Nov 30 2010

Opinion: Unauthorized Use Problems Associated with Piedmont Recreational Facilities

A Letter from a Piedmont Resident on Blair Park:

The EIR as presented before [the City Council] cannot be certified. Specifically in my scoping and response letter, and public comments, I asked for:  (1) an examination of unscheduled use at existing fields and how that would relate to the proposal, and (2) the potential drain on police services, and (3) specific traffic issues first raised in the DEIR. I also raise the issue of pollution in this letter.  My comments were either ignored or the EIR put in what is demonstrably bad information.

The EIR ignores overwhelming evidence of persistent, growing and ongoing problems concerning unscheduled use at existing Piedmont facilities.  Nov. 30, 2009 I wrote:

“Law Enforcement: This large complex with snack booths at the edge of town and in close proximity to Freeway 13 will attract many groups from outside of Piedmont. What additional burden will be placed on Piedmont Police resources?  It should be examined if another full-time Police Officer will necessary because of the sports complex.  The hijacking of the much smaller Linda Beach facility by outside soccer groups will be a useful historical reference (11/30/2009 Scoping letter ).”

Specifically I pointed out and asked LSA to examine unscheduled use by groups from out of town at “Linda Beach facility,” and the resultant drain on Piedmont Police resources.  The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) makes no mention of unscheduled use and makes no reference to the “Linda Beach facility.”  The EIR Response to Comments also fails to address or even name Linda Beach.  This is critical as we shall see.  This and other scoping requests of mine are ignored.  As to the directly related issue of Police Services, the DEIR states:

“Police Services and Crime Prevention.  The proposed project would result in a slight increase in the demand for police services due to the increased use and development at the project sites. (p335) . . . The Police Department does not expect that vagrants or loiterers would be a concern for the project due to its location away from the downtown area and because this has not been an issue for any of the other sports fields located within the City (p336)”

My Aug. 14, 2010 Response letter questioned the above DEIR finding as follows:  “Drain on current Police services – usage enforcement. This report is also deficient as it ignores the “high jacking” of Linda Field by out of town soccer players, an ongoing problem.”  I also asked for an examination of the potential drain on Police Services because of the serious and unmitigatable (sic) traffic problems spelled out in the DEIR. The LSA EIR Response document makes no mention of additional Police resources being necessary for traffic enforcement. There are vagrant issue, to be detailed below. This total lack of referencing the additional Police resources needed as related to both the serious and unmitigatable traffic issues and unscheduled use renders this EIR inconsistent within itself and incomplete.

Critically, the recent Nov. 17, 2010 Recreation Commission Meeting (Rec. Comm.) revealed that Piedmont Police “do not patrol Parks” as directly quoted by Mark Delventhal from Chief Hunt.  As Piedmont Police policy is not to patrol parks, the EIR finding of no significant drain on Police resources is nonsensical. (1)  If the policy is not to patrol the parks then of course there will be no further resources used, and (2) the EIR does not recognize the known, significant and growing problem of unscheduled use by out of town groups. The LSA DEIR finding of no potential drain on police resources has no basis in reality.  The current policy is no enforcement so of course no drain on police resources is anticipated by Piedmont Police.

Comments by Rec. Comm. commissioners stated repeatedly that the first line of enforcement is residents and not the Police Department.  Although municipal statutes have been in place to attempt to control the ongoing problems of unscheduled use, especially the aggressive adult male pick-up games, not one citation has ever been issued.

At the 11/17 Rec. Comm. meeting Commissioner Heber described in detail the “many times” she had witnessed Sunday pickup games at Witter Field. Commissioner Hunt reported witnessing a large game recently on Sunday. Commissioners Taggart and London asked why the current procedures haven’t been used for enforcement considering the seriousness of the problem  and that statues are in place.  Rec. Dir. Delventhal stated “we need to get after Beach right now because there is a stronghold starting to take place.”  Delventhal, Councilmen Keating and Chiang were all present at the 11/17 Rec. Comm. and can confirm the serious nature of testimony heard.  The Rec. Comm. agenda was specifically called for by Rec. Dir. Delventhal because of the ongoing and growing unscheduled use issues at Linda and Dracena.  Naturally the significant unscheduled use at Witter was also reported. In stark contrast LSA in the Blair Park EIR does not even name Linda Beach in its report nor address any unscheduled use beyond scheduled Piedmont Sports Club games.

I also asked in my Response letter if it was desirable for Piedmont Police to be pulled off of their priority mission of patrol enforcing against Burglaries and Auto Theft. I asked LSA to determine if this was the desire of Piedmont residents, to have our Police pulled away from their primary mission? LSA in its EIR makes no mention of my request and is incomplete in this regard.

A recent letter in the Piedmont Post indicated that male out of town players urinate in front of Piedmont residents. Common practice is for hooligan soccer players to change clothes in public.  The 11/17/2010 Rec. Comm. had public testimony from a Piedmont mother walking with two children who witnessed a gentleman “masturbating” in front of her near the shack.  The public testimony of unscheduled use is not just about aggressive out of town players preventing Piedmont residents from going on the fields, there are also resident safety issues.  Soccer hooliganism by young adult male players is a nationally known and growing problem; the EIR makes no mention of this vagrant and dangerous behavior.  Although I asked directly about the situation at Linda Beach, the Report fails to even mention that facility.  The EIR is woefully inadequate, contrary to common public knowledge and incomplete in assessing out of town use and vagrant behavior.

My Aug. 14, 2010 Response Letter asked “The speed limit on Moraga Avenue is 25 mph . . . Based on the survey, the 85th percentile speed was 35 mph (DEIR).  What speeds do the remaining 15% of drivers use? Are there significant numbers of drivers above 35mph? 45mph? 55mph? What dangers are there for the increased number of pedestrians if this project is built? Will children and adults be at risk?”  The EIR Response to Comments entirely ignores my traffic analysis requests. The EIR is incomplete in assessing a critical area: how dangerous the traffic situation is and how much worse the existence of a large complex at Blair Park will exacerbate the traffic problems.

Emissions from a cold, idling engines contain extremely high levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and hydrocarbons.  In a cold engine, the oil is thick and resists flow, so the engine has to work harder to overcome internal friction.  In addition, gas does not vaporize easily so extra fuel is supplied to keep the car running.  This extra fuel may blow by the rings into the crankcase, diluting the oil used for lubrication of rings and bearings and causing extra engine wear and tear.  As a result, an engine uses more fuel and creates more pollution in the first minutes after a cold start and until it reaches normal operating.  The current plan for a complex at Moraga Canyon will increase pollution in Moraga Canyon and Piedmont.  Cold automobile engines pollute more than those at operating temperature.  Piedmonters will get in their cars, start them up and drive a few blocks to Moraga Canyon and park.  Their cars will sit two hours.  Residents will get back in their cold engine car and drive back home.  This will be repeated hundreds of times each day.  The EIR’s assessment of pollution is scientifically unrealistic:

“The proposed project would help improve air quality because sports participants that currently commute to Alameda Fields or other facilities outside of Piedmont would instead use the proposed new sports fields within Piedmont. (EIR Response 3.4.2 p28).”

The project will do the opposite of the LSA conclusion and will create additional pollution in Piedmont and Moraga Canyon.  The EIR’s conclusion is contrary to known science concerning pollution and cold engines.

Piedmont City Council may elect to certify this badly flawed and incomplete EIR.  The Statement of Overriding Concern will contain only one overriding concern: that additional field space in town is needed.  But that need was never objectively examined by LSA as they only mimicked PRFO supplied information.  The list of areas not adequately examined goes beyond my extensive list above.  Because of the incompleteness of the EIR it cannot be certified.

Public Process Issues

On Nov. 15 our City Council was asked to move the Dec. 6 City Council certification hearing so that the voluminous Moraga Canyon Environmental Final Impact Report (FEIR) could be properly examined. The proponents of the project presented a vigorous and organized opposition to any courtesy being extended.  In opposing the delay the following was said:

Clarence Mamuyac, Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO) Exc. Dir.: “we have all told at this point more than a half a million dollars invested, we think its time to make a decision, we respectfully request that you stick to the dates that we were promised (11/15 Vid @ 2:12:35).”  Steve Schilller, Secretary/Treasurer, PRFO: “large gifts of this nature, that this offer is made on the contingent of the public recipient actually doing certain things in a certain time frame, including actually making life easy for those that are doing things like spending a half a million dollars (2:19:15).”  Eric Havian, Legal Dir. PRFO: “we do have a deadline. That’s the problem, we do have a deadline (2:15:28).”

I surmise that the gift PRFC has been touting with their “support the gift” slogan is in actuality their receipt of the Blair Park land.  Mamuyac, Schiller and Havian are all alluding to the elements of a contract in their comments above.  Evidently a deal, a contract, with the City has been struck. Piedmont taxpayers have a right to know the details of this deal with PRFO, the deadlines and terms the PRFO representatives revealed. The Blair Park land will be given to the Sports Clubs for their exclusive use.

I request that both Piedmont Senior Staff and Piedmont City Council now make public any agreements between themselves and PRFO that were made outside of the public process.

Rick Schiller

(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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