BUSD Recommends Curvy Derby Plan to School Board

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday June 24, 2008 - 04:55:00 PM

The curvy Derby plan will be back at the Berkeley Board of Education meeting Wednesday, and this time Berkeley Unified School District officials are pressing for its approval. 

The plan, which would keep Derby Street open, but bends it to accommodate a high school baseball field, was originally designed by Berkeley residents Susi Marzuola and Peter Waller when community members objected to closing Derby, and proposes to extend the field north into Carleton Street allowing Derby to stay open. 

At the board’s approval, the district paid $20,000 to WLC Architects in April 2007 to study the curvy Derby idea and design a plan. 

Although the plan was the subject of numerous discussions between the community and the school district, it was presented to the board for the first time at the April meeting. 

In the past, the board has reviewed a plan which closed Derby in order to fit the baseball field and another that would leave the street untouched for a smaller park without a baseball field. 

The board indicated at earlier meetings that the “closed” Derby plan was their preferred option. 

Lew Jones, facilities director for the Berkeley Unified School District, said the consultant’s plans would be presented with a few changes to the original curvy Derby design. 

According to a report by Jones, the curvy Derby plan includes a baseball field with backstops and dugouts, bleachers, a basketball court, new sidewalks and a redirected and resurfaced Derby Street. 

The open Derby scheme would include a tot lot, a basketball court, a non-regulation sized baseball field with backstops and dugouts, sidewalk replacement, landscaping and a restroom building with storage. 

The closed Derby design includes a baseball field with backstops and dugouts, bleachers, a parking lot large enough to accommodate the farmers market which doubles as a baseball court, a new restroom building with storage, a concession stand, an outdoor theater with band shell, new sidewalks and new paths. Utility changes and a new stop light on Carleton are also included in this proposal, the report said. 

Jones said the original estimates for the open and closed Derby fields were done prior to the existing field, which is used by the Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy athletic programs, and the community occasionally. Jones said community members have to go through a formal process to reserve the field for formal events. 

“We will be recommending that the board pick the curvy Derby option,” he said, adding that the plan had received support from the Berkeley High athletic department. “The B-Tech folks have been interested in any scheme that includes a basketball court. Many in the community adamantly oppose a closed Derby option. Some in the community may oppose the curvy Derby option or may wish to support certain amenities or conditions in the option.” 

Jones said the board’s approval of a design would lead to an environmental impact analysis. 

“There may or may not be an environmental impact report,” he said. “If the board looks at a closed option, there’s likely to be an environmental impact report. The City of Berkeley is on record saying that curvy Derby is a good option. Since this plan talks about changing the street, the city will be a key player in the design process.” 

The meeting is at 7:30 p.m. at the Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The Derby Street item is scheduled to be discussed at 8:30 p.m.