To: Berkeley City Councilmembers

From: Paul Kamen
Waterfront Commission, Master Planning Subcommittee

RE: Waterfront Planning, item 20 on the consent calendar for 5/11/99

It was with considerable surprise that I learned of the proposal brought by Councilmembers Spring, Olds, and Wooley regarding hotel development in the Berkeley Marina. Here we are near the end of a lengthy planning process, and the Council is being asked to suddenly preempt this process by calling for the removal of what is potentially one of the most important elements of the master plan from consideration.

Why did we undertake a rigorous planning process in the first place?

Because we sometimes find that after the process we have progressed from our original position.

We set out on this process with initial goals and values based on public input - we explored land use options - we worked through the economic and architectural details - and at the end of the process we believe that we know some things that we didn't know when we began.

The planning process is also valuable because it results in a better understanding of the costs and benefits of specific options. The possibility of hotel development is a case in point.

Excluding hotel development from the plan will probably require one or more of the following options:

a) Terminate Shorebird Park Nature Center and Adventure Playground, along with other public-serving programs, facilities, and events. If we view these facilities and programs as "fat to be trimmed" then it might be possible to operate the marina at break-even.

b) Finance these programs directly out of the general fund.

c) Find other commercial activity to generate revenue for marina programs. The city is currently attempting to increase restaurant utilization, so presumably restaurant development does not carry the same stigma as hotel rooms. Neither does the proposed "retail commercial cluster," apparently. But the negative impact on pollution and traffic from these uses is greater, the financial risk is far greater, and these uses do not offer the positive effect on after-hours security and safety that a hotel can provide.

d) Allocate a substantial portion of the room tax already generated at the marina to marina projects and programs. This reduces revenue to the remainder of the city and is really the same as option (b) above.

e) Increase berth rates, and re-redirect capital improvement priorities to the features and amenities that serve the boat owners, rather than the public at large, in order to justify and support these higher rates.

f) Operate the marina at a deficit and risk major financial liability to the city at some future date.

I am baffled by the "FINANCIAL IMPACT: NONE" that appears on the written resolution.

It should also be noted that measures P and Q from 1986 applied to the contested waterfront lands once owned by Santa Fe and not to the marina proper.

I understand that the motivation for the "no hotels" resolution is valid and worthy, but I fear that the end result will be a marina moving in exactly the opposite direction from what we would all like to see. We will be too strapped for funds to run diverse public programs, we will have much higher, if not exclusionary, berth rates, and we will ultimately have marginal restaurant and retail development taking priority over access programs and parks as we struggle to keep the marina afloat financially.

Please reconsider this resolution, or at least delay action until after the results of the planning process have been carefully reviewed.