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Concrete Path Threatens Shoreline Tranquility

Friday October 17, 2003

One of the most peaceful, tranquil, calming experiences in Berkeley is about to be unalterably destroyed. 

I am referring to the path just south of the Marina Boulevard intersection with University Avenue. When you take this left off Marina Boulevard you will immediately be on a narrow 7-to-8-foot path adjacent to pecking, scurrying sandpipers and other shorebirds in the tide and mud flats below you to the east. You can stand on this path and quietly enjoy this restful, contemplative experience or enjoy it from the 40-foot span of lawn to your west. This soft verdant lawn area is bordered by large Monterey pines making for a very contained, wind free environment. The current plan authored by 2M Associates, at city staff’s request, is to replace this path with 12 feet of concrete with 2-foot borders on each side for a total of 16 feet. This will guarantee much faster traffic flowing through here. Bicyclists at 5 to 15 miles per hour versus the walkers, rollerbladers, wheelchairs and even bicyclists now sauntering through at a leisurely 1 to 3 miles per hour. The border of Monterey pines will be clear cut along with 98 other trees in the Marina. Yet there is “no negative impact to either biology, aesthetics or habitat,” states the LSA Mitigated Negative Declaration.  

Take a stroll down this path and come to your own conclusions about the proposed changes.  

Rather than destroy this oasis, one alternative solution is to bring the Bay Trail extension into the southwest perimeter at the first western most parking lot. There were supposed to be three public workshops regarding this important realignment of our Marina; instead there was one. The windsurfers obtained their demands: a step-down entrance into the Bay on the western side of His Lordship’s with adjacent parking. A multi-million dollar bridge over the mouth of strawberry creek was also shelved for a less expensive one by demand from Friends of Five Creeks. Walkers, birders’ and other environmentalists’ issues were not considered, though the price for the plan to the city taxpayers was $200,000. 

The Waterfront Commission voted to retain the current width of the path around the southwest perimeter and hold at least one more public workshop, preferably two. Staff and consultants were not happy with this and went straight to City Council. Bicyclists’ needs were addressed there and voted on but no one addressed walkers and your garden variety path wanderers. City Council approved the initial study that night, July 15, 2003. There is already a perfectly good high speed bicycle path straight down University Avenue to the Berkeley pier. This could be enlarged from the more than generous auto lanes on this end of University Avenue. The two auto lanes are 18 feet each. Four feet could be cut from each lane to create an 8-foot bicycle path. Parking is prohibited on this end of University Avenue. The sidewalk here should be re-surfaced also, for wheel chair usage. This would be a fraction of the cost of tearing up the southwest perimeter path from Marina Boulevard to His Lordship’s. The plan also states it will replace only one of every four trees cut down. If you want a concrete, sanitized bleak Berkeley Marina, do nothing. 

Otherwise avail yourself of one of the few copies of this study that are supposed to be available at all Berkeley libraries, but of course are not; only the city clerk’s office has them. This means working folks cannot easily obtain a copy. If you have access to a computer go to the Berkeley web site, Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront. Please inform yourself of this major change to our Berkeley waterfront and make your objections know directly to City Councilmembers. The Coastal Conservancy will pay for this paving over of the Marina but Berkeley doesn’t have to say yes. We can say a resounding, NO. It is our city property, not the state’s. The trail between our beautiful, aqua pedestrian bridge, past the Seabreeze Deli and down University Avenue to the Marina Boulevard must be paved and expanded. Right now the culvert over Strawberry Creek forces pedestrians right out into traffic as the path there is about 2 feet wide. It is a most scary experience with speeding cars whisking right past your shoulders. The rest of the marina can remain as is. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Sage advise appropriate here. 

Consider making your thoughts known about this proposed drastic makeover to our Berkeley Marina to all our City Councilmembers. Betty Olds and Dona Spring voted for the Waterfront Commission version, still you might include your comments to them also. 

Norine M Smith is a Berkeley Waterfront Commissioner. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the commission.