Nov 20 2011

Opinion: Blair Park Sports Project Will Not Be ‘Green’

Resident Responds to “green benefits” of sports field –

The following letter was received  from a Piedmont resident.

In the November 9 issue of the Piedmont Post, Mr. Lance Hanf, the treasurer of the Piedmont Soccer Club wrote the opinion piece “Blair Park green benefits: just do the math”  I’d like to answer that letter.  Someone so involved in the private sports club world would, of course, write to support building the proposed soccer complex in Blair Park.  However, citing emission statistics to justify calling clear-cutting a forest a “green benefit” for our city is Orwellian Newspeak. Green solutions take us from asphalt to ecosystems, not vice-versa.  Murder is NOT meat, and wanton deforestation is NOT green.

We have something green right now, a forested canyon wall.  This soccer complex will take out 150 mature trees and invade the root systems and change the drainage of many, many more.  PRFO’s pretty flowery concept drawing trees won’t be anything more than parking lot popsicle sticks for a generation, if they can grow at all on compacted engineered earth, and if they’re ever even planted.  Landscaping, as we find out looking at the revised plans, is part of “phase 2,” you see.

The proposed project will add parking lots, will strip-cut the earth of the canyon wall, raise a barren cement retaining wall rising to four stories high in place of the deforested trees, and add yet another toxic artificial turf field to our city.  Los Angeles and New York have banned any new installations of the stuff (USA Today, June 10, 2009), and it’s banned from landfill in the European Union.  It’s too toxic to throw away!  Even our Federal Environmental Protection Agency has pulled endorsement of it (Associated Press, June 4, 2009) but because of travel emissions, that’s a green solution, says Mr. Hanf.

Crumb rubber fields leach toxins into the earth, killing  insects and small mammals that feed our charming flocks of wild turkeys and quail, our majestic hawks, horned owls, eagles and vultures, and our elusive foxes.  Crumb rubber fields raise the heat signature over the field by 34 to 55 degrees (P.S. Namkung M.D. to city of Santa Cruz, Feb. 28, 2011,) are hot for kids to play on in the summer, and can lead to heatstroke.  They leach, outgas, and generate toxic dusts that contain lead, cadmium, tuolene, benzine, the neurotoxin styrene, and the human carcinogen butadiene.  The dozens of children who live on Scenic and Alta and Moraga directly over the park and directly in the path of its groundwater and runoff will not just be exposed to play exposure, but will grow up with all these toxins in their environment.  Perhaps when you accuse the soccer complex opponents of being Nimbys, perhaps when you espouse “saving” kids, you might want to consider the actual life of my asthmatic seven year old, as Blair Park really is my back yard, and she will have to live with its toxins every day, all year round.

Right now we have a forest.  It gives off oxygen, not carcinogens.  It lowers our city’s heat signature and offers shade.  It does not elevate summer heat signatures as parking lots and crumb rubber do. The forest shelters and feeds our animals and migrating birds with natural forest seeds, berries, and wild plums. The trees naturally and gracefully hold our vertiginously steep hillside in place without a prison like four story cement wall or twenty foot berms next to the road, and it is an oak woodland, a haven of healthy, heritage California Coastal Live oaks in a region where sudden oak death is becoming epidemic.

The Coaches Field expansion alternative would provide the full-sized field that cannot fit into Blair Park at all, would not destroy the forest, and would offer the exact same emissions lowering benefit that Mr. Hanf presented in his opinion piece. Despite being a close neighbor of Coaches Field, I’m a mother, a school volunteer, a committed donor to the giving campaign, and I love my community’s children.   I support a Coaches Field expansion with a natural grass field as a better, greener, and far less costly gift for our kids.

Morrisa Sherman, Secretary of Friends of Moraga Canyon

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


3 Responses to “Opinion: Blair Park Sports Project Will Not Be ‘Green’”

  1. My Uncle the mayor of the small town where I grew up used to have a saying about politicians, “do not confuse me with the facts I am trying to make a decision.”

    Excellent article but you have confused the city council with facts!

  2. While I agree with Morissa about the futility of analyzing the Blair Park proposal as “green” in light of what it proposes for Moraga Canyon, in this age of increasing global temperatures and declining water resources, we do have to “do the math” as Mr. Hanf suggest to guide decisions about how we use our resources. To that end I have compared the green benefits of the field options: Alameda Point, Blair Park and Coaches Field expansion.

    Gas and cost: Mr. Hanf estimates that 300 cars (1 player per car) traveling 20 round-trip miles to Alameda Point 2 times a week for 11 weeks is 132,000 miles and at an IRS reimbursement rate of $.51 per mile, that comes to a cost savings of $67,320. More likely, if 75 carpools (4 players per car) make the same trip, that comes to 33,000 miles. And with gas at $3.75/gallon, 75 carpools at 20 mpg traveling to Alameda Point twice a week for 11 weeks comes to $6188 in cost savings. So the fuel and cost savings of the Blair Park proposal appear not to be as great as suggested by Mr. Hanf. The Coaches proposal would produce the same gas and cost savings as the Blair Park proposal.

    CO2: Using the EPA’s emissions estimate of 0.916 pounds CO2/mile, round-trip emissions from Piedmont to Alameda Point would be approximately 15 pounds CO2 per car per trip ( Assuming that 120 Piedmont cars (600 trips per week) do travel to Alameda Point each day, CO2 emissions for this field option come to 1800 pounds CO2/day. The Blair Park proposal affects CO2 emission by slowing vehicles down which leads to an increase in CO2 emission per vehicle due to a reduction in engine efficiency at lower speed. Using a model from the California Air Resources Board, 12,000 cars traveling the 2 mile round trip though Moraga Canyon at 35 mph produce about 18,600 pounds CO2/day ( When that speed is reduced to 25 mph, the CO2 estimate for 12,000 cars making the 2-mile trip through Moraga Canyon is 23,250 pounds CO2/day, a net increase of about 4600 pounds CO2/day. This is a first approximation but it appears that the Blair Park proposal leads to a net increase of CO2 emission for Piedmont over trips to Alameda Point. To the extent that the Coaches proposal can be designed to eliminate the round-about at Maxwellton, it will result in less CO2 emissions than the Blair Park proposal because cars can maintain higher speeds and more efficient combustion.

    Noise: There are no noise impacts from the Alameda Point option. Average noise measured at Coaches on November 14 – 15 at a distance of 130 feet from 50 people at a U8 soccer game was 70.3 dB. Noise estimated for Blair Park at a distance of 130 feet from 188 adults attending a U14 soccer game (worst case scenario) was 65 dB (DEIR, 285). How do 188 people at Blair Park produce less noise than 50 people at Coaches? Clearly they can’t and the noise analysis in the EIR is clearly flawed. The Coaches alternative would reduce noise impacts by placing the smaller field at Blair and the largest, noisiest field at Coaches. At Coaches, the noisiest field would be within 300 feet of fewer Piedmont homes than at Blair Park.

    Water: The sustainability comparison here is not with a grass field at Blair Park or Alameda Point, neither which are viable options, but with the alternative at Coaches. The question is whether the Coaches alternative would use less water, more natural vegetation and require less utility infrastruture to accommodate surface runoff. The Blair proposal requires extensive non-native species to mask the retaining walls and berms and underground storage vaults to contain the surface runoff from all the impervious surface. With the Coaches proposal, reduced field size at Blair lessens the need for vegetation screening and would therefore require less water. It may also be possible to design a smaller field at Blair such that no underground water storage be required and no underground utilities be relocated. With an expanded Coaches, no new vegetation would be required. Additional runoff could be more efficiently and economically controlled through retention at Mountain View Cemetery. Given the reduction in water use with the installation of artificial turf at Coaches, the Coaches alternative uses less water than the Blair proposal.

    So, the Alameda Point option is probably the greenest option from Piedmont’s perspective. The trade-off is the time commitment to get there. If Piedmont chooses not to make that commitment then it should consider the greenest of options, which appears to be Coaches expansion. Unfortunately, Blair PArk proponents refusal to contribute to that proposal has prevented Piedmont from studying this option.

  3. I live across from Linda field which has crumb rubber turf. On hot days, the extra heat is unwelcome and I wish it had been done using the coconut husk/cork/sand fill that was used at the new Havens field. Has crumb rubber turf really been proposed? I’ve not found that info, but I’d be very surprised if that is the case. You may be working yourself up over a non-issue with respect to crumb rubber.

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