The Berkeley Board of Education picked “Curvy Derby” as its preferred option for the Berkeley Unified School District’s East Campus field last week, but acknowledged that the district lacks the funds necessary to build it.
The plan proposes to keep Derby Street open, but bends it to accommodate a high school baseball field.
Curvy Derby was originally designed by Berkeley residents Susi Marzuola and Peter Waller when community members objected to closing Derby. It proposes to extend the field north into Carleton Street, allowing Derby to stay open.
In the past, the board reviewed a plan which closed Derby in order to accommodate a baseball field and another which would leave the street untouched for a smaller park without a baseball field, and indicated that the closed Derby plan was their preferred option.
Lew Jones, facilities director for Berkeley Unified, said at the June 25 school board meeting that the district had pressed the board to pick the Curvy Derby plan since it addressed the community’s concerns.
“It was also supported by the Berkeley High athletic department,” Jones told the Planet. “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 plan kept the current street parking and was able to fit in a 300-foot baseline.
District School Superintendent Bill Huyett said he was concerned about home runs and foul balls damaging cars parked next to the field and asked staff to investigate the issue.
The plan proposes a 10-foot-high fence on the right field.
“I am not sure how many home runs a high school scores every year,” said school board president John Selawsky.
According to Berkeley High’s baseball coach Tim Moellering, his team hits three or four home runs a year, district officials said.
“It will be an improvement on the current issue,” Moellering said, adding that the new field would reduce damages from the site they now use, San Pablo Park. “We currently get between 14 to 15 foul balls, which leads to six to seven cars being damaged every year.”
The plan, Jones said, was in its “bare bones” stage and did not include designs for restrooms and other amenities.
Jones said WLC Architects, the consultants hired by the school district, had made a few changes to the original plan for Curvy Derby.
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.
Jones said the open and closed field options had not been entirely abandoned, and that the board would direct district staff about a future course of action when it reconvened after summer break on Aug. 20.
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.
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.”