Sep 16 2014

OPINION: Flawed Evaluation Process for Use of $507,325 Park Funds

Former Council Member Garrett Keating finds Committee rejection of proposals inappropriate . 

It was revealed by the chair of the CIP Committee [Capital Improvement Program Review Committee] at the September 15, 2014 Council meeting that the Blair Park proposal was not even evaluated for WW [East Bay Regional Park District Bond Funds worth $507,325] eligibility, because it was considered too controversial.

The charge from the City Council to the CIP Committee was to evaluate the eligibility of staff and public proposals for WW funding, and the Council repeatedly stated that no proposals were to be prejudged. On several occasions, this intention was explicitly stated to Moraga Canyon residents requesting improvements to Blair Park. It is unfortunate that the Committee chose to categorically dismiss the Blair Park proposal, which on paper would seem to be the most appropriate use of WW funds.

Public comments solicited for last night’s meeting were strongly in favor of improvements to Hampton Field, but the only improvements being considered at this time are to the tennis and basketball courts and the play structure.   And under the current design, converting the outfield to artificial turf will not be possible because of insufficient pervious surface.

Garrett Keating, Former Piedmont Council Member and Current Member of the Piedmont Public Safety Committee

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.  There are no recordings or minutes of the CIP meetings.

5 Responses to “OPINION: Flawed Evaluation Process for Use of $507,325 Park Funds”

  1. The Hampton facility does need work, but the disappointment
    is that the CIP Committee didn’t even bother with the facade
    of a balanced approach as Mayor Fujioka had asked for. Of
    course Blair Park is controversial, but largely made so by bad City Hall processes and the City Council at the time – with the exception of Mr. Keating – that allowed a project that was inherently unsuitable to the site and had fundamental and experimental traffic changes without adequate public input. Using the WW funds for Hampton has now been made controversial.

    So if taxpayer bond money is so blatantly allocated without
    good processes, taxpayers should more carefully examine
    future bond measures being asked of them including
    upcoming Measure B.

  2. I agree with Mr. Schiller, there should be nothing controversial about throwing a little money at Blair Park. For starters, a crosswalk to Coaches’ Field, some paths, trash cans. It’s a nice space that has been neglected for too long.

  3. The Blair Park proposal was publicly vetted at several Park Commission and City Council meetings and Council has authorized the preparation of 100% construction drawings. There has been no public opposition throughout the course of these hearings and the threat of a lawsuit is a red herring. The Park Commission had reservations about doing too much park improvement without solving pedestrian access which is why the project is phased. Phase 1 is simply the removal of weeds and diseased trees – no increased access. Tree removal and stump grinding at Blair Park is a completely eligible proposal for WW. A crosswalk to the park is a linch pin to an expanded Coaches and ped/bike access to Blair Park and Moraga Ave. Perhaps staff will figure this out and recommend it as a CIP project. Rick raises a good point – be careful what you vote for, you may not get it.

  4. The mini-roundabout as the lynch pin of PRFO’s (Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization) traffic plan for the Blair Park Sports Complex at the Maxwelton/Moraga Avenues intersection was not conforming to best practices traffic design for roundabouts. The street is too narrow, too steep, Maxwelton Avenue comes in steeply at an obtuse angle, traffic speed would have been reduced on a major thoroughfare to below an acceptable level, the sight lines are severely restricted, emergency vehicle access is limited, sidewalk potential is severely limited and the possibility of basic bicycle safety is non-existent (recall at literally the last minute, the single bike lane was pulled right before Council voted approval of the project). Virtually all standard practices concerning roundabout design were ignored.

    The Moraga/Red Rock Canyon intersection is wider and on a more gentle slope with better sight lines. I believe the best solution is to have adequate parking for Coaches Field on the same side of Moraga Ave. But a thoughtful plan that follows accepted best practices may allow for pedestrian crossing at Red Rock. Certainly a crossing may be suitable there while it was entirely inappropriate at Maxwelton.

  5. The point of this discussion is the process by which projects were considered eligible for WW funding, not pedestrian solutions for Blair Park though Rick is correct in his comments. City staff has in its possession an analysis by LSA showing how a pedestrian crossing at Red Rock Road is feasible and the EIR for the Moraga Canyon project would no doubt fulfill any of the CEQA requirements for Phase 1. The question really is: was the CIP committee aware of this? Without minutes, video or a written report it’s hard to tell what the committee was thinking. Perhaps CIP committee members will join the discussion here and explain their decision.

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