Dec 7 2011

Council Approves Blair Park Project 4 to 1

The proponents, Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO), made a polished presentation at the December 5 Council meeting resulting in a 4-1 vote for approving a new sports complex at Blair Park.  Council Member Keating voted against the project, while Council Members Barbieri, Chiang, Fujioka, and Wieler voted in favor.

Residents and others involved in youth sports made pleas for approving the space for soccer, baseball, and lacrosse.  Speakers from the club teams familiar with the lack of grassy play space asked the Council to accept the pending donations to build the project.  The NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) label was frequently used against the opponents.

Oakland Council Member Libby Schaaf opposed the project and requested more time to attempt a compromise and avoid litigation.

Many speakers from all over Piedmont spoke against the plan, including former mayor Al Peters and residents familiar with project financing, environmental laws, and planning.  They suggested there were numerous legal, financial and moral flaws in the project.

The Council had previously asked the Park, the Recreation and the Planning Commissions to consider the project.  While the Recreation and Park Commissions recommended the project, the Planning Commission voted 5-0 against the proposal.  Planning Commissioner Melanie Robertson took the time over the weekend to measure roadway widths on Moraga Avenue discovering the plans were not accurate nor complete.  She also went to the Safeway parking lot on Grand Avenue in Oakland where there is an approximate 20′ retaining wall to take pictures showing the height compared to a person.  She then showed another picture with a person standing next to a 32′ wall with striking impact.

At close to 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday after hearing from about 70 speakers, the Council voted to approve the proposal, but left unanswered many questions.  The opponents to the development were unable to dissuade the Council from what many had predicted would be a 4-1 vote to approve the project.  Council Member Keating dissented on the basis of incomplete information and better alternatives.

The proposed lease to a private organization, Blair LLC, during construction was not approved and will return to the Council.  The final project specifications and costs were not nailed down.  The project will be going to the Planning Commission for design review. 

The lights and artificial turf on Coaches Field were not approved.  City Administrator Geoffrey Grote recommended against this proposal, advising there were insufficient funds available to cover all requirements of the project, such as proper management of water run off from the site.  The project will remain on the list of Capital Improvement Projects.

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