The Berkeley Pier as seen through the chain link fence in mid October, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
The closed Berkeley pier as seen through a chain-link fence in mid-October 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Should the city replace the Berkeley Marina’s municipal pier — closed since 2015 — with a multi-use structure for regular commuter ferry service to San Francisco? 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of stories about the Berkeley Marina written by UC Berkeley journalism graduate students in partnership with Berkeleyside.

On Wednesday night, that proposal will be the subject of the year’s last community workshop on the feasibility of a multi-use pier, which would be built with the help of the state’s Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA). Thanks to Regional Measure 3, WETA has partnered with the city to design a study to determine if ferry service is a viable option. The project itself is still in the early planning stages, with years of public process and funding decisions still to come.

Regional Measure 3, approved by 55% of Bay Area voters in 2018, provides a means to pay for transportation improvements in the region, chiefly by using $4.45 billion in toll revenues. That could mean $300 million for enhancements in existing ferries and $35 million per year for expanded ferry services, including service and terminal improvements at nine Bay Area locations, from the North Bay to Redwood City. Of those locations, only one is considering a completely new terminal: Berkeley. 


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Expanded and new ferry operations are being considered throughout the region. Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Commission

The city of Berkeley has hosted Zoom workshops throughout the year to gauge community sentiment about a possible new ferry terminal at the marina.

The city and WETA will host the year’s final community workshop for the pier-ferry project from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27, on Zoom.

In addition to community meetings, focus groups — led by Ali Endress, the city’s waterfront manager, and consisting of marina users who ranged from slipholders to birdwatchers — were consulted about the designs and possibilities for a multi-use pier that would accommodate a ferry terminal.

“Our real, true goal here is to get your feedback on the waterfront concepts presented and the landscape concepts presented,” Endress told workshop participants in August.

During that session, concerns from parking to energy efficiency and questions related to recreational compatibility with commuter use all came up.

While one participant expressed support for a circular design of the pier, he also said he wasn’t confident about a ferry bringing in revenue. “What’s the concept here in terms of having this thing make money?” he asked. “Particularly now with COVID and more people working from home, who’s going to pay for all this?”

Another workshop attendee said she was concerned that the ferry would be a “serious misuse of public funds.”

“That money (from Regional Measure 3) should be spent on electric buses and shuttles and we should be doing everything to get everybody out of their cars,” she said.

Signs posted on the fenced entrance to the Berkeley Pier in mid October, 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
Signs posted on the fenced-off entrance to the Berkeley pier in mid-October 2021. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Participants also questioned how the pier would be shared among recreational users — such as people fishing, a mainstay activity before the pier was closed — and ferry passengers. 

Another attendee questioned how ridership might affect the peaceful waterfront space: “I’m concerned that this proposed ferry, whichever design, will adversely impact the overall nature of the marina,” he said.

Although city officials have expressed support for the prospect of a Berkeley ferry, it remains an open discussion with many decisions yet to be made.

See the city website for more on the pier-ferry project

Roger Miller, senior management analyst with the city’s Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department, said any ferry service at the marina will need to be approved by the Berkeley City Council and WETA’s board and also take community input into account.

Staff plans to bring the ferry project to the City Council for an update in December.

Bria Manning is a student in the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley covering economic development.