Jan 27 2014

Blair Park Improvements Partially Approved

Long Deferred Maintenance Will Be Done-

At the Tuesday, January 21, meeting, the City  Council approved moving ahead with a portion of a landscape plan for Blair Park and authorized landscape design consultant Bob Berkeland, of Restoration Design Group (RDG), to complete his firm’s drawings for the entire plan. 

RDG’s landscape plan was broken down into two phases by the Piedmont Park Commission and City Public Works Director. They recommended that the Council approve only Phase I, which consists primarily of long deferred maintenance.  The Park Commission asserted that further improvements to the park should not be undertaken until safe pedestrian access is provided, another traffic study is conducted, and community consensus is reached on the future of the park.

The Phase I work consists of: removing all Monterey Pines, & all ivy, blackberries & other invasive weeds, creating a 5-foot diameter weed-free zone around each tree on the hillside, surveying the south property line to make certain the City knows the park boundaries, making the park an “open meadow” with possible planting of native grass seed, irrigating the meadow with a water truck, placing log barriers, rustic bollards or split rail fence along Moraga Avenue curbside, retaining the park as an off-leash dog area, and adding the park to the City’s weekly maintenance schedule.

Phase I could be submitted to the Capital Improvement Project Committee for funding this year, although City Administrator Geoff Grote noted that the park  qualifies for money from the facilities maintenance fund. He said the $300,000 estimated Phase I cost must go through the budget process. 

Under Phase I, there will be no proposals for pedestrian access, no new parking, no seating areas, no pathway and no permanent irrigation system. There also will be no gateway monument identifying the park as an entrance to Piedmont, as proposed by the Park Commission.

Despite urging from a number of speakers that the Council approve the entire plan (Phases I and II), particularly an informal, loop pathway called for in the RDG contract, the Council declined to do so, and they made clear that their approval of Phase I does not mean they will proceed with Phase II.  Council member Margaret Fujioka stated, “The park belongs to everyone, and we want to know what the community thinks.” Councilmember Robert McBain added, “The community needs to be on board.”  And Council member Jeff Weiler said, “We are not committing to Phase II.”

In response to questions by Mayor John Chiang, Berkeland said he would complete his drawings for the entire Park plan, since that is part of his contract. At the same time, he noted he has spent far more time on the project than his $10,000 fee.   He said the Phase II drawings would not include a monument or an irrigation system, which were not part of the original concept.  The cost of Phase II was estimated to be slightly over $360,000. 


Blair Park is considered by some a verdant visual respite from concrete and asphalt, and by others an eyesore. After years of study and proposals for use of the park, the Park Commission and consultant requested a survey of the southern boundary lines to identify what property is owned by the City.  Another recommendation attempts to control overgrowth of invasive plants and keep trees trimmed through weekly maintenance as with other City parks.

Staff and Commission report on the recommended phases for Blair Park improvements. 

One Response to “Blair Park Improvements Partially Approved”

  1. The city’s contract with with RDG clearly calls for design concepts for improvements to Blair Park and given RDG’s creative portfolio
    (http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/govern/staffreports/2013-08-19/RDGblairpark.pdf) I hope more design is forthcoming. As set forth in the Scope of Work from the contract:

    Task 5 ‐ Design Plans & Review Phases

    RDG will complete and submit construction documents to the City with reviews at the 30% and 80% phase. … Upon review by the City, RDG will attend one meeting to review the Cityʹs comments. Following comments from the 30% submittal the RDG will complete the improvement plans to the 80% complete phase. At a minimum, this will include plan sheets of the proposed site improvements, plant species identified, pathway design, erosion control measures designed, draft specification sections (in CSI format) identified, and details completed. RDG will also include a preliminary cost estimate.

    So by the 80% phase there should be considerably more design detail than was shown on 1/21 and pathway design is clearly one element called for in the contract. Developing these designs does not commit the City to anything and would be in the spirit of the settlement with FOMC which did call for deferred maintenance and discussion of improvements to the park. And if a public dialogue about the use of the park is really desired, detailed renderings of simple pedestrian access and other improvements will assist that discussion. Traffic solutions for access to the park have been evaluated: http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/recreation/docs/mcsfp/roundabout_memo.pdf.

    Improvements to the existing trails at the park would be appropriate for the Phase 1 rehabilitation work to be considered later this year by Council and CIP. There is not pedestrian access TO the park but there is vehicular access (6 parking spaces) so public use is contemplated for this park and does occur. Maintaining existing trails seems required of the city.

    Absent from any Park Commission or Council hearing about this project is the applicability of the city’s Civic Bay Friendly Ordinance. Civic projects in excess of $100,000 are subject to this ordinance (this project clearly is) and given Council’s stated interest to encourage Bay Friendly landscaping among city residents, using Bay Friendly landscaping in this gateway city park would seem a perfect opportunity to achieve this civic goal.

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