Investing in the Future of the Berkeley Waterfront

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The Berkeley Waterfront, including the Marina and McLaughlin Eastshore Park, is a treasure and an important regional destination for maritime use and recreation. It includes breathtaking views of the Bay, public trails, aquatic and landside recreation, and magnificent open spaces. 

Several decades ago, Berkeley residents stood up to efforts to fill the bay to create a shopping center and other commercial uses. They advocated for returning the waterfront to the people. As a result of their tenacious efforts, the Berkeley Waterfront is a public park open to all. As City officials, we are stewards of this important community resource. Anyone who has driven down a bumpy University Avenue heading to the Marina knows that the Waterfront is in need of repair. 

The Municipal Pier closed in 2015 due to deteriorating structural integrity, and streets, finger docks, and other public amenities need repair. There is an estimated $109 million in unfunded capital needs, the result of decades of deferred maintenance. In order to improve the fiscal health of our Marina Enterprise Fund we need to fix what is broken and plan for the future. 

University Ave between Frontage Road and Marina Blvd is often cited as one of the worst roads in Berkeley. You need an all-terrain vehicle to navigate its bumpy ride. Built on top of the original pier, over time the road has settled. This has caused the foundation from the old pier to give the road a notoriously bumpy surface. All of this will change next year when the road will be repaved, with the eastbound lanes being reconfigured so it is no longer on top of the old pier. Thanks to the voter approved Measure T1 Bond, we were able to allocate the funding to finally fix University Avenue. 

On June 25, 2019 by adopting my proposed City Budget, the City Council allocated over $3 million dollars towards immediate repairs to our docks and other Waterfront infrastructure. 

To begin the process of visioning for the future, the City Council voted in May to launch the Berkeley Marina Area Specific Plan (BMASP) and selected Hargreaves Associates, an internationally renowned design firm which lead the restoration of San Francisco’s Crissy Field. The BMSAP will evaluate current conditions and look at ways to enhance the Waterfront to serve its public purpose for maritime uses, and recreation, in addition to potential new revenue generating opportunities. The City will be launching an extensive public process to engage Waterfront users and citizens in developing a new vision. 

When I took office as Mayor, I identified bringing a Ferry terminal to Berkeley as an important transportation priority. Many Bay cities throughout the region have regional ferry service, and Berkeley is the missing piece to this network. While Berkeley and the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) explored Ferry service in the mid-2000’s, the project was ultimately dropped. I am proud to announce that recently we have taken several steps to bring large-scale ferry service to the City of Berkeley. Both the City Council and WETA Board voted to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding for a feasibility study on Berkeley Ferry service, at the location of the closed Municipal Pier. Part of the project scope includes extending the newly constructed pier for municipal use. With the passage of 2018’s Regional Measure 3 there are new dollars available for expanding ferry service. The new location also does not require as much dredging and has less impacts on aquatic users. Over 1,500 trips are predicted to take place daily, with total annual ridership being above 200,000. The Ferry is not just a quick and environmentally friendly way of commuting to San Francisco, but will also play a crucial role of transporting people after the next major earthquake. The development of a ferry terminal and a new pier will reinvigorate the Marina, having a ripple effect and creating new economic opportunities in the area. 

All of these improvements will be meaningless if the issue of rising sea levels is not addressed. It is estimated that the Bay Area will see at least a three-foot increase in sea level by 2100, and combined with storms and high tides, would have devastating impacts on shorelines. The City is currently working on stabilizing the shoreline, and an intensive study on the impacts of sea-level rise and mitigations will be included in the BMASP. 

We must make sure that the Marina is a place that our community can enjoy for generations to come. With the investments we are placing now, by upgrading existing infrastructure and building a new pier and ferry service, we can turn the tide on its deterioration and convert the Marina into a world-class destination that we can all be proud of.  

Jesse Arreguin