboat, sailboat, or windsurfer on the local waterfront, there is one less SUV driving all over the Bay Area looking for recreational water to play in. Onsite storage is an even bigger win, because it allows the users to come by non-SUV, or to come to the water directly from work without driving home first to pick up their gear. But this aspect of environmental impact is unlikely to be quantified unless we are there pushing for it. As it stands now, Sierra Club and CESP are presenting kayak launch sites, boat houses and rowboat rental docks as environmental negatives. Broaden the study a little, and it should be easy to show that facilities for non-motorized boats are significant positive environmental factors.

This Environmental Scoping Meeting follows the official opening of the new I-80 overcrossing at University Avenue (1:30-3:30), so you might want to make an afternoon of it.

There are other interesting developments outside the Eastshore State Park. Mayor Shirley Dean has an item on the Berkeley City Council agenda for Tuesday, February 26, calling for the City to support a new dragon boat program in Berkeley. Initially this will be inside the marina, but several years down the road it could move to a location in the North Sailing Basin, inside or outside the Eastshore State Park.

The Berkeley Dragons are behind this, with Berkeley Yacht Club ready to offer logistic support and the Berkeley Marina almost certain to offer free berthing. Don't dragon boats need protected water? Yes, and to everyone's surprise, the length of the marina basin inside the breakwater (600 meters) is actually longer than the average local dragon boat race. So practice would be inside the marina except on those glass-calm winter days.

For reasons unclear, Sierra Club is raising objections. The Berkeley Dragons need two things to get this rolling: 1) a good showing at the Council meeting this Tuesday, and 2) a few more dedicated paddlers to help build the program into a two-boat operation and to broaden the participant base beyond the current team of City staff. Lots more details, and specifics of the proposal at

There's a small group meeting at Berkeley Yacht Club on Wednesday February 27, 11:45-12:45, to make further plans. (Make that *three* events in one day!) Email if you'd like to participate. There might be something in this for outriggers too, if there is sufficient interest in a new outrigger club based on free in-the-water berthing in the Berkeley Marina.

All team paddlers living in or near Berkeley who are tired of driving through traffic to get to their practices should drop everything to be at these meetings.

On another front, there is money in the pipeline from Coastal Conservancy to design new pedestrian/bike trails from the I-80 overcrossing to both ends of Seawall Drive (Hs. Lordships at the south end, Berkeley Yacht Club at the north end). The scope of this project might include some new windsurfer access at Hs. Lordships, and other water's edge improvements that will enhance hand-launched watercraft access. Watch for public workshop dates on this project later this year.

Saturday April 27 is of interest for both the Bay Water Trails event at the Bay Model in Sausalito, and the Berkeley Bay festival at the Berkeley Marina. And Friday night racing starts on April 12 - be at Berkeley YC by 6 pm if you'd like to hop a ride (details at

Paul Kamen
Chair, Berkeley Waterfront Commission 510-540-7968