Feb 28 2011

Piedmont’s Planning Commission Says No to Blair Park Plans

On February 24, the Piedmont Planning Commission undertook the charge from the Piedmont City Council to review and make recommendations on the proposed sports complex development on Blair Park and Coaches Field.  The Park Commission, the Recreation Commission and the Planning Commission have now all reviewed the project with dramatically different results.

On January 19, 2011 the Recreation Commission unanimously advised “the City Council to approve the construction of the Blair Park Project as presented and the installation of artificial turf and limited lighting (subject to the time limitations outlined in the FEIR) at Coaches Field.  Resolved further that the Recreation Commission is also concerned about safety in regards to crossing Moraga Avenue and recommends that such be thoroughly studied as a part of the approval process going forward.”

On February Feb 17, 2011 the Park Commission also recommended moving ahead with the proposed Blair Park plan, based on  further traffic and pedestrian safety studies.

The Planning Commission, however, raised numerous objections to the Blair Park proposal, citing its size and impact on nearby homes, particularly potential structural damage, and voted unanimously that the Council not approve the project.  All three commissions advised the Council to consider alternative plans that have been presented.

Prior to its review, the Planning Commission visited Blair Park to see  the story poles which have been erected to demonstrate the project dimensions, the 38-foot high “berm” and fence next to Moraga Ave. and the 35-foot high retaining wall at the back of the field. The proposed project continues to evolve from what was certified by the City Council in the Environmental Impact Report.   Architect Clarence Mamuyac, who represents the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO) as its president and is also the designer of the project, presented more changes to the plan to the Planning Commission:   eliminating the  pedestrian bridge across Moraga Ave, replacing the bridge with a crosswalk and two “traffic-calming” roundabouts on Moraga, adding 20 more parking spaces, designating the second field as a  “grassy glade” of the same dimensions, creating a “climbing wall” on the 35-foot rear retaining wall, and adding a dog run.

Piedmont residents Al Peters, architect William Blackwell and architect Chuck Oraftik  presented two alternative plans. Although slightly different, the plans would enlarge Coaches Field to create a regulation-size soccer field and build a smaller field (the size of Coaches) across the road from Blair Park. Blackwell’s plan calls for a crosswalk with a pedestrian-controlled traffic signal across Moraga at Red Rock Road.

Following lengthy testimony from the public, commissioners commented that the PRFO plan was  “too big, too risky” and had too many safety concerns that had yet to be solved.  Below are some of the issues:

  • High retaining walls and fences rising to 38 feet next to Moraga Avenue and extending behind homes on the south side of the complex
  • Lack of pedestrian safety approaching the Blair Park complex from Coaches Field or other Piedmont streets
  • Pedestrian through access from both ends of the Park along Moraga Avenue
  • Bicycle safety to the site and along Moraga Avenue when roadway is narrowed by retaining walls and parking lots
  • Mass of the proposal
  • Non-compliance with the City General Plan
  • Non-compliance with Chapter 17 of the City Code in numerous instances
  • Traffic problems, including a possible need to install a stop light at the intersection of Harbord Drive and Moraga Avenue because of vehicle backups
  • Roundabouts on Moraga Avenue proposed at the meeting not supported by sufficient data nor previously considered in the EIR
  • Uncertain right of way dimensions on Moraga Avenue and abutting streets
  • Prospect of enlarging Coaches Field having not been fully considered
  • Need for engineering surveys of homes above Blair Park for cracks or other defects before any construction and after construction of hill cuts and retaining wall installation
  • Destruction of natural habitat
  • Lack of information on alternative locations for providing more play fields.

Commissioners commented that Blair Park was not an appropriate location for a play field or other children’s sports facility due to the geography of the area and Moraga Avenue, a major arterial street, and presented too many risks for children when accessing the Park.

A motion was unanimously passed  by all of the Planning Commissioners  to advise the City Council that the Planning Commission cannot recommend approving any of the proposals and listed their objections, specifying the aspects in which the PRFO plan would not be in compliance with the Piedmont City Code and Piedmont General Plan.  The Commission further requested that if the Council decided to ignore their recommendations and proceed with a plan, the Planning Commission would like the matter sent back to them for additional consideration.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the matter at its March 21 meeting.

One Response to “Piedmont’s Planning Commission Says No to Blair Park Plans”

  1. Both these “plans” pave the baseball field with plastic tuff to create the soccer field. That is a net loss of a field, not a gain. It also ruins baseball and softball at Coaches Field.

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