Regular Meeting of the Waterfront Commission
November 8, 2000
COMMISSIONERS PRESENT: Cobb, Collignon, Kamen, Kawczynska, Minasian, Smith
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 pm.
Mr. Ted Pierson spoke about the rules that he and other kite buggy riders proposed for Cesar Chavez Park. He said that he felt confident that a compromise could be reached between kite buggy users and other park users.
Mr. Don Flory said that he thought Commissioner Kamen’s proposed rules for kite buggies were reasonable with the exception of the proposed prohibition of buggying on weekends. He said that kite buggies could coexist with other park users on the weekend.
Mr. Del Davis said that he rode kite buggies responsibly and that it was an enjoyable activity. He said that he had spoken with dog walkers who enjoyed the presence of the kite buggies in the park.
Ms. Eleanor Peebles said that the sewers were backing up into the Bay at the Radisson Hotel. She asked that the topic be placed on the Commission’s next agenda.
2. Approval of Agenda and Minutes
The agenda was approved without changes.
The minutes of the October meeting were approved with a minor change.
3. Comments from the Chair.
Commissioner Kawczynska made the following comments on the occasion of Dick Wolgast’s leaving the Waterfront Commission:
“Dick Wolgast has served on this commission for eight years and, sadly he is leaving us. I want to thank Dick for all his many years of service to the community, and to let him know personally how much I have appreciated his leadership and involvement with this commission. Over and over again he has shown that he possesses those time-honored values of integrity, grit and fortitude. He has always been kind hearted and fair-minded in expressing his opinions and views. His dedication and commitment to improving the life of the waterfront has made this area one of the city’s finest treasures as we all know. Without him this would have been otherwise. I will sorely miss him.
Commissioner Smith said that Commissioner Wolgast’s professional knowledge had helped the Commission many times in reaching its decisions and that it had been a great pleasure working with him.
Commissioner Kamen expressed his appreciation of Commissioner’s Wolgast’s work on the Commission and said that he had enjoyed adjourning to the Yacht Club with Commissioner Wolgast after meetings.
Commissioner Cobb said that she had intended to be a temporary appointment to the Waterfront Commission but that Commissioner Wolgast had convinced her to stay.
Commissioner Wolgast made the following remarks:
“You have warmed my heart. There have been few activities that have been more satisfying than working together with thoughtful, well meaning people on a community project. I want to thank you all for that experience.”
Mr. Santiago Casal, Director of the Cesar Chavez Solar Calendar Project, began his presentation on a proposed Cesar Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar in Cesar Chavez Park by introducing several audience members who had come to speak in behalf of the proposal including: Victoria Brady, Scott Donohough, John Roberts, landscape architect, David Glazer, former middle school science teacher, Barbara Coleman and Stewart Sidell from the City’s Public Art Commission, and Salvador Murillo.
John Roberts, using a model of the proposed project, described the history of Cesar Chavez Park, the north waterfront park master plan and the original conditions of the area. He said that the public consensus had been to keep the area towards the northern end of the park more remote and natural while the southern end would be kept more urban in character. He said that the plan also called for “a place of ritual” on the site of the proposed calendar. Commissioner Kawczynska made a correction to this comment. She said that the plan had indicated that the place of ritual would be elsewhere.
He said the calendar would be surrounded by berms cut through on alignments with the solstices and equinoxes, and that it would include markers commemorating features of Cesar Chavez’ life and character. Drought tolerant grass or other ground cover would cover the berms.
Mr. Casal said the project had a very strong educational component including collaboration with Lawrence Hall of Science and the Berkeley public schools. He said the project was developing a curriculum focused on grades three through 8 and that the calendar would serve as a “field classroom” for the curriculum.
Commissioner Smith asked for a description of the curriculum. David Glazer said that the curriculum would be based on math, astronomy, history of science, ancient cultures and social studies topics in the California state standards for grades three through 8. He said the curriculum would include Cesar Chavez’ leadership in the farm worker’s struggle. He hoped to build a web site for the calendar where students could share findings from their visits to the site.
Commissioner Kamen noted that the true horizon would not be visible from the site.
Commissioner Cobb said that she supported opportunities for science and nature education for children and asked if other sites had been explored before settling on the current site. She asked whether the public could not enjoy nature in natural, unconstructed settings. John Roberts said that the calendar would allow visitors to mark particular natural occurrences “with intent” “as a cultural event”.
Mr. Casal said that the project would bring the wonder of the universe into the park.
Commissioner Kawczynska said that that part of the park in which the calendar was proposed was supposed to be left wild and natural. She asked why the calendar could not be located further to the south. She said that such a location would be more convenient for visiting school children.
Mr. Casal said that other locations had been considered but that the proposed location would allow for 360-degree views.
Mr. Roberts said the proposed project location would minimize distraction from activities that occur in the southern part of the park and allow for contemplation.
Commissioner Minasian said that the project would be beautiful if it is developed as presented. He said he liked the fact that it would not cost the city anything. He wanted to be sure that sufficient funds could be raised not just to build the project but to maintain it.
Commissioner Minasian also said that he was concerned the calendar would occupy an area dedicated to off leash dog activity and that there may be conflict between off leash dog supporters and proponents of the solar calendar. He said that the project had originally been presented as a “stand alone development based in science and astronomy” and that he was concerned with the “philosophical back fitting” to the life and work of Cesar Chavez. He said that the project in itself did not appear to be relevant to the life of Cesar Chavez.
Mr. Casals said that the proposed site was not in the offleash dog area but just to the west of it. He said the perimeter path would in effect be the boundary between the two.
Mr. Casal said that the project had the full support of the Chavez family and that “there was nothing more basic to agriculture than the rhythm of the seasons.” He said that solar calendars were an enormous victory to humanity in gaining some control over their lives by predicting the season and that solar calendars have a foundation in Mexican civilization.
Commissioner Kamen said he liked the project in the proposed location and that he believes the project is compatible with other uses including off leash dogs. He expressed concern that the perceived incompatibilities would lead to unnecessary conflict.
In response to assurances from a Solar Calendar advocate that the gnomon would be architecturally attractive, commissioner Kamen noted that it would be important to avoid “an abominable gnomon”.
Commissioner Collignon asked what the calendar’s dimensions were.
John Roberts said that the diameter of the interior would be about 90 feet and that the surrounding enclosure would varied in width.
Commissioner Collignon asked whether people would be allowed on the surrounding berm and whether ADA considerations had been built into the plan. Mr. Roberts responded that he would prefer that people be able to climb and walk on the berm, and that the perimeter paths would be wide enough for wheel chairs. He said no additional structures (such as restrooms) were planned for the site.
Dick Wolgast said that he was concerned with the “value of the science” that the project would offer for its estimated construction cost of $500,000. He said that Berkeley had limited open space and that when a piece of open space was lost it did not return. He suggested some mitigating new open space would be necessary to substitute for the open space that would be lost if the project were built.
Mr. Casal said that he did not see the project as a loss of open space but as an improvement. He said the calendar would enrich the park and provide park users with a sense of the wonders of the universe.
Commissioner Kawczynska asked what environmental impact document would be prepared for the project.
Mr. Casal said that he was unaware that an EIR would be necessary. He said that if an impact report were required he would “deal with it.” Commissioner Kawczynska said that the 1979 Master Plan called for no development of the park and thought that the Solar Calendar would, as a result, require an Environmental Impact Review
Commissioner Minasian asked for clarification on the project’s approach to the possibility of an EIR.
Mr. Casals said that he had not been informed that an EIR would be necessary or that the project would be required to fund it if it were required.
Commissioner Minasian asked if the Commission’s charge was to determine “if the project would exist or if it would exist in a certain form.”
Ed Murphy said that he recalled that the City Council had wanted to reserve the space to allow the process for design and consideration of the solar calendar to move forward, but had not approved the project itself. He offered to obtain the relevant City Council resolutions for the next Waterfront Commission meeting.
Commissioner Smith said that he thought it was a wonderful concept reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial. He said that it was a “marvelous memorial to Cesar Chavez” and that he hoped the Commission would support it.
Commissioner Kamen said he doubted that the project was the scale of development that required a full EIR. However, he said that he thought that the calendar should be made compatible with all other activities such as kite buggying and off leash dogs.
Mr. Casals said that it was expected that people would put their dogs on a leash while visiting the solar calendar.
Commissioner Kawczynska asked who would do long term maintenance such as graffiti removal. Mr. Casals said that eventually a nonprofit corporation would be formed to maintain it in perpetuity. He said that the same methods used to combat graffiti and vandalism elsewhere would be used for the solar calendar.
Commissioner Kawczynska said that if the northern mound on which the Solar Calendar had been preliminary designed could be retained as part of the off-leash area and the Solar Calendar centered further south in the park, the calendar project would probably receive strong support from organizers of the offleash dog area.
Mr. Casals said that the northern mound was part of the architecture of the monument and that designers of the monument regarded the mounds as a single unit.
Staff described grant applications that it had submitted to the Coastal Conservancy and the State of California for rehabilitation of pathways at the Marina and asked for the Commission’s endorsement of the applications.
To recommend that the City Council approve Parks Department grant applications to the California Department of Recreation Recreational Trails Program for a grant of $394,000 and to the California Coastal Conservancy for a study grant of $200,000. The motion passed unanimously.
To ask the City Attorney to review the proposed kite buggy rules for liability issues. The motion passed unanimously.
6. RFP for Rod and Gun Club and Bird Rescue Properties
Ed Murphy reviewed the RFP for the bird rescue building and former Rod and Gun Club at Aquatic Park. He said that the RFP specified that priority consideration would be given to use of the Rod and Gun Club by the City as a public building for youth recreation or community services and secondarily to a nonprofit’s use for community benefit. He said that otherwise the Request was a standard City of Berkeley RFP. Several members of the Audubon Society introduced themselves and said that they would be submitting a response to the RFP.
Commissioner Smith said that Department Director, Lisa Caronna and Arietta Chakos of the City Manager’s office had agreed to include a new 2-year grant writer position for the Marina in the upcoming budget cycle. He said that a return of between 5 and 10 times the cost of the grant writer was a reasonable expectation. He said that ideally the grant writer would work with the city’s lobbyist in identifying and applying for money.
Commissioner Smith distributed and described a redesigned cumulative deficit chart and related pie charts which he said clarified the Fund’ impending deficit given current revenue and expenditure projections.
Mr. Mark Liolios described Bayer’s offer to rebuild the Pump House at Aquatic Park. He said that Bayer wanted the City to close off a large part of Carlton Street in exchange for the company’s rebuilding the pump house and pier. Commissioner Kawczynska said that many area residents used Carlton Street to get into the park. Commissioner Smith said that the Commission had objected to closing Carlton Street in the past. Commissioner Kamen said that at the least the City should get market value for the street property.
Mr. Liolios said that the City had expressed an interest in acquiring the KBLX property when it first was on the market two years ago but did not receive a grant that would have made the purchase possible. He said that currently the Berkeley Police Department is talking with the building’s owners about having the police establish a uniformed police presence in the building. He suggested that the Parks Department contact the station to determine if it part of the building could be put to some use. He said that one idea would be to use it as a site from which to lead bird watching tours and or as storage for tools for the habitat restoration program. He said the additional activity and public presence would help in reducing vandalism in the area. He said it would cost the City nothing.
Commissioner Kamen said that his reservation was that the interaction between humans and the natural environment was tainted by the proximity of the noisy freeway.
Mark Liolios said that he assumed that when the freeway interchange is rebuilt a noise barrier of some sort would be included.
Commissioner Kamen said that even with a noise barrier the area would still be noisy. He said he was reluctant to proceed when there were other locations that might have ecological and habitat value but were much more suitable.
Commissioner Smith said that organizing a tour of the building was an easy first step that could serve as a test to see if the building could become part of the Aquatic Park.
The Commission asked staff to arrange a tour of the building for staff and interested commissioners.
9. Other Aquatic Park Issues
Commissioner Kawczynska said that the waterski club building had been covered with graffiti and that signs around the Park had also been similarly vandalized. She said the City’s graffiti abatement program should clean up graffiti in the Park, especially signs. Ed Murphy offered to call the Waterski Club and make them aware of the problem.
Commissioner Kawczynska reported that she had been threatened by a homeless man in Aquatic Park. She said she had no opposition to homeless people sleeping in the Park but objected to the threat to personally safety.
10. Forum on the Oakland Waterfront
Commissioner Kamen spoke about his tour of the Oakland waterfront. He said that the planned boathouse and the support that the nonprofits at the waterfront receive from the City of Oakland were impressive especially when compared with Berkeley. He said he hoped to be able to take a tour of the boathouse with other commissioners when it was completed.
11. The meeting adjourned shortly after 9:30 pm