Another letter from Norman La Force, January 13 2003

Dear Mayor Bates, City Councilmembers
Planning Commission Members, and
Berkeley Park Recreation and Waterfront Dept.

Re: Marina Master Plan and Initial Study

The following comments are further comments from the Sierra Club regarding the so-called Marina Master Plan and the Environmental Initial Study. These comments will also be sent by U.S. Mail with an accompanying letter from the California Dept. of Fish and Game regarding impacts of proposed recreational activity in the North Basin Cove in the Department's comments on the Eastshore State Park. These comments apply equally well to the so-called Marina Plan.

A. The Marina Master Plan Is Not A Master Plan, But Is a Capital Improvement List and Should Be Identified and Called As Such to Avoid Confusion with What is a Real Master Plan

One of the major issues is confusion of just what kind of document the so-called Marina Master Plan is. While it is called "Master Plan," it is nothing of the sort. As Planning Commissioner Poschman and Waterfront Commissioner Steneko have pointed out, this document is not a planning document as that term is used legally under California Planning Law. It is more appropriately called a Capital Projects Plan or a Capital Improvement List, but it is NOT a Master Plan.

The document states on page 2 that, "The Plan identifies essential capital improvement projects that should be initiated in the next five years and other capital improvement projects that could be implemented over the next twenty years." While such projects could and should make up a Master Plan, there is more to a Master Plan than capital projects.

The "Guiding Principles" section of the document is woefully inadequate in addressing the policies that should be included in any real Master Plan. For example, there is no discussion of water quality policies, or policies on alternative energy sources, or on recyling policies.

The guideline on wildlife habitat is just that: one principle, when many others should be included or addressed. The best example is the State Park Plan for the Eastshore State Park. I will not repeat that document here. However, for purposes of the Sierra Club comments, the Sierra Club hereby incorporates by reference as though fully set forth herein the entire State Park General Plan for the Eastshore State Park. It is noted for the record that the City of Berkley has that document and that the planning and waterfront staff are fully aware of and familiar with that document because the staff prepared comments on the State Park Plan.

Waterfront Commissioner Steneko discussed the failure of the so-called Marina Plan to be considered a Master Plan, and I will not repeat those comments here because I understand that the staff has taken down those comments and is preparing a response. However, for the record, the Sierra Club hereby incorporates by reference as though fully set forth herein the comments of Waterfront Commissioner Steneko on the so-called Marina Master Plan and Initial Study.

The Sierra Club will not object if the City wishes to change the designation of this plan and call it a Capital Improvement List or a Capital Projects List. However, the Club believes that if the City persists in trying to identify this document as "Master Plan," then it opens up the City to a legal challenge which the Sierra Club will look at very closely. As Chair of the San Francisco Bay Chapter Legal Committee, I will make sure this issue is closely discussed and a recommendation made as to what legal action the Sierra Club should take against the City if the City maintains that this plan document is a "Master Plan."

B. The so-called Marina Master Plan and Initial Study Do Not Include Various Recreational Development Projects for Access to the North Basin Cove, Yet the Staff Appears to Assume that Those Projects Are Included

Perhaps the greatest confusion has arisen over statements and proposals concerning recreational boating access to the North Basin Cove, which is now within the Eastshore State Park. Nowhere in the so-called Marina Master Plan is there is there any proposal for any capital facilities for docks, launch points, or other associated facilities for providing immediate access to the North Basin Cove. The plan schematic shows a dock jutting out from Cesar Chavez Park, but that dock or any other related facilities are not identified or discussed at all in the so-called Marina Master Plan.

Yet, at Waterfront Commission meetings, Commission Chair Paul Kamen and Commissioners Brad Smtih and Claudia Kawczynska have made statements assuming such facilities ought to and will be built and are included in the so-called Marina Master Plan. I have also heard the Berkeley staff make statements suggesting that these facilities are included in the plan.

When the Club pointed out the inappropriateness of showing a dock off of the Eastern edge of Cesar Chavez Park, the response of the staff was to state that the dock would be removed because it juts into the State Park. But the staff did NOT give as a reason for removing the dock, that it is simply nowhere to be found identified as a project in the so-called Master Plan. Commissioners Kamen, Smith, and Kawczynska, however, then publicly objected to removal of the dock and demanded to know why the staff was removing it. Commissioner Kamen even stated that the dock could be built wholly within Berkeley's property without jutting into the State Park and justified building it for that reason. Indeed, Commissioner Kamen wrote a letter to the Planning Commission contending that these dock facilities were in the so-called Marina Master Plan and that approval of the plan and Initial Study would open the way for their immediate construction and use. I reiterate that I could not find any reference to these facilities as a capital project in the so-called Marina Master Plan, so either Commissioner Kamen knows something we don't, or he is trying to bootstrap these facilities into the Plan by blithely stating that they are in the plan when they are not.

Now, either those recreational facilities such as the dock are included and are analyzed for their impacts or they are not. As it stands now, there is nothing in the so-called Marina Master Plan that identifies those facilities for future construction and use and there is no study of the impacts of their use on any portion of the Marina or on the North Basin Cove.

C. The Initial Study Does Not Contain Any Analysis of the Environmental Impacts of Proposed Boating Faciltiies That Would Allow For Immediate Access to the North Basin Cove

Indeed, there is no analysis in the Initial Study of the impacts of promoting water related recreational activities in the North Basin Cove. Again, if the so-called Marina Master Plan is intended to legally include these types of facilities in order to promote recreational activities, then the plan must identify them and the Initial Study, actually study their impacts. For this purpose, the Club includes a copy of the letter that the Dept. of Fish and Game sent regarding the impacts of recreational activities on the State Park, including the North Basin Cove. This letter is incorporated by reference as though fully set forth herein.

The issue of whether extensive boating facilities are included in the so-called Master Plan and have been studied in the Initial Study MUST be clarified. If it is not clarified, and the City continues to maintian that such facilities have been approved with any approval of this so-called Master Plan and that the Initial Study fully and properly studied their impacts, then I can tell you right now I will recommend that the Sierra Club sue the City of Berkeley over this plan and initial study.

D. The So-Called Marina Master Plan and Initial Study Should Clearly State That No Such Recreational Facilities Were Identified Or Studied for Their Impacts

It would best if the staff made it clear to the minority of Waterfront Commissioners who advocate such facilities and uses that they are not included in this plan document and were not studied properly and fully for the Initial Study. It would also be best if the City Council made it clear that these facilities were not included and were not studied for their impacts.

At this time it appears that a minority on the Waterfront Commission with a special interest in mind along with the staff are trying to do an end run around the State Park planning process. I say this because they are advocating recreational boating facilities for immediate access to the North Basin Cove with the purpose of opening up the Cove to extensive water craft recreational use.

E. The Eastshore State Park Plan Went Through an Extensive Analysis and Tried to Address the Impacts of Recreational Activities on Waterfowl in the North Basin Cove

As you know we went through a lengthy process with the State Park plan which addressed issues raised concerning the impacts of water recreational uses on the North Basin Cove. The reason is that the North Basin Cove is used as an important resting area along the Pacific Flyway for many waterfowl, especially ducks. They need this area to rest in order to restore their energy for their continued migration. Activities which flush them force them to use their energy for those purposes and negatively impact their ability to continue their migration. The best analogy to humans would be if someone disturbed each of you at night while you tried to sleep by walking by your bedroom window. After a few days, you would also feel stressed, tired, low in energy, and would not be at your peak physical abilities. This is why the Cove is so important and why the Siera Cub, CESP, Audubon and Save the Bay have been so concerned about this issue.

The Eastshore Park General Plan provided that before any facilities would be constructed to allow access to the Cove, environmental studies would be needed. It is probably useful to quote the policy in the plan in full since it should apply to any planning work the City proposes for any of its lands adjacent to the Cove:

Minimize disturbance to large rafts of wintering ducks and other water birds in the North Basin. Prior to constructing proposed water access improvements on the North Basin Strip, consult with appropriate resource agencies to establish management guidelines for boating. The guidelines may include measures such as partial or full closure of the North Basin to boating during the raftng season (generally October through April), restrictions on the type or numbers of watercraft that will be permitted, restrictions on the areas open to boating, etc.

F. The City Should Follow the State Park Plan Policies and Should [not] Attempt To Do an End Run Around the State Park Planning Process

At the very least the City should be following the State Park on this point at this time because the State Park plan was extensively analyzed and commented on. In contrast, the City has done no study at all of the impacts of recreational uses on the North Basin Cove.

In summary, the City can resolve the issue concerning these various boating facilities and recreational uses by making it clear in the so-called Master Plan and Initial Study that such faciltiies have NOT been identified and have NOT been studied for their impacts, and that such environmental studies would have to take place before any facilities could be identified. In addition, the City should state in the plan and Initial Study that at this time, it will adopt the the policy quoted above that was included in the State Park General Plan. Lastly, the City should state AS A POLICY that it will coordinate its identification of future facilities for promoting boating in the North Basin Cove with State Parks and the East Bay Regional Park District and will be guided by the planning that is done for the new Eastshore State Park rather than trying to do an end run around the State Park.

G. Relocating Marina Blvd. East Will Impact the Meadow and That Impact Has Not Been Studied in the Initial Study

The staff has clarified that the so-called Marina Master Plan does Not call for widening Marina Blvd. despite the public statements of Waterfront Commissioners Kamen, Smith and Kawczynska on this issue. However, the plan calls for moving Marina Blvd. eastward up to the edge of the Meadow. Moroever, the plan proposes a bicycle path OUTSIDE the city's property line, presumably in the State Park in order to accommodate this move east!!!

Now, if there is one thing that has united most of Berkeley over the past 40 years has been the goal of protecting the Meadow as a wildlife habitat area. The proposed relocation of Marina Blvd. threatens to impact the Meadow and continues the practice of slowly eating up portions of the lands everyone associates as the Meadow for concrete type uses. These proposals needs further study and their impacts need to be fully analyzed before approval and action is taken. Therefore, the relocation of Marina Blvd. should not be approved at this time.

H. It is Unfortunate that the City Spent So Much Money on Such a Puny Document, But That Does Not Mean the City should Adopt Woefully Inadequate Plans and Studies.

At the Waterfront Commission, Commissioner Smith made a big issue about the fact that the Waterfront Commission had not wanted this plan done and that it has cost the city, allegeldy, $500,000. That cost is regrettable. But the fact that the City spent a bundle and did not get an adequate product, does not justify approving that inadequate product. I am sure the City Council would not have approved moving back into the City offices on Milvia Street if it was told that although the City spend a lot of money on seismic upgrades, those upgrades were inadequate to protect the building from collapse in an earthquake.

So what to do? The City can resolve this issue easily by simply stating that the so-called Master Plan is not a master plan, but a capital improvement list or projects list. The City should not approve this plan as a Master Plan and the Initial Study unless it really is a Master Plan and unless the Initial Study is done right, no matter what it cost. It should investigate why it cost so much so as to avoid this problem in the future, but two wrongs will not make the plan documents right.

Sincerely yours,

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