The following letter is from Norman La Force, Chair of the Sierra Club East Bay Public Lands Committee

From: Norman La Force
Sent: Monday, January 06, 2003 9:07 PM
Subject: Comments on Marina Plan and Initial Study

Dear Mayor Bates and Members of the Berkeley City Council:

The Sierra Club makes the following comments on the Berkeley Marina Plan and Initial Study.

The Sierra Club is very concerned about aspects of the proposed Berkeley Marina Plan. We urge the City Council, Waterfront Commission, and the Planning Commission NOT to approve this plan at this time, but to return it for further study and for a full environmental impact report.

The Marina Plan while focused mainly in the Marina will have impacts on the Eastshore State Park. These impacts have not been adequately considered in either the Plan or the proposed Mitigated Negative Dec. (MND).

First, the Marina Plan does not focus on how the Marina and its plan could and should be integrated with and compatible with the Eastshore State Park. The ESP is literally viewed as being on one side of the road while the Marina is on the other. The best example of this is the Marina Plan's proposed expansion of the Marina Blvd. The Marina Plan proposes WIDENING Marina Blvd by expanding the roadway eastward towards the boundary between the Meadow and Berkeley. This area is now gravel and is used as parking. The Club and CESP have urged Berkeley to look to this gravel area as parking for the Eastshore State Park. Instead, the Marina Plan proposes eliminating this as parking for a widened roadway. The greater impact is that it will place the road and traffic that much closer to the Meadow and create a different ambience and feel to the Meadow as a result. Unfortunately, the Marina Plan does not even look at the impact on the Meadow at all. This error should be corrected.

Second, the Marina Plan shows a boat launch from Cesar Chavez Park jutting into the North Basin Cove. Such an active sailing launch point will have major impacts on waterfowl, who use the North Basin Cove as a resting place on the Pacific Flyway during the months of October through April. The Eastshore Park Plan recognized this issue and required the appropriate environmental studies before any facilities would be built to launch boats into the North Basin Cove. The Marina Plan should have the same requirement. Moreover, the Marina Plan calls this area the North Sailing Basin. That term is only used by the proponents of unrestricted boating activity. It was originally identified as the North Basin Cove.

Third, the Marina Plan Initial Study fails to look at the impacts of the proposed development in the Marina Plan on the wildlife in the Meadow and the North Basin Cove. This includes traffic impacts, noise, light impacts, and the impacts from such large gatherings as the Fourth of July Fireworks display. The Initial Study also does not look at the view and aesthetic impacts from the proposed tree plantings. Nor does the Initial Study address potential impacts from use of the North Basin Cove and South Sailing Area on rafting waterfowl and other wildlife. Indeed, the initial study makes no attempt to look at virtually any environmental impacts at all, again because it states that these areas our outside the Marina Plan.

This attempt to evade the California Environmental Quality Act is illegal and improper. CEQA requires the responsible agency to address possible environmental impacts that a plan or project may create even if they are outside the project area. That is one of the key purposes of CEQA. This requirement is in order for the decisionmakers and the public to know what the impacts of a project will be, even of those impacts are off site.

Fourth, the Marina Plan Initial Study makes unwarranted and unrealistic assumptions about traffic and its impacts. The Initial Study claims that "implementation of the Marina Master Plan would not add any new facilities that would be considered new traffic generators." This statement is incorrect. First, the Waterfront Commission and staff have been working for years to redevelop the old Dock of the Day building, which has lain unused and vacant for close to 20 years. The Initial Study must look at proposed uses for his building and evaluate the traffic impacts that such uses would generate.

Second, if NO new facilities are being added, then why does the Marina Plan include the widening of Marina Boulevard? Either this roadway is being widened because there are proposed new uses that would generate additional traffic or because the city believes (rightly or wrongly) that Marina Blvd. is not capable of handling existing traffic and FUTURE PROJECTED traffic. Indeed, the preparer of these comments for the Sierra Club has attended numerous Waterfront Commission meetings at which the Waterfront Commissioners and staff have stated on the record that they want to widen Marina Blvd. in order to accommodate more traffic for both existing uses and future recreational and commercial development!! Given these facts, the Initial Study is fundamentally flawed because it incorrectly assumes there will not be any increase in traffic from the proposed Marina Master Plan. This flaw can only be rectified by a full environmental impact report covering all the proposed and future uses for the Marina.

Moreover, the Initial Study does not look at the potential traffic impacts from the opening of the Eastshore State Park. It is reasonable to assume that people will be using the Eastshore Park more and more now that its general plan has been adopted and that this will generate traffic. This traffic must be included in any traffic analysis for the Marina Plan. The Marina Plan should be withdrawn from public consideration at this time in order to enable the staff to prepare a document that adequately addresses impacts on wildlife and how the Marina area can made compatible with and integrated with the Eastshore State Park.

We fully expect the City staff to contend that they have already spent much money on this plan and initial study and that it would not be appropriate to withdraw it at this time. The Club's response to that argument is that the city staff was also fully aware of the planning effort for the Eastshore State Park and knew for quite some time that the new State Park general plan was scheduled for approval in November and December 2002. Neither the people of Berkeley nor the users of both the marina and the State Park should be penalized for the failure of the city staff to fully and properly address the relationship between the marina and State Park.

It has been the Club's experience that the city staff working on this issue have been extremely reluctant to the point of obduracy in acknowledging that the Berkeley marina and the State Park need to be considered together and that the city needs to study the integration and connection of the State Park with the marina. Instead, the staff has continually operated on the assumption that the State Park is on one side of the road, and the Berkeley marina on the other side of the road, and that they are totally separate and distinct areas that have little connection with each other.

Both the Marina Plan and the Initial Study are flawed. They should not be approved at this time.

Sincerely yours,

Norman La Force
Chair, Sierra Cub East Bay Public Lands Committee