[Editor's Note: Albany Patch welcomes your guest columns and letters to the editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Berkeley resident Gary Rosenberg shared his thoughts in response to a announced this month about an planned for Albany Beach. Learn more about the project here.]
There are currently plans to gentrify the area commonly referred to as the , a former landfill located directly across from the Golden Gate Bridge in Alameda County. The plans involve "improving" an existing road, parking lot, seasonal wetland area and beach.
Having attended several meetings regarding the proposed changes I am flabbergasted by the lack of regard for the area and the interplay of forces of nature thereon.
I don't expect the designers and planners behind their desks to have as complete a picture of the ongoings at the Bulb as I do. After all, I have been there just about every day for the past 22 years, logging, in my estimation, over 15,000 total hours there, compared to what I'm sure is not more than a dozen or so spent at the site by those people who propose to have the expertise to improve it.
Notwithstanding, here are some of my observations the improvement committee might want to consider.
1) Because the beach is directly across the Bay from the Golden Gate it is the recipient of a tremendous amount of debris. This debris does not appear on a daily basis. In fact, dependent on the tides and winds there are days when the beach is almost pristine. However, there are many days when the level of trash on the beach would require many man-hours to gather it up. Is the plan to shut the beach on all such days to public use?
2) The plans include the removal of creosote-impregnated timbers and selected concrete from the beach. This appears to be a good idea on the face of things, however, the area is a former landfill and much of what is there is either toxic or covering something that is toxic. The removal of any large item will have potential widespread impact, the extent of which is not foreseeable.
3) Plans include stabilization of the beach itself and the dunes behind the beach. Every beach is a fluid structure, a fact to which any practiced observer can attest. The Albany Beach is particularly unstable—varying greatly from day to day, mainly because of the effect of the floating debris, including large timbers that wash up on shore and become embedded in the beach, sometimes further stabilizing an area until the combination of tides and winds reconstructs the beach by removing those timbers et al. It is clear that any attempt to break this natural cycle will be both expensive and futile.
4) As far as stabilizing the dunes by removing the ice plants that are now well established, and doing exactly that with the substitution of a “native” plant, this once again exemplifies the inside-the-box, two-dimensional thinking that would be rejected by anyone who has taken the time to see the larger picture of what is happening at the Bulb. Perhaps the ice plants are not “native,” but neither are any of the three dozen edible wild pioneer species of herbs along the road, nor are the palm trees or the grape vines or the blackberry that have taken hold and are paving the way for other plant species in what was, only 25 years ago, a lifeless wasteland. Question: What plant species are native to a dump? Answer: Those that arrive and thrive.
Rather than using the available funds to develop the Bulb, a much better overall use for any available money would be to create a multi-disciplinary panel to study the area—from an ecological, societal, environmental and sociological perspective—as one that is not only being steadily and gradually reclaimed by natural forces, but also as a public space that is harmonious, incorporating environmental art, a large homeless community, off-leash dogs, windsurfers, birdwatchers, wildlife, and perhaps one burrowing owl.
There is no crime to speak of at the Bulb, and yet there is little police presence.
The public voluntarily gathers trash on a regular basis without outside organization.
People live in tents and other self-designed structures along trails that are used by the general public without altercation. Dogs and wildlife coexist. Young people gather and express themselves artistically without incident.
And every day and every year things get better and people love the place.