Agency Picks Fishing Pier for Berkeley Ferry Terminal

By Richard Brenneman
Friday April 03, 2009 - 03:09:00 PM

Directors of a regional agency voted to build a new pier south of the Berkeley Marina fishing pier to serve as the hub for a new ferry service. 

The five directors of the Water Emergency Transit Authority (WETA) voted unanimously Thursday afternoon, April 2, to build the pier and revamp the parking lot at H’s Lordships restaurant to accommodate commuters. 

John Sindzinski, WETA’s planning and development manager, said work will begin immediately on a final environmental impact report (EIR) that will focus solely on the site. 

The vote came less that 24 hours after Sindzinski was grilled by members of the Berkeley Planning Commission. 

During the Wednesday evening, April 1, session, Dan Marks, the city’s planning and development director, said WETA couldn’t build at the site without city approval. 

But Sindzinski didn’t agree. “That will be an interesting issue,” he said Friday. 

“Ultimately they have to come to us to get permission to build on city property,” Marks had told planning commissioners Wednesday. “They are not the University of California.” 

“So it will be up to us, the Planning Commission,” said commissioner Gene Poschman. 

“Is that correct?” asked Harry Pollack, acting commission chair and a land use attorney in private practice. 

“I’m not positive,” Sindzinski told them. “We’re researching that.” 

Sindzinski said Friday that a variety of public agencies will have to sign off on the final plans, including the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Regional Water Quality Control Board. 

“We’re anxious to work with anybody who has concerns,” he said. 

One former public official told planning commissioners that he believed the draft EIR was “fatally flawed and cannot be used to support any decisions, much less conclude that the site is superior.” 

James McGrath retired as environmental manager for the Port of Oakland and is currently president of U.S. Windsurfing, a national membership organization and vice president of the San Francisco Boardsailing Association. 

McGrath charged that the draft EIR was invalid for a number of reasons, including its failure to consider existing recreational uses at the site, which he said is protected by the city’s master plan for the marina. 

The Berkeley Waterfront Commission also had objections to the site, which it said would “have significant negative impacts on tenants, waterfront users and berthers,” according to a letter to WETA from City Manager Phil Kamlarz. 

The draft EIR had considered four sites, including two adjacent to Golden Gate Fields which Sindzinski rejected out of hand because of jurisdictional conflicts with East Shore State Park. 

That left two sites at Berkeley Marina, including a site inside the marina adjacent to the Doubletree Hotel, which was rejected because of “vehement” objections from the hotel, Hornblower Cruises and marina users, but primarily because WETA couldn’t afford to pay the city for the cost of revenues lost from berthing slips which would have to be removed to make way for the pier.  

To make way for the 400 parking spaces at the fishing pier site, the existing parking lot adjacent to the restaurant would be revamped, and the earth berm to the west leveled to accommodate additional spaces. 

Sindzinski said his agency will seek additional public and agency comments for the final EIR, which will be ready by late summer or early fall for a final review period before adoption.