Open Letter #4

Progress report on the Eastshore State Park Planning Process (and upcoming opportunities to contribute)

An open letter to paddlers, rowers, and sailors

May 17, 2001

For background, see the previous letter archived at and other documents pertaining to the Eastshore State Park at

Report from the April 26 public workshop:

There were well over 150 people present, but very little visible representation from paddlers or rowers. The group with the best representation was PIDO, Point Isabel Dog Owners, who by now have all but assured that Point Isabel will remain a designated off-leash area within the new park.

Some windsurfers and small boat sailors spoke to the importance of incorporating active water-related uses into the park plan, but there were no comments from kayakers, outrigger paddlers, dragon boat advocates, or open-water rowers. The Eastshore State Park includes some spectacular locations for these activities, and It would be tragic if facilities supporting these uses are not accommodated in the plan.

The evening included a comprehensive presentation by the consultant team, but it was all about existing conditions and did not seem to address the potential directions that the park plan might take. Even though the event was billed as a "workshop," there was virtually no interactive engagement with either the planning consultants or among the diverse interest groups.

The result is that many of the various advocacy groups still see their goals as being in conflict with those of other advocacy groups. These perceived conflicts may prove to be illusory. My feeling is that the park is big enough so that the compromises that need to made will still allow all factions to get 95% of what they want - provided we can move the debate to maps and site plans instead of abstractions. We need to start thinking spatially and quantitatively about what uses can and should go in which locations, and what impacts they will have on other uses.

Next important date:

Monday, May 21, 7:00 PM at Hs Lordships Restaurant in the Berkeley Marina.

This will be a joint meeting of the Berkeley Waterfront Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission. We will spend a lot of time on public comments, and hope to allow a little more interaction than at the April 26 event. Each speaker will be asked to draw some lines on a map, and to sketch in the uses, facilities, or restrictions that they would like to see.

A strong showing by those of us who see the water itself as an important recreational and open space resource could have a big impact on the final shape of the park.

We know very little about what the planning consultants actually have in mind for this shoreline, and we know even less about what the State Parks Commission will consider appropriate when they classify the park later this year. But from some of the advocacy groups we detect a certain lack of understanding with regard to the role of active water-related uses and even the importance of the water's edge itself. The park is still seen as a strip of land to be protected only for its own sake, rather than as a gateway to something else of at least equal value.

If you can't be at the meeting there are other ways to make your voice heard. Among the easiest:

1) Participate in the public comment area of the Eastshore State Park website.

Find the site at and then click the "get involved" button. Make the login frame full screen to see all the options, and once you register you should be able to post a comment. The software is somewhat problematic, so if you have trouble posting, email your comments directly to and they will relay your text to the online forum.

Participation in the online discussion has been fairly light, but the content that has appeared so far has been heavily slanted towards supporting the active water-related uses. Kayaks, windsurfers, and dragon boats are all represented. This is very encouraging, but it highlights the differences in the self-selected groups who participate online versus those who can attend evening meetings.

2) Write or fax a letter to the planning consultants. They had requested that written comments be submitted by May 18, but indications are that they will accept written comments for this first compilation for at least another week. Their fax number is 415-291-8943 and their mailing address is:

Eastshore Stae Park c/o Public Affairs Management 101 The Embarcadero, Suite 210 San Francisco, CA 94105

3) Keep thinking about new access opportunities for the East Bay Shoreline. When you drive along 880/580 between University Avenue and Central Avenue, the Gilman overpass gives you a fleeting glance at the open and protected waters of the North Cove.

Use your imagination, and use your voice.

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