As suggested by the UC Community Coalition on UCB’s Long Range Development Plan environmental review, community open space should be created in compensation for increased traffic, increased building density, for exceeding by twofold the development goals of the 1990 LDRP, etc. I am writing in support of this recommendation and in addition to advocate for preserving existing open space in Strawberry and Claremont Canyons.
As the San Francisco Bay, Eastshore State Park, Cesar Chavez Park, Aquatic Park, and the Marina flank the western border of Berkeley, it is easy to forget that there is comparable elegance and inspiration on the city’s eastern border. Not just Tilden Park, but Strawberry Canyon and Claremont Canyon are Berkeley and Oakland treasures. Fire trails and deer paths provide entrance into what feels close to wilderness.
As a resident of Strawberry Canyon, I feel lucky to know her intimately. I have seen owls sitting in trees on early morning walks and heard them at night before being lulled to sleep, seen foxes scampering about, witnessed coveys of quail scurrying across a path, heard from UCB authorities that a mountain lion was nearby, nearly stepped on a rattlesnake, found a cluster of a native plant that rhymes with tritium, i.e. trillium, found chanterelle mushrooms but was afraid to eat them and instead paid $14.99 a pound at Berkeley Bowl, observed spring wildflowers volunteer profusely, listened in only mild astonishment as a university professor and neighbor described seeing a wild turkey, understood but didn’t mind the annoyance of public agencies which had to mitigate protected habitat for the federally endangered Alameda Whipsnake.
It is a privilege to live in Strawberry Canyon but in fact we are all privileged by living in a compact town that is in walking or biking distance of the canyon. Although it is a canyon in our collective backyard, for many of us it is an undiscovered treasure.
Despite the relative abundance of the natural world in parts of Strawberry Canyon, other parts of the canyon are little more than an industrial park. As UCB and LBNL expand, they encroach further into the delicate canyon ecology, in spite of the potential of being cut off from services by the Hayward Fault, despite acres and acres of diseased Monterey Pines, with each project adding to the hazard ranking and probability of disaster.
It is not just various doomsday scenarios that some of us worry about, but that there is an environmental treasure in a town of environmentalists that might easily be destroyed in our lifetime. For example, had it not been for the water people’s passion and a more open public process, LBNL would have filled in a creek with construction debris in order to build a parking lot. Already UCB has built parking lots in Strawberry Canyon that are left empty because the Space Sciences and Mathematical Research Institute employees resist parking fee hikes. Neighbors have stayed the stadium lighting project although the UCB Athletic Department apparently hungers for the glamour and cheap thrills of permanently installed TV broadcasting lights for the very infrequent occasion that a game might be televised. Meanwhile, a revenue-depleted university would in all likelihood exploit a financial crisis to justify using the well-lit stadium for non-intercollegiate non-football activities, e.g. the infamous two-night Paul McCartney concerts and the Oakland Raiders games.
Strawberry Canyon at least, and Claremont Canyon probably, are crying out for protection from ludicrous development and further environmental degradation. Already the canyons are a respite for hikers, runners, lovers of the natural world, people who want space.
To save our canyons, we will need to act now. Our canyons are open space treasures waiting to be discovered, adopted, and endorsed by the larger community. During the scoping session for the Long Range Development, please assert the value for open space in compensation for intensified development. Please identify Strawberry and Claremont Canyons open space in particular.
E-mail comments to email@example.com or write to Jennifer Lawrence, Capital Projects, 1936 University Ave., Suite 300, Berkeley, CA 94720-1382. The deadline is Friday, Oct. 10. The Notice of Preparation is available on-line at www.cp.berkeley.edu.
Janice Thomas is president of the Panoramic Hill Association.