Our beautiful city sits exactly opposite the Golden Gate Bridge, founded here for its unique position along the San Francisco Bay. Our gateway to the bay, the Berkeley Marina, has struggled for years with crumbling infrastructure and a deficient Marina Fund. But thanks to community advocacy, new investment from our City Council, and $15 million in state support, we have weathered the storm and are steadying the ship. And soon, the Berkeley Marina will enjoy a homecoming of a resource lost long ago: ferry service.

In 1926, our beloved Berkeley Pier was built for ferry service by the Golden Gate Ferry Company. A decade later, after the opening of the Bay Bridge, ferry service ended. The pier became the municipal fishing pier we knew and loved for years until it was closed in 2015 due to structural issues.  Replacement costs for the pier are estimated to range between $20 million and $55 million. Costs that, realistically, the city cannot bear alone.

The city of Berkeley has partnered with the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), the agency that operates the San Francisco Bay Ferry, to develop a plan to share costs and deliver a pier that serves dual purposes: public recreation and ferry service. At the culmination of a public engagement process that included focus groups, commission meetings, and community workshops, a preferred design concept was presented to the City Council in 2021.

Today, we write to announce that the vision of restoring ferry service at the Berkeley Marina has reached three major funding milestones this year:

These significant grants represent tremendous progress toward restoring the pier and bringing regional ferry transit back to Berkeley. The design and environmental review phase has already begun, putting us on track for groundbreaking in 2027.

Throughout the public engagement process, the project plan has evolved significantly to incorporate community feedback. The preferred design concept, known as “The Sword,” is designed to maximize recreation space on the pier. And the city is committed to implementing a proactive and robust transportation management strategy to respond to traffic and parking availability concerns. This could potentially include incorporating a paid parking program that charges ferry riders to park, discouraging spillover into non-ferry parking areas, and incentivizing carpooling and other non-driving modes of accessing the terminal, such as enhanced transit or shuttles, as well as bicycle and drop-off facilities.

Ferry transit meets a critical need for disaster preparedness in the region. Alongside the imminent transition to all-electric zero-emission ferries, this new transportation service will represent a major win for the environment and help alleviate congestion on the Bay Bridge. And importantly, ferry transit will increase commerce at waterfront businesses, bringing new revenues to the Marina Fund.

We are beginning an exciting new chapter for our waterfront, defined by a wave of reinvestment. Recent projects such as the Marina Roadway and South Cove improvements have been huge successes. Dock replacements and piling replacements are underway. Main channel dredging and Cesar Chavez Park path improvements are right around the corner. Hotel and restaurant revenues are recovering, and we are in exclusive negotiations with a prospective tenant at 199 Seawall Drive to reactivate the southern end of the marina.

Together, these improvements represent winds of change. While we are excited about this new potential, we remain committed to protecting the functions and character that make the Berkeley Marina a regionally loved site for nature and recreation. For the marina to thrive, we must strategically plan to address our infrastructure needs and demonstrate fiscal responsibility in managing the Marina Fund.

Thank you to all who have participated in the public processes shaping the Berkeley Pier & Ferry project. We urge you to join us as opportunities arise to advocate for regional and state resources for this transformative project for the marina. The future of our waterfront depends on it. We need all hands on deck!

Rigel Robinson is a Berkeley council member representing the city of Berkeley on the Alameda County Transportation Commission. Terry Taplin and Rashi Kesarwani are Berkeley council members representing the Berkeley Marina. Jesse Arreguin is the mayor of Berkeley.