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City secures $15 million state grant to improve Berkeley Marina

People explore the Ashby Shoal for seaweed and creatures during a recent gathering organized by Berkeley’s DragonMax boat team. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

The Berkeley Marina is set to receive an influx of cash following a successful lobbying campaign for a $15 million allocation from the state.

In October, several Berkeley City Council members asked the state to consider a proposal to address several critical waterfront needs, from replacing failing docks and pilings to dredging the main channel for better access. to boats.

At a recent board meeting, Berkeley officials said they were pleased to report that their efforts had paid off: The state approved the full request for $15 million as part of its budget. 2022-23.

Now the city is scrambling to figure out exactly what to do with the cash to get the most bang for your buck.

Berkeley Parks Director Scott Ferris told Berkeleyside that the first thing to determine is how much dredging the city needs to do and how much it will cost.

He said that would probably be clearer in the next month.

“If it’s $4 million, great. If it’s $9 million, that’s a bigger deal,” Ferris said late last week. “It’s kind of a wait and see.”

The city says it needs to dredge the main harbor entrance as well as other hotspots to allow better access for boats, which now sometimes get stuck depending on the tide.

One of the challenges, Ferris said, will likely be the 15% increase in construction costs the Bay Area has seen over the past year.

“Fifteen million dollars is an incredible sum,” Ferris said. “But that doesn’t take us to where we would have been a year ago. Many things remain to be determined. »

Berkeley’s new pier will be part of the marina works

The city also hopes to spend some state money to help rebuild the Berkeley Pier, which closed in 2015 due to structural issues.

See the latest news on the ferry proposal

The city plans to rebuild a version of the pier as part of efforts — still in development — to bring full-scale electric ferry service to Berkeley.

At the end of last year, the marina had unfunded infrastructure needs of $113 million, according to a staff analysis.

It’s not for lack of spending, the city says. Since 2008, according to a recent staff report, the city had spent or programmed $40 million on waterfront projects intended to revitalize the neighborhood and make it more attractive to businesses, listing holders and visitors.

This includes the recent completion in mid-June of an $8 million project to repave University Avenue.

Ferris thanked council members Rashi Kesarwani, Terry Taplin and Rigel Robinson, and Mayor Arreguín, for helping organize a letter-writing campaign to urge the state to approve Berkeley’s $15 million request.

He said dozens of local organizations sent missives explaining why Berkeley needed state help.

“Board members really went after that support,” Ferris said. “It was an incredible effort.”

“In my 30-plus years doing this type of work, there have been very few instances where we’ve gotten credit for capital projects,” he added.

Local letters helped gain support

Letters in support of the state’s posting have come from many Berkeley businesses and organizations, from Berkeley Marina DoubleTree and Bayer to individual slip holders, the Cal Sailing Club and Tideline, which operates small bay area ferries.

Councilman Rigel Robinson – who represents the Southside neighborhood near UC Berkeley but is also an avid member of the Cal Sailing Club – said he first spoke with California State Senator Nancy Skinner of the funding request when he met her while she was birdwatching at the Berkeley Marina.

Skinner, who represents Berkeley and much of the East Bay interior, also co-chairs the Senate and Assembly Budget Committee.

“Berkeley is fortunate to have Senator Skinner leading the state budget process, advocating for the needs of our waterfront,” Robinson said at Berkeleyside. “We’ve battened down the hatches and are investing in the marina’s infrastructure needs.”

Council members said East Bay Assemblyman Buffy Wicks also helped lobby for money.

In a recent message to voters, council member Kesarwani thanked Skinner and Wicks for their support.

“This is a big deal,” she wrote. “My heart is full of gratitude for their partnership and advocacy for the City of Berkeley.”

The expanded Berkeley Marina plan is still underway

Ferris said he hopes to make recommendations to the council in the fall on how to use state money.

Read more about BMASP in a recent city update

In the fall, he said, will also be held the next round of community focus groups tied to the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan, or BMASP, the city’s broader planning effort tied in the future of the waterfront.

The plan, still in the discussion phase, has seen growing community backlash, largely from regular users of the park who say they are worried about too much waterfront development. water and the destruction of its natural and wild character.

Ferris said the city continues to welcome community feedback in all forms. Following the focus groups in the fall, the city plans to hold another round of large-scale community meetings in late 2022 or early next year.

Community members can also email staff at any time to share ideas and concerns about the future of Berkeley’s waterfront.

“The more public comment, the better. That’s what this process is for,” Ferris said.

Could the Hs Lordships site one day host a food truck village?

In addition to the BMASP and planning for a new pier and ferry, the city has also been working for almost a year to come to an agreement with Innovation Properties Group (IPG) on what might one day happen to the 199 Seawall Drive, where Hs Lordships used to be.

The restaurant closed its doors in 2018 after 50 years of activity and its parking lot became a parking place for motorhomes.

The city then set up a “secure parking site” for motorhomes at Eighth and Harrison streets after evicting residents of vehicles from the area and fencing off the vast parking lot.

Since the closure of Hs Lordships, there has been much speculation about how the land – which is right on the waterfront and offers stunning views of San Francisco Bay – might one day be used.

And city officials said they are eager to see something vibrant in the area again.

According to the initial staff report from last year, which may have changed, “IPG’s proposal has several elements: the activation of a three- to five-year-old food truck village and a space outdoor recreation facilities in a portion of the adjacent parking lot, improvements to the building and exterior building spaces, and the operation of a restaurant and indoor event space.

Ferris told Berkeleyside he could not discuss the plans due to ongoing negotiations, which are confidential. But he said staff and IPG are working diligently to line up funding and develop concepts for the package.

Ferris said he hopes to have something to report publicly by late fall or before the new year.

“We are making a lot of progress,” he said. “We’re excited to launch something.”