Nov 23 2010

First Draft EIR Hearing on Moraga Canyon Sports Facilities – A Pep Rally Atmosphere

The Piedmont City Council’s scheduled public hearing Monday evening, Nov. 15, 2010, on the Moraga Avenue Sports Fields became a pep rally event, as more than 300 adults, children and young people crowded into Veterans Hall.  Most came to voice  their support for the proposed sports complex at Blair Park. Although the agenda specified a public hearing on the “Moraga Canyon Sports Fields Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Response to Comments,” the majority of speakers focused on the need for more sports fields in Piedmont. Youngsters, from elementary school through high school, were organized into groups by the Piedmont Recreation Facilities Organization (PRFO) to voice their objections to playing soccer at Alameda Point, located in the former Navy Base in the city of Alameda.  Students stated they have less time to do their homework and must get up early on Saturday mornings to be driven to Alameda. They said they would like a nearby soccer field at Blair Park so they could bike, walk or skateboard to practice and games. Representing PRFO, the youngsters, their parents, coaches and project proponents all sported tee-shirts promoting the project with the phrase “Support the Gift.”  Other proponents described the shortage of sports fields in the area and how the Blair Park fields could help fill the need for rugby and lacrosse, as well as soccer fields.

Eric Havian, former head of the Piedmont Soccer Club, pointed to the crowd of young supporters and said, “These are your ‘special interests.’”

A few students spoke against the project for its excessive size and destruction of trees and wildlife habitat in Moraga Canyon.

Most opponents of the project did not attend the meeting. Those who did attend voiced objections to the EIR consultant’s Response to Comments on the draft EIR.  More than 850 comments were received on the draft EIR, and opponents felt their comments were not adequately addressed.

Former Piedmont Mayor Al Peters argued there were too many “undecided or controversial issues” for the Council to certify the EIR and adopt the proposed project.  He noted the extremely adversarial nature of the process.  “PRFO designed the project and paid for the EIR,” he said. “LSA  (the environmental consultant) has offered tweaks instead of addressing fundamental concerns.  Opponents have had little say in the project design and strongly feel their concerns have not been heard.”   He recommended the Council appoint a citizens committee to discuss the development of Moraga Canyon in public meetings, reach a consensus and make recommendations. “Continuing down the current path which pits neighbor against neighbor – my sign against your sign – my mailing against your mailing – is detrimental to our City and to the cohesion of our community,” he said.

Piedmont resident William Blackwell, who submitted an alternate proposal for a soccer field at Blair Park, contended LSA’s responses to his proposal were spurious because he had presented  “. . . a viable alternate that would mitigate many of the adverse findings of the Draft EIR. My alternative is 35% larger in area than the one at Coaches and properly sized for U10 soccer.”

Blackwell also noted that an addendum to the draft EIR “clearly states that the project need is for ‘full size regulation sports fields in Piedmont.,’  pointing out the irony that this will not be provided at Blair.  “The proposed 45,000 square-foot field is 18,000 square feet too small in area and 60 feet too narrow in width to be a full-size regulation field, according to the California Youth Soccer Association.”  He added that Soccer Club data shows that 60 practice hours per week are required for the 330 youngsters who play at Alameda Point. But a single field at Blair would provide only 15 hours, leaving a shortfall of 45 hours and a need for three additional large fields. A single large field,” he said, “will not alleviate the need to find practice sites outside the City.”

Tensions rose at the end of the hearing when City Administrator Geoff Grote proposed that the Council hold a third public hearing in January to give the public more time to study the 700-page Response to EIR Comments document before the Council decides whether to certify the EIR. Council members Garrett Keating and Margaret Fujioka proposed a third hearing on Monday, January 3, but project proponents Clarence Mamuyac, Eric Havian, and Steve Schiller objected strongly to this proposal, stating they had been promised that a decision would be made at the second public hearing, scheduled for Monday, December 6.

“More hearings are not needed,” said Havian. “It is simply a tactic to delay a decision.” The third hearing proposal failed to pass due to a split vote, with “No” votes by Mayor Dean Barbireri and Council member John Chiang , who felt that a month was sufficient time to review the document. Council Member Jeff Weiler was absent due to illness, but is expected to be present at the next meeting.

The Council will hold a second and final public hearing on the Response to Comments of the draft EIR document at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6.  The hearing will again be held at the Piedmont Veterans Hall, as PRFO plans to organize another large rally in support of the project. The meeting cannot be televised live from the Veterans building. Instead, it will be recorded and broadcast the following day on KCOM.

See more quotes in the Piedmonter’s article on this meeting.
See City Council Minutes 11-15-2010 with notes on all speakers.

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