Aug 1 2013

OPINION: Setting the Record Straight on Piedmont Playfields

The following was submitted to PCA, in response to a 7/24/13 newspaper article entitled “History repeats itself with playfields in Piedmont”.

A recent news article on the history of playfield development in Piedmont provided a superficial review of the facts and left out a lot of the context.  The 1986 Grass Playfield Committee proposed new playfields at Hampton and Linda Fields, Dracena Park, Moraga Canyon and Witter Field, to be funded by an annual tax of $90 per household.  Within a year of the defeat of that proposal at the ballot, City Council convened the Turf Field Task Force, which, through an extensive series of public meetings, scaled backed that proposal and recommended mitigations to address the concerns of neighbors of the new facilities.  Two of these were no field lighting at Coaches Field and no field development in Blair Park.  Contrasting that process with how the Blair Park proposal was vetted may explain the different reaction of the neighbors then and now.  Rather than focus on the reaction of neighbors, a more useful exercise might be to evaluate how the Blair Park proposal was managed and communicated to the public by city staff and project proponents.  As the saying goes, those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

One positive outcome of the Blair Park process was a field design that shows how a 300×150 foot multi-use field can be built at Coaches Field without relocation of the City’s Corporation Yard to Blair Park.  One element of the defeated 1986 playfield proposal was a grand plan for Moraga Canyon that proposed a football/baseball field at what is now Coaches with relocation of the Corporation Yard to Blair Park.  Logically the best solution for Piedmont’s field needs, it’s cost likely doomed it at the ballot.  The new proposal by resident Chuck Oraftik shows how a multi-use field can be built with minimal impact to the Corporation Yard.  And in light of Mountainview Cemetery’s proposal for the adjoining land, adding additional field space to Coaches is a real possibility.

Residents interested in the future of playfield development in Piedmont should participate in upcoming public hearings on how to expend $500,000 the city has received for the development of recreational facilities.   Coming from a voter-approved ballot initiative, City Hall seems to be advocating for using these funds on the renovation of Hampton Field, which does need some repair.  But these funds can also be used for expansion of Coaches Field and other facilities.   City Council needs an objective analysis of how improvements at different fields in town will increase the overall hours of use of the city’s recreational facilities.

Garrett Keating, City Council Member

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.

6 Responses to “OPINION: Setting the Record Straight on Piedmont Playfields”

  1. The Turf Field Task Force (“TFTF”) force comprised a group of residents with a wide range of views. This expansive approach best served the community; regrettably, that balanced approach fell by the wayside as the Blair Park Proposal single-tracked through City Hall. In the same July 24, 2013 newspaper article, City Manager Grote stated: “One difference I do see between what happened then and recently with Blair Park is the willingness of the neighbors to move past what has happened and to set their differences aside.” Mr. Grote is at odds with one of the primary conclusions of the July 24, 1991 TFTF report:

    “Experience with existing athletic fields and recreational facilities has established that surrounding neighborhoods are seriously impacted by lightning, noise, heavy traffic, increase litter, and congested parking. The negative impact directly influences the quality of life that Piedmont residents expect from their neighborhoods . . . A serious effort must be made to minimize these problems and to guarantee that overzealous sports enthusiasts will not seek to increase the burden which they have place on the affected neighborhoods (TFTF p75).”

    The Blair Park Proposal is confirmation that the “overzealous sports enthusiasts” have gained unprecedented political power at City Hall to the detriment of good public policy and balanced community input. How the $500,000 of WW bond money is spent will hopefully have a more inclusive and balanced process but only if residents voice their preferences and concerns.

  2. $500,000 may pay for design and CEQA. Just don’t come pleading for more money to pay for your fantasy!

  3. WW funds can only be expended on projects for which a CEQA analysis has been completed. Three EIRs have been conducted for the various proposals for Morgaga – one on 1986 plan, a negative declaration for the city’s initial artificial turf proposal, and the recent Moraga Canyons EIR. The city does have $600k set aside for artificial turf at coaches and $500k set aside for repaving and other road improvements to Moraga Avenue. And the cemetery may be willing to undertake some costs of field expansion if it dovetails with their proposal. A relatively minor expansion of coaches field could achieve the large multi-use field that was the objective of the Blair proposal.

  4. A pseudo-historical, pseudo-objective, distraction-laden post from Mr. Keating, the purpose of which is to start warming up the locals for another adventure sponsored by the PRFO team. The idea is to make it seem a logical and foregone conclusion that Coach’s Field needs to be expanded, including an incursion into the Cemetery. All of this, of course, has “minimal impact”. And any objection thereto obviously would be the usual carping from non-civic minded obstructionists.

    Meanwhile, an article about the Cemetery’s plans in the August 9 Piedmonter-/Montclarion has General Manager Jeff Lindeman saying nothing about this Cemetery property conversion being on the table, or that an adventure of this kind is in any way associated with the extensive activity that has already occurred. According to him, it’s all about urgently needing more grave sites.

    What we have here looks like civic business being conducted in private off-line space, not in the public on-the-record space. Of course, there may be hearings later on. According to Lindeman in the referenced article, a presentation to the City Council is “still months away”. The recent letter of Mr. Rood to the PCA and to the Alameda County District Attorney re the apparent violations of the Brown Act by members of the City Council come to mind.

  5. Councilman Keating is not beholding to PRFO and was the one council person to vote the Blair Park project down. The local print media – the City Hall Print Media Outlet – has marginalized Keating and anyone who is not strongly in favor of new sports facilities regardless of impact and one-track process. Mr. Keating’s intent appears to be a measured creation of more useable recreation space that is consistent with the 1991 TFTF report, the EIR done at that time, how the community has evolved, respect for the many Moraga Canyon residents and robust community input with equity for all within an other than opaque process.

    The PRFO Blair Park Process, with the blessings of Piedmont City Hall, circumvented how I perceive Garrett’s intent and commitment.

  6. David, I think you really miss the point of my post. The news article I refereneced basically was claiming that “history repeated itself” with Blair Park, trying to claim the opposition to new playfields was nothing new in Piedmont. When one understands how coaches was achieved through a long and inclusive process and contrasts that with the Blair Park process, that analogy quickly fails. If you can correct the history or any distractions, please do.

    Public hearings on the expenditure of WW bond funds will begin in the coming year and use of those funds on the expansion of coaches is one topic that can be discussed at those hearings. As a resident of Moraga Canyon you may want to avoid that topic but an objective assessment of the use of these funds to maximize field use should be an obvious start to the discussion. Synergy with the plan for the cemetery is only conjecture on my part, as neither the cemetery nor city have come forward with explicit proposals.

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