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Thursday March 22, 2001

Better plan for Beth El possible  


I wish to commend David Blake’s brave comments at the last Zoning Adjustment Board meeting on March 8. He hit the nail right on the head. This project would not have been approved on the design of the project itself. 

No one questions the good works of Temple Beth El or any religious institution. I believe many people do good work whether they belong to a church or not. Does that give any one group the right to put a parking lot and road in the corridor of Codornices Creek, the most open creek in Berkeley. Does that mean one can move a mature live oak tree and transplant it somewhere else and hope that it survives? What does that teach the children? 

What the neighborhood questions is the project design and its detrimental impacts on the open Codornices Creek corridor, its riparian ecology; parking and traffic impacts on the surrounding neighborhood including Live Oak Park, Berkeley Arts Center, and Jewish Community Center; and the destruction of an historic site. People will drive.  

This area is the last remnant of one of the first farms in Berkeley. The site of the Byrne Mansion was chosen because of the proximity of the then opened creek. You can see the open green corridor clearly from aerial views. The landmark is the land itself. It is contiguous with Live Oak Park and the rest of Codornices Creek. 

I invite you to come to 1301 Oxford and Berryman Path. Look at the developer’s story poles to see the dimensions of the structure (footprint the size of a football field or the local Safeway) and the blue taped areas representing the parking lot and road which is now adjacent to Berryman Path. Imagine a seven foot stucco wall along Berryman Path. The community gardeners who once maintained the northern portion of the property did not have their lease renewed, so the area is overgrown, but its natural beauty still remains. They say that with the latest plan for parking lot and road parallel to Berryman Path, that Codornices Creek can be restored. This is dubious at best, since it would mean extremely steep banks, increased pollution in the creek, and a road between the creek and Berryman path. Cars and roadway will hang over the edge of the creek. 

I believe there is a better plan for this property that can satisfy all stakeholders. You can have enough parking, adequate space for a building, and have a beautiful open creek to be proud of. The plan that the ZAB approved is not that plan. It ignores neighborhood and several environmental organizations concerns. Don’t take my word for this. Come see the paradise. They are building a parking lot over it. 


Diane A. Tokugawa