Sprawling parking lots proposed at either of the two Berkeley Marina sites picked as potential locations for a new transbay ferry service have sparked concerns among the city’s planning commissioners.
Four sites have been proposed for an East Bay terminal, three of them in Berkeley and one in Albany, but only the two marina sites are viable candidates, city Planning and Development Director Dan Marks told commissioners last week.
The other sites—one at the foot of Gilman Street and the other at the foot of Buchanan Street in Albany—have “significant environmental impacts and the cities of Berkeley and Albany have opposed them for a long time,” Marks said.
The city’s Transportation Commission is the city’s lead agency for assessing the project, and the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) will meet in Berkeley on Jan. 8 to pick the Locally Preferred Alternative, Marks said.
“Don’t let the name fool you,” Marks told commissioners. “It’s not about emergency transportation service; it’s about ferry service.”
The two most probable sites, one on the windward side of the breakwater north of Hs Lordships and the other adjacent to and south of the Doubletree Hotel along Marina Boulevard, would result in major landscape changes as a result of the need to accommodate 400 parking spaces.
“They want our support, but they’re going at it in a rather slapdash manner,” said commission Chair James Samuels.
“No comment,” said Marks.
Commissioner James Novosel said he was troubled by the parking proposal. “The one at Hs Lordships flattens out the landscaping and gets rid of the privacy screen, and the parking for the other is just godawful,” he said, and both have “an overwhelming, unappealing aesthetic.”
“We’re hamstrung here,” said Sam-uels. “What if we had a two-story building for parking like what you find at a shopping center?” he mused.
Commissioner Gene Poschman raised a broader question. “To what extent are the issues of sustainability, carbon footprints, etc., considered in the EIR? From what I’ve read about ferries, they really have minimal impacts on reduction of greenhouse gases or carbon footprints.”
Dorothy Walker, the newest member of the commission, called the parking proposals in the draft EIR “a terrible use of waterfront land” and said the transportation authority should consider a structure instead.
But she did like the ferry if it would result in shuttle service to the UC campus (her former employer) and North Berkeley.
“So the shuttles would be for people who live in condos in downtown Berkeley who commute to work in downtown San Francisco,” Poschman responded.
“We have an opportunity for a well-funded public agency to help us with our public transportation,” said Walker. “And if we can get them to provide some service that augments what we already have,” then Berkeley should avail itself of the opportunity.
“I don’t know why they wouldn’t just stay on BART,” said commissioner Patti Dacey, who said Walker seemed to be suggesting that “if we’re going to have the shuttle, we should have the ferry, even if it makes no sense.”
The full document is available online at the WETA website: http://www. watertransit.org/newsInformation/publicnotices.aspx
The two marina sites would require considerably less dredging than the sites on either side of Golden Gate Fields. Total project costs, including construction and the cost of new ferries, is estimated at $58.1 million.