Sep 20 2014
No longer under consideration are a senior facility, Piedmont Aquatic Center, Blair Park, expansion of Coaches Field and numerous other projects.
At the September 15, 2014 City Council meeting, three of the City Council members voted to accept the limited list of 5 projects proposed for use of $507,325 in voter approved WW East Bay Regional Park bond money. This Piedmont entitlement is annually paid for by each property owner in the amount of $10 per $100,000 appraised value.
The Council singled out one project, hardscape and partial drainage control at Hampton Field, specifically for the tennis and basketball courts. The area has been in need of safety improvements for years.
Various speakers addressed transparency and selection criteria by the Capital Improvement Projects Review Committee (CIP). Some noted they had been present at the meetings and found them transparent. The meetings were open to the public, however only those present at the meetings had the advantage of knowing how decisions were reached, as there are no recordings of the meetings, minutes, or broadcasts of the proceedings.
The screening criteria chosen by the CIP Committee was:
Is the project “shovel ready”?
Two projects met this criteria. Hampton Field and Blair Park; however, Blair Park improvements were not on the list because it was determined by the Committee to be too controversial. Construction plans are available for Blair and Hampton.
Does the project require an extensive CEQA review process?
Both Hampton Field and Blair Park have met CEQA requirements. The projects are not considered a change of use.
Has the project been fully vetted and likely to be supported by Piedmont residents?
Hampton Field has long been on the list of projects. Blair Park continues to fester in the community according to committee members and others who want the park to be used for purposes other than the Council approved Phase I Maintenance plan.
Does the project enhance revenue generation for the City of Piedmont?
Measure WW is being paid for by taxpayers making some question the criteria of commercializing recreation and park projects as a money source.
Are there possibilities for a public/private partnership that the City has used so successfully in the past?
This criteria appears to apply to all proposals.
Is it possible to phase the project?
This criteria could apply to most proposals.
Tim Rood was the only Council member to vote against proceeding until further information had been developed. He disagreed with use of WW funds in a manner designed to produce income as not in keeping with original bond language and wanted the process to be more transparent.
Old wounds continue with Blair Park. Controversy was used as a reason not to improve the park.
CIP Chair John Wilson stated that Blair Park was eliminated from the list because of controversy in the community. This was further emphasized by Vice Mayor Jeff Weiler, who did not want the money spent there, despite prior Council approval of a Phase I Maintenance project. He noted that according to those opposed to the failed Sports Complex Proposal, there was no safe way to get pedestrians to the park when crossing Moraga Avenue.
Former Councilmember Garrett Keating spoke to the list and noted that Blair Park was not found on the list despite Council approval of a Phase I Maintenance project to improve the park. He stated controversy was not a specified criteria. Later in the meeting, Rood described prior Council action including resolution numbers prescribing actions to fund and improve Blair Park.
No public input.
Without benefit of public comment on the elimination of projects, the Council moved ahead to remove projects from the CIP Committee list.
A new entrance to Dracena Park was the first to fall, with comments such as: the public had not been involved; and there was no Master Plan. This idea had come from staff member Mark Feldkamp. Next, went renovation of the Recreation Department and adjacent play structure. Again, there was no Master Plan for the projects and some thought any changes should await improvements suggested for the Aquatic Center/ Piedmont Pool.
Improvements to the Court Yard next to the Community Center was met with ideas of fundraising, rather than using WW funds.
The last project standing was Hampton Field.
All Council members present approved moving ahead with Hampton Field. The thought was to focus on “one signature project” that could be proposed to the East Bay Regional Park District in early 2015 (the next submittal opportunity) for approval, constructed in 2016 or 2017, and receipt of WW funds prior to the entitlement deadline at the end of 2018.
The Hampton tennis courts have been in dangerous disrepair for years and are in need of drainage work to correct design flaws. This will require retaining wall work, drainage and improved hardscape areas. A play structure used regularly by the Piedmont Play School was questioned as too expensive and not essential. Regular maintenance of Hampton Field is provided by Cleary Brothers at a cost of approximately $24,000 per year with additional cost incurred during rainy weather when water runs uncontrolled to inappropriate areas.
The softball outfield, known to turn into a marsh during wet weather, is not part of the Hampton Field proposed project. Fundraising may support improvements in the outfield area.
The City has CIP Fund reserves in the amount of approximately $400,000. This unrestricted source of funding can be used to cover the cost of other projects including maintenance and construction drawings.
There was no mention of opening up the process to a public hearing. Councilmember Bob McBain was absent at the September 15 meeting.
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