Open Letter #21

October 3 2003

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

Previous open letters are archived at

Well, the Berkeley Marina Master Plan is a done deal. It's not as bad as it could have been. The docks for access to the North Sailing Basin are off the map, but at least the label "Potential water access for non-motorized watercraft" remains where one of the docks was once shown.

Unfortunately this access point is not explicitly included as part of the plan - instead we have:

"Collaborate with the management of the Eastshore State Park on a study to determine any appropriate new water access point(s) to the North Basin Cove. The study should include appropriate environmental review of key issues and consideration of a new water access point for non-motorized watercraft on the east shore of Cesar Chavez park near the entry at the southeast corner..."
"Collaborate on a study" (when there is no funding in sight) insures a very long lead time at best. But at least it's still in the plan in some way, and if planning ever becomes a little more rational with respect to boats and ducks, a water access facility of some kind may eventually be incorporated into Cesar Chavez Park.

Back on the east side of the North Basin, the Caltrans Bay Bridge eelgrass project shows a lot of promise to demonstrate that habitat restoration and water access can coexist. Check out the latest plan from Caltrans: Go to and scroll down to the site plan sketch in the minutes of the inter-agency meeting of July 30. Yes, they show an access point for non-motorized boats at the foot of Gilman street, very close to the eelgrass project.

There are several reasons to be optimistic about this: 1) It can happen on a very short time line, possibly within a year; 2) It's a good site - there's already a well maintained parking lot right by the water and a small hook of rip-rap protects the launch at most tide levels; And 3) the fact that it's not actually in the North Sailing Basin means that it won't be a threat to subtidal habitat, perceived or otherwise. See the photo of the site at

As a bare minimum, all that really has to happen to make this a viable kayak and windsurfer launch site is a sign that says it's okay to park. If Caltrans can add some tidal steps to the rocks we'll have something really nice.

The bit of land between Gilman St. and the extension of Jones St. to the south is not part of Eastshore State Park, but has been purchased separately by East Bay Regional Park District. It is slated for sports field development, and this will also happen years in advance of any visible progress in Eastshore State Park. Right now this is just an overflow parking area for the racetrack, but in a couple of years it will have the character of an active recreation center, and hand- launched boats will fit right in. We need to make sure the sports field planners retain some of the parking near the water and maybe even locate the bathrooms nearby.

Windsurfers have not had this location in their sights, but a summer of random observation suggests that it's almost as windy as Hs. Lordships and significantly windier than Berkeley Yacht Club. Not as good as the Albany Bulb would have been, but it's got lots of parking right there, and it's a short port tack to get to the Bulb.

There hasn't been a public meeting on this project since the one in July, but the next one is this Wednesday, Octboer 8. Here's the announcement. As I understand it, the entire meeting is open to the public, although public participation will only be requested for the second half starting at 2:00 pm.

From: Subject: Interagency Meeting for SF-OBB Biology Mitigation

The next interagency meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2003 at 1:00 pm. This meeting will be conducted in two parts. The 1st part involves participation of the involved resource agencies and will focus on the eelgrass studies/pilot project, shorebird roosting habitat establishment, and other biological mitigation associated with the Bay Bridge project. The 2nd part, starts at 2:00pm, includes public participation and will discuss public access and recreational uses of the proposed mitigation site (North Basin) for eelgrass habitat establishment.

The meeting will be held in room 14-880, located on the 14th floor of the Caltrans District Office, 111 W. Grand Ave. Oakland.

Ahmad Hashemi

Needless to say a good showing at the Wednesday meeting could be important. If you can't attend, those meeting minutes include a sign-up sheet full of emails that look like great lobbying targets.

A few other newsworthy notes and calendar items: The next waterfront Commission meeting is also on October 8, 7:00 PM in the Marina Conference Room near the harbormaster's office (but check the city website for location changes).

CESP meets on October 15 at 1604 Solano. State Park, EBRPD, and sports fields people have been attending these meetings, and it helps a lot to have a voice or two for water access to offer a small counterbalance to the "water is to look at but not to float on" positions of CESP and the Sierra Club reps.

The Berkeley dragon boat is back on N-dock in the Marina, and the Sunday Morning Cruises start again this weekend. Who could turn down a chance to be one of 20 people paddling a 47 ft long canoe at 7.5 knots? Details at

Paul Kamen
Berkeley Waterfront Commission 510-540-7968