Bike rentals and much more planned for Aquatic Park

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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  • Devin

    I love these guys and I’m so glad to see them doing well and expanding to such a cool new spot. If you like biking and want to improve your mechanic skills or want to build your own bike, this is the best place to do it imho. They are always kind and patient while costing less and lacking much of the holier-than-thou attitude exhibited at most other bike shop.

    To streetlevel, you guys should do one or more community-support days where folks can come help clean up the run-down building and move bikes / tools…etc down to the new spot. I’m sure several people would be willing to lend a hand and I’ve been dying to see the inside of that ramshackle hut ever since I started frequenting the Aquatic Park.

  • Berkeleyborn123

    This is a great addition to the area-i wish the owners great success. One thing that needs attention-the dirt turnout facing the lake before you enter the freeway through Aquatic Park from Emeryville. A security camera pointed here would do wonders as what goes on there, especially at night, is not good…anyone from BPD reading this surely knows the spot

  • suckatash

    Great news for the Westside.

  • AJ

    what goes on here?

  • guest
  • FabBerkeley

    I love having a coffee by the water at this funky little cafe. It is quiet, peaceful and fun to watch the birds. For cyclists, it is a hidden treasure and worth the ride over the pedestrian bridge when needing a break from the Bay Trail. The Seabreeze Market is a great asset too, believe me, but sometimes I’m eating too much car exhaust with my sandwich. I enjoy buzzing over the bridge to the east side of the bridge and really taking a break. It’s also not too far from 4th Street, but it is miles away in attitude and natural beauty

  • Nicholas Littlejohn

    This is great. It would be excellent to see solar there and not to allow the interns to smoke right in front of the bike workshop.

  • Nicholas Littlejohn

    Exactly! We ride bikes commonly through there at dark and it is super scary and suspicious to my girlfriend. We heard the entrance to Aquatic Park here is a gay hook up place after dark.

  • Nicholas Littlejohn

    Moving by bike is huge in Portland. I have helped move a Sierra Club office. They buy the beer and pizza at the end. It builds great community and saves fuel and pollution at the same time.