Transportation Commission Declines to Choose Ferry Site By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday June 21, 2005

Berkeley’s Transportation Commissioners refused Thursday to endorse the Waterfront Commission’s June 8 recommendation to choose the dock at the Doubletree Hotel as the future terminal for ferry service. 

Instead, the Transportation Commission voted to urge the San Francisco Bay Water Transit Authority (WTA) to consider all potential area sites in their plans for providing ferry transit services to the East Bay. 

That decision would include consideration of sites at the waterfront near the foot of Gilman Street in Berkeley and Buchanan Streets in Albany, both strongly disfavored by environmentalists and Paul Kamen, chair of the Waterfront Commission. 

“This is the first time I’ve ever found myself in agreement with Norman La Force,” said Kamen. La Force is the Bay Area attorney for the Sierra Club, which often finds itself at odds with waterfront development advocates. 

Also opposed to the Gilman and Albany sites is Citizens for Eastshore Parks. That organization played an instrumental role in creating the Eastshore State Park, which is scheduled to acquire the Albany Bulb, the small landfill that begins at the end of Buchanan Street.  

Albany City Councilmember Robert Lieber noted Monday that both the Gilman and Buchanan street sites would require extensive dredging before they could be used by ferries, while the Berkeley Marina site would not. 

The Doubletree pier is already used by Hornblower cruise ships and would require little or no modification to serve as a terminal. The other sites would require extensive and expensive construction. 

Kamen said extensive parking already present at the Marina would mean no additional parking would be required at that site, another potential cost savings. 

WTA Executive Officer Steven Castleberry told the commission that the environmental review of sites in the Berkeley area would include all three locations, but said a recommendation from the Berkeley City Council would carry weight in the final selection. 

Berkeley and Albany are vying for the first new WTA terminal in the East Bay. Complicating the selection of an Albany site is that city’s recent decision to consider expanded dock operations for Toyota Motors import operations at the preferred site in Marina Bay. 

“We do not plan to do both Berkeley/Albany and Richmond,” Castleberry told the commission. “Measure 2 funds currently allow for only one.” That measure, passed by Bay Area voters last year, increased bridge tolls to fund public transportation projects. 

Commission Chair Rob Wrenn said he wouldn’t support the Waterfront Commission recommendation without a similar site review by his panel. 

Castleberry said he was “a little worried” of going ahead without a recommendation, noting that any review would cover all the sites, “but if there’s a preferred site, the review usually throws a little more money behind it.”u