Jan 26 2018

Linda Beach Playfield and Park Redevelopment Plans

Linda Beach Field Redevelopment: To (B)each His Own

    A chance to remake Linda Beach Playfield.

Community members gathered to discuss the latest proposals on use of the land in between the existing field and the school.

    The City of Piedmont is currently seeking to redevelop the area around Beach School. After learning about the desires of the residents at a previous meeting, the redevelopment team put together three proposals for people to debate. In the meeting, each proposed plan was explained before we broke up into smaller groups to generate feedback on each plan.

    The meeting fell under the umbrella of the Piedmont Recreation Department (PRD), as PRD is in charge of the Linda Beach facilities. The goal of the meeting was to determine what the community thought about the three concepts presented and which aspects were most and least favored. Since this project is a one-time contract, the meetings do not occur with regularity.

    The contracted firm, Groundworks Office, showed three initial ideas for Linda Beach Playfield, named the “Sports”, “Nature”, and, “Hybrid” designs. The first two were intentionally constructed to fall on extreme opposite ends of the spectrum, while the “Hybrid” version attempted to walk a middle ground.

    The “Sports” concept increases the size of the tennis courts to regulation size, and adds a skate park, expands Schoolmates, and adds lighting. PRD employee and Bay Area resident Daniel LaForte expressed concern about the current, smaller size of the tennis courts, saying, “I won’t play at the Beach courts, because it’s simply too dangerous. I’ve had injuries before.” He supports the expansion of the tennis courts, citing the high demand which has forced him to, “start playing on the other side of the tunnel,” adding that, “The good players won’t play there [Beach],” due to the irregular size.

    After reviewing this proposal, I helped present the group’s feedback. There was a valid belief shared by some of our group members that two regulation tennis courts would occupy too much valuable space, but ultimately, it was clear that the space would definitely be used all the time. Personally, I agreed with the notion that courts would make effective use of the space, especially considering the other options for it.

    The next proposal, “Nature,” featured an event space that would take up most of the area between Schoolmates, which would be expanded, and the large playfield nearby. This proposal sought to create a relaxing, soothing vibe, complemented by the addition of hammocks to existing trees near Howard Street. It sounded cool, but I was afraid the event space might get wasted, especially since there is a nearby picnic area.

    Finally, the “Hybrid” model contains some ideas from each of the other proposals. It has a slightly smaller event space, plus an exercise area, bocce and pickleball courts. Some of the people in attendance were familiar with the government committee that would ultimately decide this issue, and they believe the committee would end up taking the Hybrid proposal, no matter what.

By David Yu, Piedmont High School Senior


City Planning to Redesign Area Adjacent to Linda Beach Playground

Piedmont is a beautiful City that benefits from the thoughtful city planning and design decisions that are implemented.  The Linda Beach area is currently undergoing a redevelopment plan, which we hope will be no exception to Piedmont’s high standards.  The Groundworks Landscape Architecture firm and the City of Piedmont are working together to redesign the space around the Linda Beach Playground with a shared belief that the space has great potential.

    On Thursday, January 18, a public meeting was held, including resident attendees, to consider three design plans for the area and solicit community input on the redevelopment ideas for further design refinements.  A few of the goals for this project are:  (1) to improve the identity of the park, (2) breathe community life into the Oakland Avenue bridge space, and (3) improve site access and connections to the park for use by people across varying demographics.

     This meeting was the second public forum held for the Linda Beach Project.  There will likely be subsequent meetings during the design process.

    The major issue addressed and discussed at the January 18th meeting was the purpose of the new development and how it would be used.  There were three plans presented during the meeting.  They were: a Sports Plan, a Nature Plan and a Hybrid Plan.

    The Sports Plan proposed two regulation size tennis courts, a boardwalk near Howard Avenue, a skateboard park under the bridge along with plans to incorporate public art elements into the structure, terraced seating along the edge of the field, new storm water drain systems, an expansion of the Schoolmates building, a redeveloped tot lot with art incorporated into the structures, and two restrooms on either side of the site.

   The Sports Plan received positive feedback from team members or their families who currently use the space for sports-related activities.  There were some doubts raised about this plan’s ability to satisfy the diverse needs of those other than just parents and their young children, and also concern over the space feeling crowded.

    Some argued strongly against having a skateboard park, because of concern over noise.  While others suggested that a skateboard park would create a safe designated space for skateboarders to stay off the street and practice their sport, given it is illegal in many public areas where signs are posted prohibiting the sport.

    The Nature Plan proposed as its main concept, open programming space.  This entailed the removal of both tennis courts with replacement by a multi-purpose space.  This proposed space would include planted terraces, easy access, improved storm water solutions, and be made from natural material and plants to establish a lush organic environment.

    The Nature Plan focused more on the aesthetic value the space could present by incorporating many elements from nature as well art to welcome the public. This plan faced the most criticism because many people were upset about the removal or reduction of the sports facilities that are currently available to them today, such as the tennis courts and a reduced size tot lot.  This concern was mainly expressed by families who use this space often for their children and people who grew up playing sports on these facilities, who had an emotional connection to the activity environment.  These residents would have to give up their current use of the space in exchange for a nature park.  Many were not happy about that possibility.

    The final plan proposed was called the Hybrid Plan.  This plan incorporated aspects from both the sports and the nature plan.  The Hybrid Plan maintained one tennis court, the tot lot relocated to the south end of the site, an exercise plaza located under the bridge, public event/park space near the tennis court, an extension added to the existing Schoolmates building, and one restroom.  This plan was praised for its ability to act as a space for people with different interests and seemed to achieve broader support as a compromise.  However, the exercise plaza of this plan was criticized for fear it would be underused.  Many people liked the fact that there was only one tennis court.  A tennis player who attended the meeting even stated they would rather have one regulation size tennis court, than the two non-regulation courts there today.

    After the presentations of the three plans, we all turned to our tables with print copies of each plan, including images used to help establish a feeling for what each plan might seem like if implemented.  A representative from either the City or the Groundworks Office sat at each of the tables and listened to questions and critiques about the plans from residents.  Each table group then generated their ideal plan and presented their idea at the end of the meeting to all attendees.

    My table group discussed and agreed on our ideal plan.  It included one tennis court, a public space that could be used for either socializing or events, a relocated and renovated tot lot, two restrooms, a skateboard park under the bridge and ample space throughout for sitting and relaxing.  I thought our twist on the Hybrid Plan seemed ideal because it incorporated spaces for activities across a variety of ages and interest groups.

    After each of the groups presented their ideas, the meeting was dismissed and I spoke with Etienne Fang, a former designer and Piedmont High School graduate (class of ‘94).  She attended this meeting with her children so they could learn about the design process.  Etienne attended Beach Elementary School and her children currently attend Beach today.  She believes that the current plan is a poor use of the space.  She said the tot lot is over-utilized, the tennis courts are usually empty, and there is a useless dirt path behind the field that has been there since she went to Beach that has a lot of potential.  Etienne was confused by the presentations of design plans for the Linda Beach space because she was unsure of their underlying vision for the space.  After the meeting, she said that people want to practice different activities and that the space should be inclusive.  She plans on attending future meetings to provide her inputs on the project.

    This meeting was intended to help the City and Groundworks Office understand first-hand, the wants, needs and concerns about the proposed Linda Beach redevelopment area.  While I was able to participate in voicing my opinion among my neighbors, importantly, this meeting demonstrated to me that city planning is definitely a difficult job, especially when the public has so many conflicting opinions about what should be included in a redevelopment plan.

by Hanna Scoggins, Piedmont High School Senior


The Linda Beach Face Lift

On Thursday, January 18, I attended a city parks and projects meeting about the reconstruction of the Linda Beach Park space.  There was a meeting prior to this one where people voiced what sort of things they would like to see in the design.  This meeting was all of those suggestions put together into three different plans.  Each plan –Nature, Sports and Hybrid — had a difference stance.  All three designs were intended to be the extremes of each idea.  For example, the Sports design was heavily based on activities and how many fields/ courts they could fit into the space.  Whereas the Nature had no sport courts and primarily focused on a community relaxation space, and Hybrid was a mix of the two. 

After the initial presentation of these three options we broke off into table groups to come up with our own ideal Linda Beach Park.  My group wasn’t a big fan of any of the three options and decided to cut out certain things from each and create our own model.  The model we came up with was essentially another hybrid model with heavy influence on interactive light sculptures, skatepark, relaxation space and viewing areas of the sport courts. 

Everyone then shared their own creation of the park but there were major concerns about safety, noise, traffic and usage that might come with a skate park or relaxation space. 

This meeting was primarily to see the options of the people who would be using it, and the designers plan to make a fourth and final design based on this meeting and the suggestions that came from it. 

After the meeting was over a few of my friends and I interviewed and discussed ideas with Etienne Fang.  Mrs. Fang is a designer and came to this meeting to show her kids what the design process looks like along with her own interest in the development.  This project was not only important to her kids, who currently attend Beach Elementary School, but she herself attended Beach and wanted to see the possibilities for the space. 

Mrs. Fang thought that the park was in desperate need of a remodel, saying that “some of the bushes there today were there when I was a kid, and they still haven’t grown!”  She liked the idea of having sports influence the development, but liked the idea of art having a bigger role in the design so that kids are exposed to a broader horizon, rather than just sports. 

The overall outcome of the meeting was very positive, everyone was given the opportunity to have their voice heard which will lead to a successful development of the Linda Beach Park.

by Ty Ozsoy, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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