Curvy Derby Plan Gains Supporters in Field Debate

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Friday January 05, 2007

A month ago, proponents and opponents of a nearly eight-year dispute over playing field construction at East Campus met and came to an agreement on a single plan: the Curvy Derby plan.  

East Campus neighbors Susi Marzuola and Peter Waller are the masterminds behind the Curvy Derby Plan. This plan brings hope of a compromise, in sharp contrast to the previous two plans (Open Derby Plan and Closed Derby Plan).  

“There is a desire to keep Derby open and build a baseball field,” said Marzuola. “The Curvy Derby Plan is better than the Open Street and the Closed Street plans in my opinion. It’s a compromise.”  

Neighbors of East Campus who had concerns that the Farmers Market would be relocated and thus not properly accommodated and lively supported the Open Street Plan. Berkeley High School students and playing field advocates who had concerns that the Open Street Plan wouldn’t fully accommodate a regulation-size baseball field supported the Closed Street Plan.  

“From my standpoint, if this works better for the community and works for the high school athletes, then our major goal is to give the high school athletes another place to play and thus free up San Pablo Park—it works for us,” said Doug Fielding, chairman of the Association of Field Users, who previously supported the Closed Street Plan.  

The Curvy Derby Plan takes out a few trees and some playing space from the King Childcare Development Center (King CDC) across the street from Iceland and curves Derby Street through that space. 

\ Additionally, the plan reduces the width of the 1900 block of Carleton Street. These two measures allow the regulation-size baseball field to be accommodated within the space. Under the Closed Street Plan, parts of King CDC are cut out to accommodate a fire lane, but under the Curvy Derby Plan that space would be used instead to curve the road and keep it open.  

The Curvy Derby Plan provides more parking spaces and more open green space than the Closed or Open Street plans. While cost estimates have not been provided, Marzuola estimates that “the open street is least expensive,” but that the Curvy Derby plan will be likely less than or equal to the cost of the Closed Street plan. Many in the community are seeking compromise and are thrilled with the new plan.  

“It’s not just baseball,” said Kristin Glenchur, Berkeley High School (BHS) Athletic Director. “There are a lot of sports that could use this field. “The Curvy Derby field appears to meet all of the needs of the student athletes, and as long as it does that, we can support the Curvy Derby plan.”  

The plan provides a regulation-size baseball field with 300’ baselines and a place for bleachers, a batting cage, and dugouts. It includes a 300’ by 180’ multi-purpose field that can be used for a variety of sports, including soccer, rugby, field hockey, football, etc. There will also be one basketball court. Additionally, this plan does not close Derby and keeps the Farmers’ Market at its current location.  

According to official crowd estimates, attendance was at 47 people. The overwhelming majority supported the Curvy Derby Plan. It was reported, by Berkeley Unified School District Public Information Officer Mark Coplan, that two audience members still favpred the Closed Street plan.  

Mayor Tom Bates signed on as a proponent of the Curvy Derby and pledged to work with the community and the School Board to get playing fields on the East Campus site. 

“He’s strongly in favor of the plan,” said Cisco DeVries, chief of staff for Mayor Bates. “His perspective is that this plan has the ability to bridge all differences. It keeps the Farmers’ Market in place and allows a baseball field to be built. It’s not perfect, but the concept is really sound and something we can move forward with.”  

One clear thing emerged from the meeting: a sense of urgency to provide the best quality playing fields that met everyone’s needs.  

“Baseball has been very important throughout my life and right now it is at its peak,” said Geoff Mahley, BHS baseball team. “It would mean a lot to me if I could play on a decent field in what might be the last time I play competitive baseball. Many were concerned with what they call “improper noticing” of the meeting. They felt that BUSD didn’t do enough to get the word out about the meeting.  

“We emailed all previous parties involved in the Derby Street discussions,” said Coplan, defending the BUSD. “We posted notices all around the site. We published an op-ed in the Daily Planet. I feel that the people raising these concerns want more people lobbying their position. If that’s the case, they should bring their people.”  

Coplan informed this reporter that he had talked with B-Tech, previously called Berkeley Alternative High School, and King CDC and informed them of the meeting as well.  

“Their biggest concern is infringing on the space they already have,” explained Coplan. “This plan gives them a whole new green space. They have direct access to the field. As for B-Tech, while the Principal thinks the Closed Street Plan would allow them to put more buildings on the Derby Street side of the facility, he trusts the board will make the best decision for them.”  

The board plans to hear additional comments on the Closed Street project at their Jan. 11 meeting. If there are no furthur comments on that plan, they will proceed to hear a presentation on the Curvy Derby Plan from Marzuola.  

Berkeley Councilmember Max Anderson, whose district includes East Campus, said, “I have been very concerned about this issue. I am pleased to see us come to this place in a process, where up until now, people have been really frustrated. I hope, that here tonight, we can finish what we have to say about the closed Derby plan, and come together in agreement with a compromise plan called ‘Curvy Derby’ which we should thank Susi Marzuola and Peter Waller for creating.”