Nov 30 2010

Opinion: Blair Park – a Gift To the City or a Gift From the City?

A letter from a Piedmont resident on Blair Park:

It’s a Gift!  I am concerned about the gifting of “exclusive use rights” of City owned public property to a private business. And is it legal? If it is . . . .then what’s the proper compensation package and land use for the conversion of the Blair park site, contractual obligations and public bidding procedures for both the new sports franchisee and the City of Piedmont.

In 1913 Piedmonter’s voted on a bond measure to purchase 4 parcels of land. The bond was promoted by Piedmont’s first Mayor Hugh Craig, as to be used to buy private land for public “Parks & Playgrounds” for everyone to enjoy. The four sites were Piedmont Park, Dracena Park, Linda Park and Blair Park. The 1913 bond measure never mentioned the leasing out or turning the primary use of these public parks to one particular activity, or operated by one particular private sports business vendor instead of the City Recreation Department. Linda Beach Park for 85 years was a multi-use Playground & Park facility, operated by the City’s Recreation Department and enjoyed equally by all the public. Having lived in Piedmont for 57 years, our family used Linda Beach Park & Playground from 1930’s into the 1980’s. In the 80’s Linda Beach’s basketball court hoops were ordered removed by City Staff because that sport had became a public nuisance with belligerent physical violence occuring to both the players and the general public, this ball sport venue was attracting inappropriate adult behavior. Linda Beach field use is now monopolized completely by private sports business interests and adamant adult soccer league pickup games. The adult soccer hooliganism culture is well documented, growing and plaguing city sports fields throughout California/US/Europe and this same nuisance soccer behavior is entrenched already, at several Piedmont field sites.

As a resident with my own 15 year old child, we and other Piedmonter’s are now locked-out, in fear of our personal safety, refused and denied equal access to the Linda Beach public park facilities, due to the deliberate directive actions and policy’s of Piedmont City Official’s.

Linda Beach Neighborhood Park is now a lucrative-specialized use, Pay-Or-You-Don’t-Play, sports field concession with turfclub doorman or adult thugs, controlling who can use the public field. The City Council’s decision and legal planning process on Dec. 6th to certify the Blair Park EIR may result in our City Council members again-excluding one segment of citizen’s from having “equal access to public accommodations” at the Blair Park site, because of promissory favoritism to a particular private business agenda. This sports business interest; the Piedmont Sports Clubs and the Piedmont Recreation Facilities Organization (PRFO), may be obtaining another enrichment of exclusive public-private partnership “use rights” to the Blair Park land in a illegal no-bid/non-competitive procedure.

Are the Linda and Blair Park public-private partnership “use rights” directives by City Council Members illegal? Is the City of Piedmont receiving fair and equitable compensation in exchange for the permanent loss of the mini Blair Park land and its original intended public use? The normal business practice is that municipalities put public-private partnership projects (pool?) out to open “public bid”, so all interested sports businesses have a equal opportunity-on a level bidding field to bid competitively on the same project. Then the City partners with the most desirable private sector business to build the sports fields as follows: In exchange for paying for public park lands, City’s require the sports field developers to pay all legal fees/lawsuits related to the development, a yearly “set user fee” and a partnership to share a percentage of the “gross profits” in exchange for the equitable use of the public’s asset. PRFO proposes only to supply the construction building costs and has refused to offer, share or pay the standard market rate partnership fees, rent or revenue sharing agreements for the Blair Park land asset. Contrary to standard public-private procedures to protect the City’s land assets, the City Council, Senior Staff and City Attorney has refused to demand any “use rights’ legal analysis, studies, appraisals, reports or fair market compensation estimates for the Blair Park land from independent land-use experts.

This is the Linda Park pattern by City Administrator Geoffery Grote, City Attorney and three members of the City Council of “gifting public park land use over to private interests” businesses without:

1. Obtaining outside legal counsel, specializing in land use and municipal litigation as to:

  • The legality of transferring public land use rights over to private business venders.
  • Equal access to use the public facility by non-sports club members.
  • Economic discrimination based on ability or willingness to pay for public field access.
  • Violating the original voters’ intention and the spirit of the 1913 bond measure.
  • Non-competitive (closed shop) bidding on the project by other private interest soccer businesses or clubs.
  • Is the City creating a public nuisance venue that could place citizen’s at a undue risk?
  • Is the City liable or insured for personal injuries/lawsuits due to a assult from a permitted/unpermitted adult soccer player actions.

2. Establishing a written fair market appraisal of the monetary use value of the 5 acre parcel of land.

3. Receiving fair market-rate compensation for the land or for the “use rights” from the developers.

4. Receiving a percentage of the gross profits and rent from the business.

5. Full financial disclosure and identification of all personal, corporate or investment contributors.

In the midst of the worst economic crisis in our lifetime, it is the fiduciary responsibility of the City Council and City Staff to maximize all potential revenues/fees/agreements from the Blair Park land asset.

This money should be used to repair Beach and Wildwood schools, educate our children, fund public safety services, repair the pool and replenish the empty CIP/General fund accounts.

Any decision to change, sell, transfer, franchise, or gift grants of “exclusive use rights” to operate a private business on 5 acres of a Piedmont park real estate should only occur after there has been a thorough legal analysis by competent outside legal counsel and a independent appraisal of both, the property’s land use value and the proposed sports field business plan.

Thank You

Neil J. Teixeira

(This letter expresses the personal opinions of the author.  All statements made are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.)

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