The Berkeley Board of Education approved $20,000 Wednesday to hire WLC Consultants to officially study the Curvy Derby Plan and further develop it.
Berkeley High School (BHS) baseball players turned up with community members to voice their support for the plan, which would keep Derby Street open, but bend it to accommodate a regulation-size high school baseball field. The plan, although much discussed for the past year, was presented to the board for the first time at the meeting.
In the past other plans reviewed by the board to develop the Berkeley Unified School District’s (BUSD) East Campus Field included a design that would require the closing of Derby Street to fit the baseball field as well as a plan that would leave the street untouched for a smaller park without a baseball field. The school board had indicated that the “closed” Derby plan was the preferred option.
Since it is not within the authority of the board to close the street, it requested that the city share in the expense of the environmental study of the plan. The City Council agreed, provided the district held additional community meetings so that neighbors could voice their opinions about the issue.
The Curvy Derby plan united some members of the two opposing factions of the community, those who wanted Derby open and whose who wanted it closed.
Curvy Derby, designed by Berkeley residents Susi Marzuola and Peter Waller, proposes to extend the field north into Carleton Street allowing Derby Street to remain open. It takes out a few trees and some playing space from the King Childcare Development Center (King CDC) across the street from Iceland and curves Derby Street through that space.
“It’s been over 10 years and very little has progressed,” said school board president Joaquin Rivera. “I hope this will give it the push it needs to make things happen.”
Board vice-president John Selawsky said it was pertinent to set up a site committee for the field as early as possible.
“I have received some concerns from neighbors about whether the gates and fences to the field will remain locked to the community. Will Berkeley residents have access to it?” he asked.
“It’s a field that is getting ready for athletic use,” said Superintendent Michele Lawrence. “At the moment, if someone else wants to use it, they take out a facility use permit. But it’s obvious that if neighbors have a field in front of their house they’ll want to use it. I think it is a complicated issue and we have to handle it in a sensitive way.”