Friends of Five Creeks and Codornices Creek Watershed Council 

want your ideas on restoration of

Codornices Creek below Kains Avenue

Scroll down for:

  • Background on this proposed project
  • The two sets of conceptual plans
  • Notes on the June 5, 2013 public meeting at Albany Community Center (35 people attending)
  • Post-meeting comments via survey on this web site (see link below)
  • Queries recommended by Friends of Five Creeks
  • A list of nearby citizen-built parks and creek restoration projects
If you would like to get updates on this project, please email f5creeks@aol.com. We'll pass it on to the neighborhood list.

Please tell us your ideas for this project! Click here to comment

Background and purpose

The Codornices Creek Watershed Council and Friends of Five Creeks would like your thoughts on possibilities for restoration and public use along Codornices Creek west of Kains, between Dartmouth and Harrison, south of Creekside Apartments.

When Berkeley and Albany jointly planned the Creekside Apartment project in the late 1990s, the Urban Creeks Council, pioneers in creek restoration, and Friends of Five Creeks, a volunteer stewardship group that maintains creeks and other natural areas, agreed not to object to building the apartments over culverted Codornices Creek on the understanding that the half block of creek below Kains would be restored as part of a mini-park.

In 2008, the City of Albany used bond funds to Restoration Design Group (RDG), consultants who also designed Codornices projects downstream and upstream, to draw up conceptual plans.  These plans met with general approval from Friends of Five Creeks,  the Codornices Creek Watershed Council, and the Kains Stannage Codornices Neighbors Association.

The bulk of the land is in the City of Berkeley, however. Over the years, Berkeley has raised various maintenance concerns, and does not now endorse creation of the park, citing mainly its overburdened staff and funds

Former staff of the Urban Creeks Council, now organized as the California Urban Streams Partnership, have been working to persuade the City of Berkeley to apply for a grant for this project. At their request, RDG developed a more limited, less expensive design focused on creek restoration but preserving some opportunities for future park elements. 

Why this project matters

The groups involved generally agree that this reach of Codornices has high priority for restoration, for the following reasons:

  •  Codornices is Berkeley’s only creek with a substantially continuous aboveground channel.
  •  Codornices is the only creek from Oakland to south Richmond with a population threatened steelhead (Oncorynchus mykiss, seagoing rainbow trout). Trout require cold water; insects and larvae on which to feed; and pools, riffles, and eddies which enable them to spawn and to rest on migration. The reach now has a smooth concrete channel, no shade, and poor conditions for insect life.
  •  The channel’s north wall leans inward. A person or animal falling in could be unable to climb out, and in storms could be pinned against the trash rack or swept into the San Pablo Avenue culvert.
  •   Part of this wall has previously collapsed, requiring emergency repairs. Such a collapse could cause flooding upstream.
  • There has been flooding along Kains in large storms, and runoff now carries pollutants directly to the creek. A larger channel would reduce flooding. The project may also lessen flow of polluted runoff to the creek.
  • Last but not least: This part of West Berkeley and Albany has more and more apartments, especially along San Pablo, but few parks. People need nature!    

Potential funding sources

The Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Urban Stream Restoration Program, established in 1985 and funded by various voter-approved bond issues, typically provides grants of up to $1 million “to local communities for projects to reduce flooding and erosion and associated property damages; restore, enhance, or protect the natural ecological values of streams; and promote community involvement, education, and stewardship” (DWR web site). DWR expects to release a draft of its next request for grants in summer 2013, to be followed by the opportunity to apply for the $9 million remaining for this program from Propositions 13 and 84.

A more tenuous opportunity for funding this project has recently arisen through settlement of a lawsuit over sewage. Berkeley, Albany, and other cities and agencies are engaged in negotiations with Baykeeper and other environmental lawyers under the aegis of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Information on this lawsuit is at http://www.epa.gov/region9/water/npdes/compliance.html#so7sys. Priority for use of settlement funds will be for projects that improve water quality in the area affected (the East Bay from Oakland to south Richmond), and that are not required by law or regulations. City officials’ ability to discuss pending litigation is limited.

Below are a cross-section and plan for the first set of plans -- many park features, but expensive:

Below are a cross-section and plan for the more recent, stripped-down set of plans, with no through trail, bridge, or north side access, and minimal furniture (log benches).

Please tell us your ideas for this project! Click here to comment

Recorder's Notes from the June 5, 2013, public meeting

On June 5, 2013, 35 people attended a 7 PM meeting at Albany Community Center. The meeting was facilitated by Brad Smith and Rafael Silberblatt of SEEDS. Presenters were:

  • Drew Goetting of Restoration Design Group (designer of both sets of plans)
  • Josh Bradt of the California Urban Streams Partnership (CUSP)
  • Bill Springer of Codornices Creek Watershed Council (CCWC)
  • Susan Schwartz of Friends of Five Creeks (F5C)

 Below are the volunteer recorder's notes from the meeting


Intro - ground rules - 5 min

Review - modify agenda - 5 min

Drew Goetting (RDG) - 20 min

    History + challenges

    Old + new plans

Josh Bradt (CA Urban Stream Partnership) - 5 min

Bill Springer (Codornices Creek Watershed Council) - 5 min(

Susan Schwartz (Friends of Five Creeks) - 5 min

Questions - 15 min

Interests + Concerns - 15 min

Next Steps - 15 min

 Drew’s Presentation

 • City of Albany - 1st study with RDG in 1999

- public access component was included

- conservation easement created as part of development plan

• historic records show similar creek alignment

• degraded stream condition, poor habitat for fish

• trash rack (maintained by City of Berkeley) mitigates concerns re: debris from culverts

• public access = maintenance access (back hoe)

• six foot easement along stream

• maintenance concerns kept project from moving foward

• (2009) initial plans project was intended to be a pocket park with public access amenities

• bond measures that would have funded project in 2009 mostly dried up

• DWR (Dept of Water Resources) $ now available - stream management, alt. flood control

• Berkeley + Albany currently split maintenance

 Current plan (2013)

 • many expensive items (eg. bridge) have been removed - but could be added back later

• simple public access (eg. trail only on South side)

• trash rack has been moved upstream nearer Kains

• private path for Creekside Apartments would be maintained on north side

• improved stream habitat (eg. canopy)

    - soil bioengineering using willow stalks, other species - alders, oak, cottonwoods

    - no specific planting plan, but riparian corridor requirements might suggest above

• bollard at Kains to prevent dumping

• stream will not be deepened, will be widened dramatically from existing

• culverts are too small so flood prevention may not be as good as one might think

• no lighting currently proposed (too expensive)

 Josh’s Presentation

 • CA Urban Stream Partnerships - creek activists and restoration professionals

• project needs a champion to get it re-prioritized

• CUSP have been working with City of Berkeley

• Berkeley has been reluctant (no $ for new parks)

    -would want project to be classified as a public works/creek restoration (stabilization)  

• Berkeley concerned w/ maintenance issues

    - would like to see volunteer support

    - will not be maintained through parks department

• grant could help coordination of volunteers/3 year maintenance (written into grant)

• low maintenance landscaping will be required

Bill’s Presentation

• Codornices Creek Watershed Council involved in restoration and education

• Interested in outdoor education opportunities


Susan Schwartz’s Presentation

• Friends of Five Creeks - volunteer based, restoration projects and maintaining of sites

• urges community to get involved in planning and conversation

• maintenance concerns; safety concerns around culvert (trash rack needed at west end for safety)

• homeless camps? vandalism?

• use website to comment on plans - link at  fivecreeks.org

• do not apply for grants unless you already have an active volunteer group and a plan for future improvements and maintenance.

• there will be other grant opportunities (e. g. mysterious Baykeeper monies)



 • flooding? culverts too small?

• erosion concerns - timetable for collapse?  hook for city attention?

• where is City representation? (planner from City of Albany is present)

• Creekside Apartments representation?  (yes, president of apt group)

• human/nature balance?

    - Susan - not a conflict here, fish needs can be met

    - Bill - public access needed for community support of project

    - Josh - multi-objective project - DWR (flood prevention), bank repair, beautification

    - Drew - sediment equilibrium first priority

• neighborhood needs a park (this area of Berkeley).  

• concerns over excessive riparian growth - is it possible to have another plan with fewer trees? Also desire for trees for shade, birds.

• incredible opportunity for neighborhood education and social interaction; access & enjoyment for kids important

• would City of Albany accept community garden?

• consider urban orchard?

• Creekside Apt. perspective on path?  currently access if very limited

• City (Berkeley) may provide emergency pumping to owners in case of flooding (# to call?)

• City of Berkeley master plan for fixing undersized culverts? Yes, but no money

• Measure M meeting upcoming June 8 - stormwater controls but only in connection with roads.

• Timetable for construction? DWR grant plans to be posted for comments this summer

- COB would need to authorize grant application

- earth moving fall 2014 or 15 (seasonal; creek work in dry dry season)

• Is there an existing neighborhood group?  Yes, contact Louise Berman (limited coverage?)

• safety concerns re: open creeks, kids, dogs

    -no downstream trash rack in current plans


Interests + Concerns

• creek (and fish) relocation during construction (temp diversion pipe)

• steepness of bank slopes (safety, ease of maintenance)

• security risks associated with path, increased use + transit through site

• child friendly environment?

• creek access?

• public garden? (would this be a part of parks dept?)

• will riparian corridor preclude future public access?

• write permits to include future uses (eg. bridge, path, furniture, access). Improvements can be added later.

• precedents for citizen participation in stream restoration?

• list of projects will be online for people to visit


Next Steps


Remove gate so neighborhood could begin to take ownership

• D.I.Y. project (neighbors take control)

• focus on path/transitory experience, connection to other paths along reaches

• attend meetings, visit for other neighborhood creek/park projects in Berkeley and beyond

• apply for grant monies

• sign-up list for organizing neighbors - Berkeley Partners for Parks has support structure to do this.

(F5C will send email list to neighbors Teri Fashing and Louise Berman)

Please tell us your ideas for this project! Click here to comment


Louise Berman, a Stannage neighbor who has maintained a neighborhood email list and supported the restoration project, offered the following notes, which she stressed are informal and unofficial:

·         Not fish huggers vs community enjoyment, rather a shared use

·         DWR - dept of Water Resources - will fund the basics

·         Estimated cost of current scaled down plan, $600,000.  to replace & improve the aging culvert walls & existing trash track, clean up the embankment, maybe plant some trees to bring back the riparian

·         Ecosystem - the salmon are coming back [probably should say steelhead – ed.]

·         Needs a fence for security, but not impair the visibility

·         Thogh plans are scaled down to provide these basics, it's wise to include future design options for when money becomes available, i.e. benches, bridge, pathway, MAINTENANCE after initial years

·         Grants will be written to get it going, but community residents are encouraged to participate in ongoing weeding, community garden

·         Who will: prune the trees, deal with grafitti, mow the grass, invasive, damaging plants,

·         How to: insure safety of child or animal who falls in high flow;

·         Reduce run off pollution;

·         Stefen's mural, painted on the wall facing the creek 10 years ago is barely visible due to overgrown trees & fence.  It would be wonderful to see it again.



Below are responses June 6-13 to our request for comments on possible restoration of Codornices Creek below Kains Avenue. Please add your own!

Q. Please comment on possible restoration of Codornices Creek west of Kains Avenue and creation of a mini-park.

I live on the 1300 block of Stannage Avenue. I think the restoration of the creekbed and a creation of a mini park is a splendid idea!

I think restoration of the creek, and enabling safe public access, is a great idea, and builds on the great success of the restoration efforts further downstream

I would very much like to see the creek restored to a more natural state with improved habitat for steelhead trout. I think public access is an important component for community engagement and successful continued maintenance. I believe all members of our community need more opportunities to interact with nature or retreat from the urban environment. I would like to see unrestricted public access to the site.

Great! The fish need this more than we do.

Great idea! I've been waiting for years!

1.       What features do you think would be important or desirable for the creek and/or park?

Access and safety


A pervious pathway through from Kains to San Pablo, a small area to rest, native riparian vegetation.

A few places to sit. Perhaps a small trail down to the creek for kids to explore. Shading of the creek and a couple deeper pools for fish to hide and keep cool.

I would really like kids to be able to get close to the water and touch the water (with sticks, drop leaves, pebbles). Most restored reaches of Codornices have no intimate access (sound, touch, smell as well as visual) to the water, which is essential to human understanding of a creek. The Sausal Creek restoration in Portola Valley lets kids play IN the water, and I see them learning a lot. It's important to see things from a kids' point of view--height, size, etc. what may see arms-reach to an adult is far for a kid.

2.       What problems or challenges do you foresee, and how could they be reduced or solved? (e.g. maintenance, safety, access)

Maintenance and safety are always going to be issues, but those sorts of worries should[n’t? seems to be what was meant—editor]  stop us doing something here -- like has been done near the Ohlone bike path / BART tracks

·         Transients

Long-term maintenance- there needs to be a neighborhood community group that takes a leadership role in maintenance. Public safety- homeless problems and crime problems can be reduced with proper vegetation planting and management.

·         Trash coming from upstream: get volunteers to keep it clean. General trash and weeds could be removed by interested neighbors.

When defined access to the water is not provided, informal access can cause erosion. The steepness and narrowness of the channel may make access difficult in this case. Still, it would be great to keep the concept of intimate access for kids in mind in the design. Because of many homeless people in the area, building good human relations will be important, including during planning. Talking with homeless folks who frequent the street and engaging them if possible as stewards and fellow community members might help. It will be important to have places to sit in the park. If arguments are made to not have seating for fear of sleeping, I hope creative solutions can be found.

Q. Would you help maintain the park and creek as a volunteer? How, and how often?


Yes. I'd do it once a week

Yes- periodically (3-6 times/year).

Heck no

I would come out for a cleanup twice a year.

At the June 5 meeting, Friends of Five Creeks recommended a series of questions that should be answered about this project. Here they are:

Friends of Five Creeks is an all-volunteer group founded in 1996. With frequent work parties and a weekly “weed warriors” group, we have spent many years caring for restored and natural sites from Berkeley to Richmond, particularly along creeks.

We recommend considering the following questions:

1.      How will either plan invite residents of neighboring apartments and others to use the space? How will they be able to see the park? Access it?

2.      How, in future, would it be possible to create a walkway through to San Pablo? (A public-access easement was part of the development of Creekside Apartments.)

3.      How will people, especially children, get to the creek? Where will they cross?

4.      How will either plan protect a child or animal who happened to fall into the creek in high flow from being swept into the San Pablo culvert?

5.      How will either plan reduce runoff pollution from Kains Avenue?

6.      How will either plan deal with possibility of camps and other undesirable uses, and provide “eyes” (visibility) and a sense of security, in the wider area near Kains? in the narrower area near San Pablo?

7.      Who will mow the grass?

8.      Who will deal with graffiti or vandalism?

9.      Who will deal with plants that can kill trees or block visibility and access (for example, Algerian/English  ivy, cape ivy, morning glory/bindweed, passion vine, smilo grass, pampas grass, giant grass/Arundo, broom, poison hemlock, and Himalayan and evergreen thornless blackberry).

10.  Who will prune the trees? What is the likelihood that a Regional Water Quality Control Board permit or permission will be required?

11.  The plans show scattered trees along the creek. What is the likelihood that the Regional Water Quality Control Board will require dense plantings of willows and dogwoods?

12.  How should one reconcile the new plans with CUSP’s statement (in the draft MOU of November 2012) that the park will have “basic landscaping with trees only” with “no addition of trails, bridges, or other structures” (elsewhere defined as including benches)?

13.  Would future planting need to be OK’d by CUSP? How could neighbors carry out a new idea on how to use the park (e.g. planting fruit trees or vegetables, installing a play structure, installing a piece of art)?

 Friends of Five Creeks, www.fivecreeks.org, f5creeks@aol.com, 510 848 9358

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As promised at the June 5 meeting, here are a couple of local parks built and maintained by citizens, followed by a list of nearby creek-restoration projects. Taking a look at some might give ideas on what people near this site want or do not want.

Citizen-built parks

Schoolhouse Creek Common, Curtis at Virginia, park created by neighbors starting in 2005 on former school parking lot (School District property).

Halcyon Commons, Halcyon Court at Prince Street: parking lot converted to art-filled park by neighbors working with City of Berkeley, c. 1995.

Creek restoration projects in Berkeley, Albany, and El Cerrito

This is a hastily written summary. Corrections and additions welcome at  f5creeks@aol.com.

A basic map of these projects is at http://goo.gl/maps/B2LUa. For now, locations are approximate and photos just whatever Google comes up with.

Strawberry Creek at Strawberry Creek Park, 1260 Allston Way, Berkeley (walk south into the park to the creek). This pioneer 1980s  “daylighting” in former the Santa Fe Railroad Yard used chunks of the broken culvert to line the banks.  It doesn’t pass muster by today’s regulations. Designed by Doug Wolfe, then with Berkeley Parks Department.

Strawberry Creek on UC Berkeley Campus: Extensive restoration since 1980s in many places. Good info on web.

Blackberry Creek at Thousand Oaks School Park, Berkeley, Tacoma at Ensenada, Berkeley.  In 1995, Urban Creeks Council daylighted 250 feet of Blackberry Creek (called Middle Creek in Albany) in the large green space west of the school.

Village Creek at University Village, south of Ocean View School, 1000 Jackson, Albany:  In 1998, Urban Creeks Council oversaw daylighting of about 900 feet of this season creek, which was given a more sinuous meandering channel and densely planted with willows, dogwood, and alders.

Baxter Creek in Poinsett Park, Poinsett Avenue below Edwards,  El Cerrito.  In 1996, the City of El Cerrito “daylighted” a 250-foot reach of creek as an alternative to storm-drain repair and planted with willow, dogwood, alders, and other native plants. Urban Creeks Council supervised.

Baxter Creek at Booker T.  Anderson Park,  Cypress  Avenue east of South 47th St., Richmond.  Some 900 feet of creek in a large urban park were restored in 2000 by Urban Creeks Council. The project was neglected;  ense vegetation seen as harboring trash, drugs, and prostitution led to major clearing and thinning by the City of Richmond in 2009. Restoration proponents protested, and the area was re-planted.

Cerrito Creek at south edge of El Cerrito Plaza, Talbot to Kains, Berkeley-Albany border.  A new channel was dug in 2003-4 and the parking lot pulled back from the creek edge in 2003-4. The City of El Cerrito sponsored the project; planting was designed by Wolfe Mason. After completion, the Regional Water Quality Control Board then forced dense planting of willows and dogwoods.  Friends of Five Creeks maintains the site and has done some additional planting and trail building.

Baxter Creek at Canyon Trails Park, above Conlon Avenue near Cedar, El Cerrito: Since 2004, volunteers headed by local resident Jim McKissock have worked to establish vegetation for frogs in what had been bare concrete flood-control ponds, remove ivy and plant natives, and protect nearby petroglyphs.

Baxter Creek at Gateway Park (Ohlone Greenway), Conlon at Key north to San Pablo Avenue, El Cerrito.  This 2005 restoration of approximately 700 feet of Baxter Creek was designed by Restoration Design group and carried out by the City of El Cerrito after a strong campaign by Friends of Baxter Creek.  The group dissolved after the project was complete, and finding volunteers to maintain the project has been a problem.  The City of El Cerrito sponsors a monthly work party.

Cerrito Creek, Adams to Pierce Streets:  This long-term gradual revegetation project, mostly by Friends of Five Creeks started in 2000. (Urban Creeks Council planted some willows, and Shelterbelt Builders planted various local natives as mitigation for sewer reconstruction.) The essence of this project has been removal of a monoculture of evergreen thornless blackberry that was choking the creek and increasing floods. Over the years, natives have been planted, various invasives controlled, and furniture, paths, and signs added. Project is ongoing.

Codornices Creek, Fifth to Railroad Tracks, Berkeley-Albany border (north of Harrison):  In 2004-5, the creek (then in a narrow, straight channel, partly concrete clad) was given a new, broadly meandering channel and heavily planted with willows, with some alders, and an adjacent trail was built. Most other natives planted failed, and the area is seriously invaded by Convolvulus (white morning glory or bindweed).  The City of Albany sponsored the project, with design by Restoration Design Group.

Codornices Creek, Sixth to Fifth Streets, Berkeley-Albany border (north of Harrison):  This reach was given a somewhat more meandering channel and planted with willows in 1997. As part of rebuilding of University Village, the channel was further widened and re-contoured, and an adjacent trail was built, in 2006. The City of Albany sponsored the project, with design by Restoration Design Group. The banks were again heavily planted with willows. Most other natives planted failed, and the area is seriously invaded by Convolvulus (white morning glory or bindweed).

Codornices Creek, Sixth to Eighth Streets, Berkeley-Albany border (north of Harrison): In 2010-11, the creek given wider, more meandering channel , an adjacent trail was built, and “rain gardens” were installed on Sixth Street to help filter street runoff before it reached the creek. Due to Codornices Creek Watershed Council, the creek planted with far fewer trees and a much wider variety of natives. The group also oversaw building of an “outdoor classroom” at Eighth Street. The Regional Board forced planting of more willows in 2012. Maintenance has been a struggle.

Codornices Creek, Eighth to Ninth Street, Berkeley-Albany border (north of Harrison) :  In 1994, approximately 500 feet of creek was daylighted by Urban Creeks Council, Ecocity Builders, and citizen volunteers. A new channel was north of the culvert, which remains. Volunteers planted willows and other natives on the bank as well as a small “urban orchard” north of the creek; willows have been extensively thinned. Richard Register of Ecocity Builders still maintains the area, with a stated aim of maximum diversity and tolerance for what others might consider weeds.

Codornices Creek at Ohlone Greenway (opposite 1200 Masonic, north of Santa Fe): Revegetation project 1998 by Friends of Five Creeks, who also built the railing; Boy Scouts built steps and bench. Revegetation efforts under BART tracks failed (no water).  

Codornices Creek below Albina Street Bridge, adjacent to St. Mary’s College High School: Urban Creeks Council project in 2007 re-graded the creek to give steelhead/rainbow trout access to upstream reaches.

 Please tell us your ideas for this project! Click here to comment