My Comments, May 15 2001:

(Disclaimer: this is based on my recollections, impressions, and hearsay, and I have not researched the issues in any detail. Where Norman and I disagree on the historical facts, his version is probably correct.)

The letter asks "that the City state in writing the legal and economic basis" for allowing 565,000 square feet of development rights on the Measure Q lands.

"Measure Q provided for a maximum of 565,000 square feet of development on all of Santa Fe's waterfront holdings in Berkeley," according to the Sierra Club letter. Was this intended to limit the total amount of development, or should it have been divided by the area in question to produce a per acre development density limit? If Measure Q makes no mention of a density limit, or of a uniform distribution of development over the area, then it seems to me that this is an open question.

The Santa Fe Land Improvement Company's 1983 proposal called for about three million square feet of development. As I recall this was on property that was essentially unzoned at the time, and included the North Basin Strip and the Meadow.

My understanding is that a certain amount of commercial development had to be retained in order for the down-zoning to survive an inverse condemnation challenge. Presumably the number that came out of the negotiation was 565,000 square feet (although I've heard it as "a 300 room hotel" from sources in the Planning Department). It's possible that the agreement was for all of this development to be allowed in the remaining Measure Q area after most of the property acquired for the park was down-zoned to open space. Under those terms it would not have been necessary for the State to purchase any development rights.

What would have been purchased was land on which development could have occurred - which certainly has value - but not the development rights per se.

Obviously this is not the case if there are documents that explicitly show that approximately 452,000 square feet of development rights were purchased by the State. If these development rights were in fact part of the purchase, then the City is in a potentially much stronger negotiating position with respect to any new development.

For example, a number of public-serving concessions could be extracted from a developer in return for a larger project. These might include generous easements for the Bay Trail, improved kayak access points, beach and shoreline naturalization, facilities for low-end public water access (rowboat rental), facilities for more specialized water access (outrigger canoe boathouse), or even a ferry dock* or fishing pier. Development concessions are a way of getting private sector resources to fund these amenities, and this strategy also keeps these activities out of the Eastshore State Park if the State's classification process doesn't permit them.

It's possible that when the City mentions 565,000 square feet of development, they are contemplating negotiating these or other concessions or amenities. Does this number still appear in the zoning for this area? Or could some City officials be working from an old number, and simply not taking into account the agreed changes resulting from the sale?

Whether the development ends up at 110,000 or 565,000, one strategy I'm very interested in pursuing is adding the measure Q lands to the Marina Enterprise Zone. This area would not be contiguous with the existing MEZ, but if it includes waterfront commercial space and water-related access, then it will function exactly like other parts of the Marina, and should properly be included. The Marina is already set up with staff and infrastructure to manage this area effectively. (Or at least, as effectively as any other City department.) Most importantly, including this new development area in the MEZ will provide the resources to keep the Marina solvent, and allow us to continue funding public-serving City programs (the Shorebird Nature Center costs over $200,000/year, all taken out of the MEZ budget) and to continue to give private non-profits various levels of subsidy as appropriate.

Short of more development in the Marina proper (which I still favor, if done right), this is probably the most practical route to the long-term economic health of the Marina Enterprise Zone, and the best way to retain the visitor-friendliness and public access priorities that we strive for at the waterfront.

One of the less favorable scenarios is that Magna Corporation (racetrack owner and Measure Q land owner) will develop only on the Albany side, and use the Berkeley Measure Q lands for nothing more than a big parking lot. This will put all the car traffic in Berkeley but leave little potential for a revenue stream, and leave no funding at all for access enhancement. It's not clear if anything can be done preemptively to make this option less attractive to the developer, but we should all give the problem some thought.

Another option is to buy the Measure Q land and add it to the Eastshore State Park. If it's true that 80% of the development rights were purchased, then the remaining 20% should cost approximately one-fourth of the initial purchase. (Why didn't the State buy the whole thing a few years ago? The answer could be the key to the main question at issue here.)

As you probably know, I have a strong preference for a mixed-use waterfront over the "open space monoculture" proposed by other park advocates. In an urban setting, open space and built space both become more valuable, more accessible, and more public-serving when they are in close proximity to each other.

So I don't think extending park acquisition to Measure Q lands in order to block development would be the best use of our limited land acquisition funds. I'd much rather see the development on Measure Q lands shaped into something that expands the options available to the park visitor, and acquisition efforts directed at more critical spots like the land near the last bit of remaining original East Bay shoreline at Flemming Point.

We have the tools we need to do this. If we are starting from a baseline of only 110,000 square feet of development, then our tools just got a lot sharper.

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

*On the ferry dock: Putting on my naval architect's hat for a moment, I have to point out that small fast ferries are inefficient and dirty. Ships are exceptionally clean and efficient when they are large and slow, but the boats called for in the high-speed ferry network proposed by the regional ferry initiative are neither. Ferry service is a wonderful amenity, but there is no way that it will make a dent in our transportation or air quality problems. We have a bridge and a tunnel, and better allocation of those resources is what will make a difference.

That said, ferry service is still a wonderful amenity, and a slow "tourist ferry" with a commuter service component would be a worthwhile addition to the waterfront. If home-ported in Berkeley, it could operate with relatively light subsidies.