Rejoice Christie Core neighbors, a new park is coming your way! The Emeryville Planning Commission met on July 24th, to review and discuss plans for the expansion of Christie Avenue Park. The existing park is approximately 0.81 acres and the expanded portion to the north would add 0.46 acres, bringing the size of the park to 1.27 acres total. The plan would incorporate the adjacent parking lot to the north, which faces the new Essex building that is currently under construction. The parcel is city-owned and the applicant designing the park is Public Market renovator Hart Howerton.
Ideas for the park expansion came from several community meetings. In an earlier session, from May 29, 2014 the city council stressed the importance of retaining the existing connection through the park from Christie Avenue to the public market, creating a space for a dog park and children’s play area, and creating spaces for people to relax. They also considered implement better lighting for safety.
A May 29th community study session was held at the Hyatt House:
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On June 11, the Development Coordinating Committee met to discuss the plan. They wanted the applicant to show optional plans, including one that was status quo. They also wanted to stress that the “play area” should be incorporated as a key feature of the park in keeping with the City’s policy goal of creating family friendly housing. The group also considered implementing the addition of a basketball court to help keep the expanded park active. Lastly, they noted that no trees could be planted on the sewer easement running north-south through the park and advised to save as many of the Magnolia trees to the extent possible. The applicant also talked about the importance of updating the park with today’s ADA requirements.
The July Planning Commission Study session can be watched on YouTube:
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The Parks & Recreation Committee met on June 18th, 2014 and had the following recommendations:
- Eliminate the existing stage
- Create mini plazas at the entrances
- Create active lawn space to accommodate movie screenings.
- Create hardscape for group exercises
- Use public art pieces instead of standard play equipment
- Save the existing Magnolia trees.
- Include lighting and power outlets to accommodate special events
- Make design provision to allow children entering from the south end
With these recommended elements and the space in mind, the applicant went forth to design an option for the planning council. Their rendering was a two section park with a paved corridor that links the Pacific Park Plaza to the Public Market. They considered the existing residential condos, the Public Market, and the coffee shops and gym around it. They also considered the future uses of the park would include a feature on the east entrance, a lawn space on the north side, a circular fenced-off dog park, and entirely lined with trees. Dog owners would let their dogs play in the north end, while young parents would let their kids play at the south end; benches that line the path along the south would provide spaces of “respite and solitude” for those that just want to relax. Ironically, the north end lawn would even provide space for outdoor movie showings. It would be nice to tell future kids of the park that there used to be an entire movie theatre just a stone’s throw away from the park.
The presentation was met with mixed emotions from the City Council and public comment. Many agreed to remove the proposed 6000 square feet retail pad, as it was hard to keep a retailer there and a major retail building is in the works for that area. They also agreed on bringing a more focused feature for children, with an emphasis on safety. The fenced-off dog park was necessary, but the circular design drew criticism. From there the three major concerns were the berms and movie space.
The current berms are on the south end of the park, and the proposed designs would remove them to better utilize space in the project area. On the one hand, the berms create a natural barrier to wind and it’s been pointed out that migratory birds utilize it for nesting twice a year. On the other hand, the tree berms creates a dead zone that police cannot see and the existing design takes up too much space. The barrier would also be problematic in the future, as the space adjacent to the park on the south end is currently earmarked for affordable housing. One resident noted that the General Plan’s Parks and Recreation element shows that there should be 3 acres of park for every 1000 residents in the City, and that an even bigger park would be necessary to meet the current and future needs of the neighborhood.
The north lawn that was described as a space for summer screenings was also discussed with opposition. Having the big space would make it difficult for multiple flex spaces. The idea for the movie space came from the overload of viewers at the Doyle Hollis film screenings. But would an extra movie space park alleviate the crowd from one place to another? The discussion led to a bigger question of whether we should try to build a park that incorporated every element or try to build a park that considered some elements really well?
The last item that received opposing opinions was the preservation of the Magnolia trees in the park. It’s currently on the north side, but if the park is to go on as proposed, they would be in the middle of all the flex spaces, limiting design options. While many people liked the idea of saving the trees, it would become difficult to save all of them and implement the programmatic elements that the neighborhood wants. To further complicate matters, the trees are densely grown together, so it’s highly likely that the roots are intertwined, making it difficult to transplant them. When Senior Planner Miroo asked the architect about the viability of transplanting them, she declined to comment without consulting an arborist. She did say that she had success in previous projects.
There would be more to discuss in a second session, but it’s still exciting to see a decrease in surface parking and an increase in park space.
The Christie Avenue Park expansion project is part of the Marketplace Redevelopment Project, which plans to redevelop the existing Marketplace with phased development consisting of 674 multi-family residential units, 180,000 square feet of retail, and 120,000 square feet of office space. The 15-acre site targets 25 years for a complete build-out so expect big, gradual changes to this area throughout the next two decades.