Citizens have clashed with UC Berkeley once again.
This time the disagreement has nothing to do with housing vs. parking or where the university ought to locate facilities outside its traditional boundaries.
This dispute – which a university planner says is merely a misunder-standing – centers on the restoration of Codornices Creek, west of San Pablo Avenue.
Codornices Creek is the most “daylighted” creek in the city – the one least encased in pipes. It’s the only Berkeley creek where steelhead are believed to reproduce.
Below San Pablo Avenue, where sections of the waterway have been made almost straight - especially between Sixth and Eighth streets - the creek demarcates the Berkeley-Albany border. The university controls the Albany side of the creek, between San Pablo Avenue and the railroad tracks, adjacent to UC’s University Village.
Members of Friends of Five Creeks and the Urban Creeks Council have been meeting with university planners and Albany and Berkeley city staff for a year, pressing the university to participate in the creek’s reconfiguration. They want to see the creek restored to a more natural “meander,” and they want to see a trail built alongside the creek, so that skateboarders, sportsfield users, birdwatchers and people with strollers can go safely from San Pablo Avenue to the new fields being built between Harrison Street and the creek, and between Fifth Street and the Railroad tracks.
Susan Schwartz, president of Friends of Five Creeks, and Carole Schemmerling, Bay Area coordinator for the Urban Creeks Council of California, however, contend that the university has recently shut them out of planning meetings. Moreover, they say, in a letter to Chancellor Robert Berdahl, that the university is pushing forward with a plan which would “straightjacket the creek in a riprapped (concrete) channel for a block and a half, allow only a five-foot trail squeezed dangerously between fence and steep bank in one block, and provide no trail at all in the two blocks between Ninth (Street) and San Pablo (Avenue).”
Jacki Bernier, the university’s principal planner on the project, counters that the public has not been shut out of meetings. Community people were not invited to certain meetings – to which she said they came without an invitation – because these were of a technical nature.
Moreover, she said there is no plan keep the stream on a rigid course. She says, in fact, that there is no plan at all at this point – just drafts, which she was not prepared to share with the Daily Planet.
“It’s still evolving,” she said.
Bernier stressed, however, that the community needs to be ready to compromise. For example, to allow the stream to meander and build an adequate trail beside it, would mean that the university would have to move a maintenance building and a children’s playground. These are expensive measures, she said.
“It can’t be perfect for everybody,” she said.
She further noted that on the Berkeley side of the stream, there are commercial buildings that butt up against the stream, so that the university, alone, is being asked for its flexibility.
Bernier said, however, that the university is not ruling out future restoration of the creek in that area.
And that’s exactly what Susan Schwartz says she wants to hear.
The community wants the university to write the restoration of the creek and the trail into its plans for the future.
“No one’s saying the university has to do that now,” she said. “I don’t see this as insolvable.”
At the City Council meeting tonight, the council will vote on a resolution proposed by Mayor Shirley Dean, to write a letter to Chancellor Robert Berdahl expressing “concerns about the current plans” and asking university planners to meet with a delegation of Berkeley and Albany city officials, staff and community to discuss creek issues.