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Council snubs soccer field

By Kurtis Alexander, Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday May 08, 2002

An outpouring of soccer dads and youth donning baseball caps at Old City Hall Tuesday night was not enough to persuade city leaders to push for more athletic fields in the community, at least where the sports activists wanted them. 

In a decision split largely along political lines, City Council adopted a recommendation by progressive Councilmember Dona Spring urging more sports fields along Berkeley’s waterfront, but discouraging fields on neighboring Albany shores. 

“I don’t think it takes into account all the needs of youth in Albany and Berkeley,” said Berkeley resident Federico Chavez, a member of the Albany-Berkeley Soccer League. Citing a need for more sports fields, Chavez claimed Berkeley’s Council should have recommended fields in Albany, not just Berkeley. 

Council’s recommendation comes as a regional planning team finalizes plans for an 8.5-mile-long park along the East Bay waterfront, dubbed the Eastshore Park and in development for decades. 

Park planners are in the process of soliciting comments for the park’s development from the cities that the park will pass through, which include Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond. But because the land is state-owned, recommendations by City Councils are not binding, only advisory. 

Berkeley’s call for no sports fields at the Albany Plateau, while criticized by some, was praised by a newly-formed grassroots group called “Let it Be.” 

The group wants the area, once a landfill and now a primitive, yet popular recreation point, to remain the way it is now and claims to have circulated a petition garnering 1,200 signatures. 

“It’s been functioning the way it is now for years,” said Berkeley resident Sasha Futran, noting its heavy use by hikers, kayakers, dog-walkers, and birders. Futran applauded Council’s recommendation to not develop the land. 

Council’s position comes in direct contrast to the current plan put forth by the Eastshore Park planning team. Currently, sports fields are slated for the Albany Plateau and not in Berkeley. 

Park planner Donald Neuwirth said that a variety of factors such as the suitability of conditions for sports fields as well as habitat-preservation goals played into their current, though tentative, plan. 

Berkeley’s recommendation for sports fields along its shores identified the privately-owned Golden Gate Field properties, the North Basin, and Brickyard Cove as possible sites. 

Council’s recommendation also urged planners to minimize the number of parking lots, eliminate the possibility a high-impact promenade and increase the level of protection of the sensitive Berkeley Meadow, near the Berkeley Marina. 

Last night’s meeting was the last of the comment sessions held by park planners on the current plan. A revised plan is expected this fall, which will be up for final consideration by the California Department of Parks and Recreation in November. 

In addition to State Parks, the East Bay Regional Park District and the California State Coastal Conservancy are partnering agencies involved in the park’s 20-year development. 


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