Berkeley parks

Berkeley Marina ferry plan worries recreational users

A windsurfer cruises near the pier at Berkeley Marina in mid-October 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

David Fielder tries to be on the water at least 100 days a year at the Berkeley Marina. Now, with the prospect of a new ferry service crossing the bay, he and other windsurfers fear it will turn the marina from a recreation area into a hub for commuters.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of Berkeley Marina stories written by UC Berkeley graduate journalism students in partnership with Berkeleyside.

The combination of rough currents and high winds that hit about 200 meters after leaving the entrance channel has made the marina a favorite with windsurfers.

“It’s no exaggeration to say this is one of the best spots in the world,” said Fielder, who has been windsurfing for over 40 years.

But concerns about the terminal surfaced more than a decade ago when ferry service was first offered, including concerns that the terminal would block windsurfing launch points. Recreational users are also concerned about congestion and parking and the feasibility of such a project.

In 2019, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) and Berkeley City Council agreed to jointly fund a planning study on the feasibility of a dual-use ferry and leisure pier at the marina. WETA, also known as the San Francisco Bay Ferry, would cover a substantial portion of the costs of the ferry terminal, while the city would cover the costs of recreational use.

The new structure would replace the nearly century-old municipal pier, which was declared unsafe and closed for repairs in July 2015. Without a ferry component, the city would have to cover the full cost of a recreational pier, with estimates ranging from $ 20 million to $ 55 million.

This year, an online petition asking Berkeley officials to “not sell the marina” by prematurely committing to a full-scale ferry service has garnered more than 400 signatures.

“We would like to distribute the petition to a wider range of the Berkeley community with more of this information available and have a meaningful community engagement process,” said the petitioner, Camille Antinori, who chairs the Cal Sailing Club marina planning committee.

While the petition is not entirely opposed to a ferry, it calls for the project to be carefully planned and funded while improving the recreational value of the Berkeley Marina. “We are concerned that the current planning effort is focused on ferries and not achieving such a result,” the petition reads.

According to a 2016 strategic plan study, WETA predicts that 1,500 passengers per day would use a ferry service by 2035. The ferry would link the marina to downtown San Francisco and could include other destinations for ferry service. regular or special event, such as Oracle Park, Chase Center, South San Francisco, Mission Bay, South San Francisco, Redwood City and potential North Bay destinations.

But plans for a ferry first depend on deciding the fate of the existing 3,000-foot municipal jetty. Renovation options presented to Berkeley City Council involve rehabilitation, seismic reinforcement, or complete replacement of the pier.

Rehabilitation would cost between $ 22 million and $ 48 million, while seismic reinforcement would cost between $ 41 and $ 65 million, according to current estimates. The recommended replacement option, based on the structural assessment of the Berkeley municipal pier, would cost between $ 32 million and $ 44 million and $ 500,000 per year to maintain.

Currently, four replacement concepts are under consideration, with different layouts for jetty design, mobility and ferry use.

The city council “has certainly asked a lot of questions about which of these alternatives for the ferry we want,” said Gordon Stout, a Member of the Cal Sailing Club. “They never asked the question, ‘Do you want a ferry?’ They don’t want to answer that question.

One concern raised is the potential lack of ridership.

“We are offering the ferry as a solution that can provide new capacity that makes BART train congestion a little less serious when you leave North Berkeley during peak hours,” said Mike Gougherty, senior planner at WETA.

The expanded ferry service would include three round trips during travel periods as well as mid-day, late-evening and weekend trips as part of WETA’s pandemic recovery program.

Some marina users are also concerned that commuters will increase congestion and demand parking spaces that recreational users need.

When the City of Berkeley first authorized small-scale ferries to offer service from the marina in late 2016, Stout noticed a dramatic reduction in the parking available for the Cal Sailing Club and children’s play area. Cal Adventures. He is concerned that the expanded ferry service will further restrict recreational users.

People enjoying the water near Berkeley Pier in mid-October 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Rowers enjoying the water near the pier at Berkeley Marina in mid-October 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

According to the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), a ferry terminal in the marina can only be permitted if it “does not interfere with current or future uses of the park and recreation” or “disrupt continued access. to the shore ”. The described standard also states that parking “should not be spoofed by ferry customers” and that “shared parking arrangements should be made to minimize the amount of shoreline required for parking”.

Planner Gougherty said WETA is confident the ferry project will meet BCDC permit requirements, as it already operates several facilities in the area, including the Richmond ferry terminal.

And while Berkeley’s blustery climate makes it ideal for windsurfers, Parks and Waterfront Commissioner and Coastal Engineer Jim McGrath predicts it will lead to bumpy rides for passengers and require a breakwater that is tall enough and long enough to handle. shelter the ferries while they load and unload.

“It’s the toughest place in the bay to try and put a ferry,” he said.

Julietta Bisharyan is a student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism studying economic development.


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