I want to extend a welcome to Berkeley to our new Waterfront Manager, Alexandra Endress. Welcome Ali. I’ve checked out your profile on LinkedIn. Berkeley is very fortunate to have a person of your background and accomplishments. I hope you’re going to be happy here.
You have big shoes to fill. Roger [Miller, outgoing Acting Waterfront Manager ] has been around a long time, seen just about everything and knows everyone. He’ll be missed.
You have big challenges here as Waterfront Manager. Your office is on the water surrounded by boats, and I’m sure you’ve been briefed about the age of the docks and the berth rental rates and the other perennial issues of the wet side. My aim here is to highlight the fact that the waterfront also has a dry side that needs attention. I’m talking about Cesar Chavez Park. With 90 acres it’s the biggest park in Berkeley, and it’s a regional attraction. I’ve met people who’ve actually driven from Pittsburg to take in the sunsets and breathe the ocean air at Cesar Chavez Park.
Cesar Chavez Park needs serious attention. On the positive side, Marina staff does an excellent job with trash pickup and mowing. Santiago Casal has developed a world class solar calendar in honor of farmworkers leader Cesar Chavez. But the park has considerable room for improvement.
No. 1: For 25 years the park has had porta-potties. All of our neighbor cities on the Bay offer clean permanent restrooms in their waterfront parks. Berkeley alone greets its waterfront visitors with these stinky, graffiti-ridden abominations. Women and children especially deserve better. More than 700 park visitors have signed petitions for better bathrooms. Practical, reasonably priced sanitary alternatives are readily available. I hope that you, as Waterfront Manager, will take up the cause of better bathrooms in the park.
No. 2: Deferred repairs. The emblematic main park sign at the Spinnaker Way parking circle has been torn up for more than 18 months without repair. A number of other signs have been vandalized without being cleaned or repaired for many months. Signs installed on the asphalt pathway two years ago are worn away and illegible. Picnic tables in the northwest corner were removed and not replaced. A barbecue grill that rusted out and fell over in another picnic area has not been replaced. There is widespread erosion on dirt paths. There are animal burrows, some of them greatly enlarged by dogs, that invite sprained ankles. When it rains, the central part of the dog park turns into a mucky mess that drains into the North Basin estuary. Like broken windows in a neighborhood, these signs of management neglect foster disrespect by visitors.
No. 3: Enforcement of park rules. The park contains an unfenced dog park. The signage that demarcates it is poorly placed and frequently vandalized. Every day, you can see park visitors violating the leash law by running dogs off leash outside the dog park area. A small minority of owners allow their dogs to chase and kill wildlife. I hope that you will urge the City’s Animal Control and police authorities to enforce the regulations and create a law-abiding atmosphere in the park.
No. 4: The park has no playground for children. Children’s playgrounds are one of the top attractions that people want in a park. As you get familiar with the parks system here and its various revenue pockets, I hope you’ll find a way to serve the many families that come to the park by bringing in a regular children’s playground.
No. 5: The park needs more trees. As you know, the park used to be the city dump. The original vision for its upgrade was to create something like Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. We are still very far from that. Two thirds of the park still looks like a dump that’s been grassed over. There’s plenty of top soil for tree roots to grow and make a real park out of it. Many volunteers could be mobilized to help out. I hope you’ll give it some thought.
Bottom line: Cesar Chavez Park is an inspiring and popular place. It can draw a thousand visitors on a warm weekend, and events like the annual kite festival bring smiles to the face of tens of thousands. It has great views and it’s home to a wide variety of wildlife. I’ve collected some of its splendors in my little paperback photo book and on my park blog. I love the place and I hope you’ll come to love it too, and that you’ll show your love by making it a better place.
— Martin Nicolaus
(Presented at meeting of Parks and Waterfront Commission Wednesday evening Feb. 10 2016)