Waterfront Master Plan

Adoption Date:

The Waterfront Master Plan establishes the waterfront as an area primarily for recreational, open space, and environmental uses, with preservation and enhancement of beaches, marshes, and other natural habitats.

Establish the waterfront as an area primarily for recreational, open space, and environmental uses, with preservation and enhancement of beaches, marshes, and other natural habitats. The Berkeley Waterfront area consists of 170 acres of privately held lands bounded by the Interstate 80 freeway on the east, the Berkeley Marina on the west, and the Albany and Emeryville City limits on the north and south.

This plan is available for purchase at the Planning and Development Department at 2120 Milvia Street for $5.

Goal 1:
Establish the waterfront as an area primarily for recreational, open space, and environmental uses, with preservation and enhancement of beaches, marshes, and other natural habitats.

Goal 2:
Develop the waterfront as part of a continuous east bay shoreline open space

Goal 3:
Provide for an appropriate amount and type of private development, to make the waterfront part of Berkeley's vibrant urban community, attractive to and usable by Berkeleyans, neighboring bay area residents and other visitors.

Goal 4:
In all types of development, meet the needs of the unemployed and underemployed Berkeley residents, in both construction and permanent jobs.

Goal 5:
Establish uses and activities that reflect and enhance the unique character of the waterfront and foster the community's relationship with the shoreline.

Waterfront Land Use Policies:

Policy W-1
Preserve and protect the open space, views, wetlands, mudflats, seasonal ponds, creeks, meadows, and beaches of the Berkeley waterfront.

Policy W-2
Restore and improve the features of the natural environment so that the waterfront approximates the character of the original shoreline wherever feasible.

Policy W-3
Create a social environment where Berkeley, East Bay residents, and visitors can mingle in harmony and mutually enjoy their natural heritage.

Policy W-4
Express the primary recreational, open space and environmentally significant character of the waterfront.

Policy W-5
Create an environment, which enhances the unique qualities of Berkeley's waterfront and its special meaning to the city and region.

Policy W-6
Enhance the strength and diversity of the Berkeley economy.

Policy W-7
Generate jobs, which meet the needs of Berkeley's unemployed and underemployed population and provide opportunities for job mobility.

Policy W-8
Generate revenues, which exceed cover municipal service costs over the long term, to make possible other city objectives.

Policy W-9
Create water-related job and business opportunities, which relate to the sites unique location which cannot be easily create elsewhere in the city or region.

Policy W-10
Create business and employment opportunities for Berkeley residents which are compatible with and will not adversely affect those found in other economic centers within Berkeley.

Policy W-11
Create conditions which will help offset pressures for housing gentrification in West Berkeley and elsewhere in the city through requirements for developer exactions to assist housing programs.

Policy W-12
Create opportunities for advancement of Berkeley's affirmative action policies.

Policy W-13
Provide for goods and services that complement or reinforce other land uses in the waterfront area.

Policy W-14
Do not compete with development elsewhere in the city (such as downtown) that is desirable in those locations but incompatible with the character of the waterfront.

Policy W-15
Provide opportunities for small businesses that are locally owned and controlled.

Policy W-16
Provide transition of Berkeley's waterfront to the waterfront development in Albany and Emeryville.

Policy W-17
Cluster development where it is most accessible, least subject to seismic hazards, where utilities and services are most readily available, and where environmental impacts are minimal.

Policy W-18
Phase development in accordance with the timing of traffic improvements that will make necessary additions to capacity.

Policies for Uses

Policy W-19
Waterfront Recreation and Open Space
These are priority uses for the Waterfront. They should encompass a range of recreational and environmental uses, including:

  • Continuous shoreline public accesses band of at least 100 feet in width, with an additional setback of up to 100 feet for structures, wherever possible.
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Recreational uses for people of different ages, classes, cultures, and abilities.
  • Water recreational uses, including protection of shoreline areas used for fishing from the impact of motor boats
  • Between 20 and 25 acres of playing fields.
  • Active recreation facilities such as a play-learning center, and play structures for children.
  • Berkeley Beach is a high priority whether in the short or long term. It should not be precluded by short-term development or other uses.
  • Facilities for cultural activities and the arts, such as galleries and performance spaces, to be integrated within the development so that visitors may enjoy the rich cultural diversity of Berkeley and local artists may profit from their patronage.
  • Other public uses may be considered in the future provided they share a relationship with the Waterfront and the Berkeley community, involve facilities, structures, and the land uses which are minimal in nature, and provided that the feasibility and benefits of such proposed uses are weighed against the private and public uses already considered and against other competing similar uses.

Recreational and Commercial
Small-scale retail uses are desirable that offer recreational products and services, such as windsurfing and sailing equipment and lessons, bicycle and boat rentals, fishing supplies, and chandleries. A variety of restaurants is desired, especially inexpensive, family-oriented ones. These activities should meet the needs of people of all ages, income levels, disabilities, and ethnic backgrounds. Recreational-commercial activities can provide opportunities to meet the targeted job goals of the City, as well as create an interesting environment. Other kinds of small-scale retail and commercial uses, especially water-related, which serve people of all ages, income levels, abilities, and ethnic backgrounds. However, commercial theme parks and high intensity specially commercial centers such as Pier 39 in San Francisco are not considered appropriate or desirable.

Conference, Environmental, and Community Centers
The Waterfront should include a mix of traditional and innovative conference and cultural facilities for University and business-sponsored events, as well as space for less formal gatherings and for community groups which cannot afford most conference/lodging facilities . These centers on the Waterfront should not adversely affect similar facilities downtown and elsewhere in Berkeley.

Any conference facility should be fully compatible with lodgings in the North Basin Strip, such as a hostel, and should be available to and affordable by the community. The conference center should be available for multiple performing arts uses, including rehearsal space, and exhibition space for local artists.

Lodgings and Accommodations
Lodgings should orient toward and invite the public, rather than orienting inward. They should accommodate a range of income and age groups, including community uses. A hostel which provides low-cost accommodations for travelers and young people is highly favored. Lodgings that accommodate people visiting the Waterfront for conferences and recreational activities, that support other activities in the Berkeley community and that take advantage of the unique Waterfront environment are preferable. Hotel developers shall be required to provide inclusionary accommodations for low and moderate-income travelers, either within the hotel or elsewhere on the Waterfront.

Horticulture and Specialty Agriculture
Horticulture, specialty agriculture, and aquaculture, especially that using innovative methods, are encouraged, possibly in conjunction with restaurants on the Waterfront.

Berkeley has strong commitment to expanding the supply of housing in the City especially for persons of low and moderate incomes, as documented in the 1984Housing Element and as demonstrated by the City's variety of housing programs. However, the Waterfront is not deemed to be an appropriate location for residential development. Housing would potentially privatize the Waterfront and intrude on public uses. The land required to establish a socially viable community would probably be too great given other goals and community-oriented uses envisioned. Other problems are seismic hazards, and the difficulty of providing low and moderate income units because of high development costs.

Offices, other than those needed for management of the preferred uses described above, are not appropriate for the Waterfront. This use has a fewer entry-level jobs per dollar invested and per square foot, greater negative social and economic impacts, and higher peak period traffic generation than other activities envisioned for the Waterfront.

Conventional light or heavy industry is not appropriate for the Waterfront . It would adversely affect the desired public/recreational character of the site and present potentially negative environmental and traffic impacts. An exception would be the possible inclusion of a composting facility in the Stables Area.

Parking for off-site uses is not a permitted use on the Waterfront. Existing parking for Golden Gate Fields could continue as a non-confirming use and may be used for off-site , non-racing activities and uses, such as satellite parking for West Berkeley, University, and Downtown activities and use, but could not be expanded.

Policies for Locations:

Policy W-20

South of the Brickyard (Regional Park lands)
This narrow band between the freeway and the water, extending south to Emeryville, and containing 7 acres of land, could not accommodate any development other than extension of a continuous shoreline path and beach improvements. The plan supports the development of Berkeley Beach in this area, subject to more detailed planning, BCDC approval of any needed fill, and improvements in water quality.

Brickyard (Regional Park lands)
The Brickyard should remain as open space. The Brickyard is a strong focal point for access to the area and should preserve the view for the City and Waterfront to San Francisco . A beach, and enhanced natural habitat at the Spit are encouraged. No structures should be allowed except for bathroom facilities, staging areas for recreational uses, such as bicycling or windsurfing, and a nature display and interpretive center not to exceed 5,000 square feet. All or part of the Brickyard Peninsula may be removed as part one of the beach plan variations.

Meadow (Regional Park lands)
To assure an integrated and contiguous open space area, the 50 acre Central Meadow extending from the Frontage Road to the Marina and as much of the East Meadow as possible, without interfering with Phase I Development, should remain as open space. The Meadow has prime open space value and is the most desirable location for recreational activities. It provides important views to and from Waterfront. Its location is unique as a highly visible part of the San Francisco Bay shoreline, immediately east of the Golden Gate and as the "front yard" for the City.

No structures should be allowed on the Central Meadow, with the possible exception of bathroom facilities at appropriate locations, structures such as soccer goals, which are integral parts of playing fields, benches, tables, and windbreaks. Structures for indoor sports, bleachers, refreshments stands, and other uses should not be permitted. Any physical improvements in the Meadow must provide for the protection and enhancement of wetlands habitat on the site. Playing fields, such as for soccer, may be allowed only if they do not conflict with wetlands policies of the Waterfront Plan, and with needs for open space, picnic areas and nature areas. In areas of the Central Meadow other than playing fields, landscaping should restore natural wetlands characteristics. Clustered parking and picnic areas should be provided near Marina Drive adjacent to South Basin Strip.

East Meadow/Phase 1 Planning Area (Regional Park lands)
This 30-acre area should provide a sensitive visual transition between development in the North Basin strip and the open space in the Meadow. As much of the area as possible should remain as open space, consistent with the Phase 1 development. The location for any development is North of Virginia Street unless it is demonstrated that this location is inappropriate for environmental or site constraint reasons, or the developer demonstrates that this location is legally and financially infeasible because of the lease obligations. If there is no development in the East Meadow, this entire area would be retained for open space. Should development occur in the East Meadow , it is estimated that at least 12 additional acres in the East Meadow area could remain open space. The City will investigate methods of facilitating the location of development in the desired location, north of Virginia Street. All development must be visually and physically open to the Meadow. Schoolhouse Creek at Virginia Street should be restored, and no Bay fill allowed.

All development should be clustered as close to the freeway as possible and integrated as a total complex, not treated as separate buildings and uses. The plan allows flexibility in the locations of uses, in the East Meadow/Phase 1 planning area and the North Basin Strip. Permitted uses include a hotel or other lodging of up to 450 rooms (up to 300,000 square feet) with outdoor recreation facilities, restaurants and food related services and Conference or an Environmental Center (up to 40,000) to be built in the first phase of development. The Conference Any Center should be accessible to the public and connect with the Meadow open space. It should include facilities for the performing arts and exhibition space. The above-described development may be allowed only if the landowner or developer establishes that any adverse environmental impacts, including, but not limited to those described in the environmental impact report including, but not limited to traffic, geology, wetlands, and endangered species problems, will be satisfactorily solved or mitigated. Any adverse impacts as to wetlands shall be mitigated on property within the Berkeley Waterfront.

North Basin Strip (Jones to Gilman)
Permitted uses, the locations of which could be interchanged with those in the East Meadow /Phase 1 Planning Area, include a hostel, restaurants and retail use should not exceed 50,000 square feet. Restaurants and retail preferably related to Waterfront recreation. Restaurants and other food outlets should reflect Berkeley's cultural diversity and serve a wide range of income groups.

The recreational use of the North Basin itself should be enhanced, possible with a small craft anchorage, with supporting facilities such as boat houses on the shoreline of North Waterfront Park, subject to protection of water quality and consistency with the City Plan for North Waterfront Park (Ceaser Chavez Park).

Any The new Waterfront Road will be located on the freeway side of any the development unless overriding considerations can be demonstrated to the City Council's satisfaction. The development should be as close as possible to the New Waterfront road: however, views from the freeway should not be blocked, if possible, since the site provides the first view of the Bay for the southbound motorist.

Stables Area (Gilman to the Albany Border)
The easterly area is designated for development of a hotel or other lodging of up to 250 rooms (up to 165,000 square feet) with related restaurants and food services (up to 10,000 square feet) on a 20-acre site during the second phase of the development. The shoreline band of open space and public access should connect to Fleming Point in Albany. Other possible uses in the Stable Area include a composting facility north of the hotel provided the facility is properly screened and all environmental concerns are met.

Policies for Development Phasing:

Policy W-21
It will be necessary to coordinate the timing of development of the Waterfront with completion of improvements to the Interstate 80 freeway interchanges, to assure that the additional capacity is not exceeded. The present Caltrans program for improving the freeway between the Ashby and Gilman will be completed until 1995 at the earliest. Traffic analysis indicates that no development on the Waterfront could occur under the existing conditions, while maintaining the City's policy of level of service "D". The Circulation Element of this Master Plan amendment and the Specific Plan include a number of reasonable improvements, which the property owner could undertake in order to accommodate the proposed development, prior to Caltrans freeway and interchange modifications.

The amount and timing of total development permitted will depend upon in place transportation capacity, taking into account development in Albany and Emeryville, and upon the holding capacity of the land based on physical and planning constraints. Development of Berkeley's Waterfront as proposed in the Plan will have a minimal impact on traffic congestion on the freeway and City streets. Nonetheless conditions are expected to reach unacceptable levels by the year 2010 because of total growth in the region. The Cities of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville should establish a joint sub-regional growth management system to minimize traffic congestion through phased development. The State of California should enact legislation to establish effective regional planning and implementation to deal with Bay Area transportation needs.

Circulation Policies:

Policy W-22
Minimize traffic congestion generated during peak periods and the rest of the day for transit and autos in the City and region; achieve a service level of at least "D" (.89 of capacity ) of all intersections serving the Waterfront.

Policy W-23
Reduce dependence on the automobile; encourage transit use and shared rides.

Policy W-24
Improve bicycle, pedestrian, and disabled access to and circulation within the waterfront, while avoiding conflict with vehicular circulation. These routes should serve commuter as well as recreational needs.

Policy W-25
Create a continuous view of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge for those who travel along the waterfront.

Policy W-26
Minimize the demand for parking and the amount of land devoted to it.

Policy W-27
Minimize traffic congestion on local streets.

Policy W-28
Create pedestrian areas entirely separated from automobiles.

Policy W-29
Provide for safe, efficient on-site circulation.

Policy W-30
Provide convenient, usable east-west pedestrian, bicycle and automobile links between West Berkeley and the waterfront.

Policy W-31
Link different parts of the waterfront by pedestrian and bicycle paths that are separated from traffic corridors.

Policy W-32
Require innovative transit facilities connecting different parts of the waterfront with each other and with other areas of Berkeley.

Policy W-33
Restrict the amount of development at any given time in accordance with transportation capacity.

Policy W-34
Require developers to provide transit mitigation fees to support public transportation for employees, visitors and customers.

Housing Policies:

Policy W-35
Stipulate that waterfront developers provide off-site housing or contribute to a city housing fund, to help mitigate the housing impacts of development, either through implementation of a city ordinance for such mitigation fees or through an agreement with the developers.

Policy W-36
Direct monies from this fund toward housing programs described in the housing element and housing strategy.

Policy W-37
Discourage land use changes that would lead to displacement of existing residents in West Berkeley, through implementation of zoning, rent control, and controls over removal of housing units.

Policy W-38
Link adjacent residential areas to the waterfront and the bay, to improve the attractiveness of these communities and increase recreational opportunities for residents.

Conservation / Recreation / Open Space Policies:

Policy W-39
Restore and improve natural and cultural resources and environmentally sensitive areas, such as mudflats, wetlands and the marine environment.

Policy W-40
In any public or private development assure that marine and wetland habitat is enhanced and protected, and recreated where possible.

Policy W-41
Improve important potential environmental features, such as the Berkeley Beach, Schoolhouse, Potter, Strawberry, and Codornices Creek.

Policy W-42
Meet or exceed environmental standards, such as air and water quality and noise protection.

Policy W-43
Enhance popular understanding of natural process, the marine environment, and the history and significance of the Berkeley waterfront.

Policy W-44
Promote land use, development prototypes and landscape treatments which have the greatest potential for conserving energy and water resources.

Policy W-45
Enhance public access to the Bay, by providing a continuous shoreline open space, creating a variety of water's edge experiences, and improving the opportunity for linear recreation activities such as jogging, bicycling, sightseeing, walking and wheelchair access.

Policy W-46
Provide a variety of recreational, educational, and cultural activities appropriate to this unique waterfront setting.

Policy W-47
Help to meet Berkeley's and the region's future needs for open space and recreation.

Policy W-48
Help to satisfy local and regional recreational needs or preferences of different age groups, income groups and the disabled.

Policy W-49
Link with and complement recreational activities at Ceasar Chavez North Waterfront Park, Aquatic Park and the Marina.

Policy W-50
Encourage water-related sports especially appropriate for this setting.

Policy W-51
Minimize the use of rip-rap wherever possible, subject to shoreline stability requirements.

Location Policies:
Policy W-52
Cluster development in locations which are close to existing infrastructure and which protect environmental values.

Policy W-53
Protect wetlands habitat in the meadow and brickyard areas in particular and assure that no development occurs which would impair wetland habitat values.

Policy W-54
Establish a continuous shoreline public access band of at least 100 feet in width with improvements for bicycles, pedestrians, and the disabled.

Policy W-55
Establish a nature preserve south of University Avenue at the brickyard cove if this area becomes publicly owned.

Policy W-56
Maintain the meadow for open space and provide for recreational uses if it becomes publicly owned.

Policy W-57
Enhance the north basin with shoreline improvements in North Waterfront Park serving recreational uses to promote boating, fishing, windsurfing, and transient mooring in the existing sheltered water.

Policy W-58
Protect the mudflats and open waters of the south basin to support wildlife use, by restricting use of the adjacent land to activities with minimal impacts, such as the shoreline trail.

Policy W-59
If it becomes publicly owned improve Berkeley beach along the south basin's east shoreline.

Policy W-60
Improve the water quality of the four creeks running through the site.

Policy W-61
Exercise the public trust over submerged lands, where necessary and appropriate, in accordance with the policies of this plan.

Noise Policies:

Policy W-62
Locate uses which are relatively noise sensitive, such as passive open space, where noise impacts from the freeway are lowest.

Policy W-63
Locate uses which are less noise-sensitive (commercial, sports facility) where freeway noise impacts are greater, buffering the more noise sensitive uses where possible.

Policy W-64
When uses are in locations with high noise impacts, mitigate these impacts with intervening buildings, sound walls, or acoustical treatment of structures.

Policy W-65
Buffer aquatic park from freeway noise by encouraging CalTrans to construct a sound wall as part of the Interstate 80 improvements.

Safety Policies:

Policy W-66
Locate structures where there will be the least risk to life and property from seismic hazards: ground shaking, ruptures, liquefaction, and tsunami. Generally, confine development to the brickyard and north basin strip.

Policy W-67
Place no structures within the 100-foot setback from the water's edge, to minimize danger from slope failure.

Policy W-68
Use techniques of design, construction, and building placement to reduce the potential damage from differential settlement and seismic hazards.

Policy W-69
Provide adequate drainage of the site, to minimize damage from flooding and ponding.

Policy W-70
Fill construction sites or improve dikes to prevent damage from a 100-year flood event.

Policy W-71
Design relocated creek outfall to assure adequate storm runoff capacity.

Policy W-72
Provide improved water capacity to the site and expand other utilities as required to insure fire safety and meet development needs.

Policy W-73
Include fire prevention and suppression device in all new construction.

Policy W-74
Provide additional capacity of city fire and police departments to meet development needs, if required.

Policy W-75
Clearly mark evacuation routes in the event of an emergency, at Gilman Street, University Avenue, and Ashby Avenue.

Policy W-76
Provide for emergency services at the waterfront in the event of isolation from the rest of the city: information centers, medical care, temporary shelters, and Fire and Police Protection.

Community Design Policies:

Policy W-77
Reinforce and reflect Berkeley's history, character, and diversity of lifestyles in the design of structures on the waterfront.

Policy W-78
Protect and enhance vistas and view corridors to and from the waterfront.

Policy W-79
Limit the negative visual impacts of parking by placing it in less visible locations and by landscaping.

Policy W-80
Design buildings and landscaped areas so that they will be visually interesting and attractive both at the ground level and at a distance.

Policy W-81
Create an attractive and safe environment, which promotes pedestrian, wheelchair and bicycle use.

Policy W-82
Design and situate buildings so that they will mitigate the noise and air quality impacts of the freeway on wildlife habitats and recreational and open space opportunities.

Policy W-83
Overcome the barrier created by the freeway, which visually and physically separates Berkeley from its waterfront, through new crossings for pedestrian/bicycle/wheelchair access.

Development Design Policies:

Policy W-84
Height of structures should be one to two stories, with occasional heights of three stories.

Policy W-85
The height of development within the University Avenue view corridor at the marina edge should not exceed 25 feet.

Policy W-86
View corridors down east-west streets to the waterfront should be retained.

Policy W-87
Architecture and parcels should be diverse rather than monolithic.

Policy W-88
The Berkeley waterfront should have a pleasing connection to other areas on the east bay shoreline.

Policy W-89
Maximum intensity within development parcels should be a floor area ratio of .5 (building area to site area)

Policy W-90
Active ground level uses within development parcels should be encouraged adjacent to public access and open space areas.

Policy W-91
Major parking areas should be set back from public access and open space areas.

Policy W-92
All roadways and parking areas should be generously landscaped and appropriately lighted.