Street Level Cycles, or Watershed Workshops, is a non-profit that uses use vocational education to promote youth development.
Watershed Workshops is a non-profit that uses use vocational education to promote youth development. Image via Facebook

A popular bike shop and community bike repair space in West Berkeley’s Aquatic Park won approval recently from the city’s zoning board to expand its buzzing operation into new digs and bring bike rentals, and much more, to the park.

A new space for Waterside Workshops at 90 Bolivar Drive will give Street Level Cycles the space to offer low-cost bicycle rentals, more youth education, longer community hours and a community meeting space, as well as — possibly — a small indoor coffee bar. The organization currently has a café with outdoor-only seating.

“We see the building as a jump‐off point for community recreation that will make the park more accessible for all Berkeley residents, regardless of income level,” according to the group’s applicant statement.

The non-profit has leased 82 and 84 Bolivar from the city since 2006, and plans to keep those properties. Since operations began, “they have fully renovated the facilities and built a diverse and supportive community around their organization and Aquatic Park as a whole,” according to city staff.

90 Bolivar. Image: Google maps
Street Level Cycles will get a new space for Waterside Workshops at 90 Bolivar Drive. Image: Google maps

In late February, the Zoning Adjustments Board voted unanimously to approve the new project at 90 Bolivar.

The city of Berkeley also owns 90 Bolivar, just south of Bancroft Way. According to the Feb. 27 staff report, the building’s original use was a clubhouse for the Rod and Gun Club. It has been vacant for at least five years and “requires a number of significant repairs and improvements.”

According to the applicant statement, the new building will include a front room that’s “light‐filled, warm, and inviting,” and set to feature a community mechanics and rental shop as well as “a cozy lounge and lecture space, centered around a youth‐run coffee and tea bar.” The back room “will be lined with carefully crafted bicycle racks,” to help increase the room for bicycle donations, as well as education efforts.

The city would lease 90 Bolivar to Waterside Workshops, which uses vocational education to help promote youth development and encourage “sustainable and healthy lifestyles,” while “cultivating positive change in the Bay Area community.”

The organization has two main programs: Street Level Cycles and Berkeley Boathouse. The cycle shop includes a free do-it-yourself repair studio along with a youth education program, which includes job training for at-risk youth. There’s a daily after-school program and training in both retail sales and mechanics.

The organization serves hundreds of community members each week, according to the staff report.

The new space would have approximately four interns and four staff on site at any given time. Four to six classes for kids, starting at age 8, are planned each week, as well as one small workshop or class per day for youth and/or the public, and occasional presentations for groups of about 30.

As part of the lease agreement, Waterside Workshops would provide any necessary upgrades, maintenance and repairs to 90 Bolivar, which include bathroom renovations, ADA upgrades and electrical system upgrades, as well as minor exterior changes to the building.

A brief narrative from Waterside’s applicant statement paints a picture of the type of activity the organization brings to Aquatic Park: “As we compose this application on a sunny Sunday afternoon, our courtyard is filled with local families sharing snacks and watching native waterfowl. In the distance, two of our teenage interns prepare a local mom to rent one of our hand‐built wooden boats so she can take her two daughters on an afternoon boat ride, and our bike shop has a line out the door with customers waiting to have our interns teach them how to tune up their bikes before they take off on a ride around the park. In leasing 90 Bolivar, we will expand our programs, and give them space to reach their full potential and reach as many community members as possible.”

The same night the zoning board approved Waterside Workshops, it also approved — albeit via less agreement and during a lengthier discussion — plans for Youth Musical Theater Company to lease a nearby building. The company hopes to move in to a nearby property at the park that is also owned by the city.

For both projects, the Berkeley City Council will have to approve the use permits and sign off on the leases for the agreements to move forward due to the district’s “unclassified” zoning designation.

Learn more about Waterside Workshops on the organization’s website.

Youth Musical Theater plans new West Berkeley home (03.03.13)
Aquatic Park cleans up, tackles brackish reputation (08.09.10)
On the waterfront: A new cafe in Aquatic Park (07.02.10)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...