Nov 20 2012

City Settles FOMC Lawsuit with Payment of $30,000

News Release from Friends of Moraga Canyon-

Piedmont and Friends of Moraga Canyon Agree to Settle Lawsuit.

In a win for preservation of Piedmont’s Blair Park in Moraga Canyon, the City of Piedmont and the non-profit Friends of Moraga Canyon (FOMC) have reached agreement to settle a lawsuit filed by FOMC against the City Council for approving a sports field project in the park. The Council rescinded its approval of the project in May 2012, and the City and FOMC subsequently agreed to negotiate a settlement of the lawsuit outside of court.

The agreement calls for the City to pay a total of $30,000: $15,000 to cover a portion of FOMC’s attorney fees, and $15,000 to retain a landscape consultant to develop a landscape improvement plan for Blair Park and to implement the plan.

The intent of the plan is to preserve the park’s healthy native trees, remove dead or dying trees, and gradually replace removed trees with more appropriate species.  The plan will include improving the existing pedestrian trail, eradicating invasive plants, and identifying drought-tolerant plants and ground covers to “create an attractive setting for park users and enhance habitat for birds and other wildlife.”

The landscape consultant selected by the City must have experience in “creating and/or implementing plans for natural ‘open space’ parks similar to Blair Park.” FOMC will have an opportunity to comment on the scope of the consultant’s work plan and on the plan, itself, before it is approved or implemented.  Once the landscape plan is approved, the City will use remaining funds from the settlement agreement — and any additional money the City decides to allocate — to implement the plan.

“We are very pleased with this agreement,” said FOMC President Jim Semitekol. “Our goal from the outset has been to save Blair Park as a small slice of natural open space for all Piedmont residents and visitors to enjoy, to preserve the habitat for wildlife, and provide an attractive gateway to the City of Piedmont.

“We are grateful to have the lawsuit behind us,” he added, “and we look forward to working with the City to develop and implement a successful plan that truly preserves and enhances Blair Park.”

The $30,000 settlement agreement will be paid out of funds previously deposited with the City by the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO), the organization that proposed developing the Blair Park sports field project.  As part of an agreement for project approval, the City required PRFO to reimburse the City for costs in developing the project and to indemnify the City for potential legal actions against the project approval.

To see the full Settlement Agreement and City of Piedmont News Release, go to:

4 Responses to “City Settles FOMC Lawsuit with Payment of $30,000”

  1. Stewardship: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care

  2. I recognize that litigants sometimes get forced into awkward situations, and on advise of counsel, take what appears to be a bad precedent as the cheapest way out. While I believe the proposed soccer fields were a poor fit on the site and created unresolved traffic safety problems, I do not feel that there is anything pristine or natural about Blair Park. It is fill with mostly planted, non-native trees. The prior creek is deep underground in a pipe. If a civic use that would actually fit the site were to come forth, I would hate to see the same soccer field opponents come forth and again vigorously advance the argument that this site should be protected. Yosemite, it is not.

  3. According to Geoff Grote’s May 7, 2012 report there is a net owed by PRFO of $220,000 for consulting work after PRFO’s previous $118,000 deposit was used against the then $338,276 in bills outstanding. Additionally, PRFO had deposited $125,000 for legal indemnification. There is now the additional $30,000 FOMC settlement costs – $15,000 to FOMC and $15,000 to a landscape architect – plus any additional consultant and/or legal fees incurred after May 7.

    Whether the City and PRFO distinguish between additional costs as related to consulting or legal seems a mute point, the Aug. 12, 2011 agreement states PRFO will make the City whole. I understand the City is in conversation with PRFO and I am optimistic there will be no additional taxpayer cost beyond the $194,000 previously forgiven by Council and the approximately $250,000 in staff time.

  4. I don’t think the settlement agreement set a “bad precedent” for the city. With revocation of financial support for the project by PRFO, the city was compelled to terminate the project and settle the lawsuit. Using some of the legal fees owed the plaintiff for park restoration and maintenance seems like a benefit to the city. And the city committed to no pre-conditions for future consideration of what to do with Blair Park.

    Regarding future civic use of Blair Park, it will be useful to revisit the previous report of the Turf Task Force that recommended relocation of the corporation yard to Blair Park and installtion of a lighted, multi-use field at Coaches. The EIR for this proposal found no significant environmental impacts. A significant advantage of this design over the recent proposal for Blair Park is that pedestrian access is already established to Coaches. The recent EIR also found that a traffic round-about at Red Rock Rd. was feasible. With this design, only a single pedestrian crossign of Moraga Avenue is required, resulting in less traffic congestion on Moraga Avenue.

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