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Election Guidance - Measure J

Original post made by UndecidedVoter on Nov 2, 2006

The Measure J issue seems to be getting lost in the screaming match of the City Council race. What are the key issues on Measure J?

- How much will it cost to study the idea of ballfields at Bayfront Park?

- Is the measure binding? I've heard that some of the candidates will not proceed with the study if they are elected, even if Measure J passes? Is this true? If the other side wins will they pursue ballfields at Bayfront Park even if measure J is defeated? What is the purpose of Measure J.

I'm open to influence on how to vote this issue. My kids are young and all play soccer. Ball fields at Bayfront park seem OK to me -- except its a ong way to drive out there? Seems too far to have the kids bike out by themselves.

Comments (19)

Posted by FutureSoccerMom, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 2, 2006 at 6:20 pm

Have you ever tried driving east on Marsh or Willow Roads during afternoon commute hours? If not, you may want to give it a try. Under no circumstances should kids attempt that trek on bicycles.

There are any number of obstables to building playing fields atop the Bayfront landfill. One biggie is the estimated $17 million cost. The city can't make ends meet as it is. It has a $1.8 million structural deficit. There certainly is no money to build the fields.

If J passes, I think the city will be obligated to draw up plans, commission an environmental impact report and conduct other feasibility studies. EIRs cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, and $100,000 is not unheard of. I don't think that this is money well-spent.

Everyone would love to see kids have access to more playing fields.

However, many environmentalists and other well-informed folks think pursuing fields at Bayfront is going to waste money and time on a project that will never get built. And it's not just up to Menlo Park. Many other agencies will need to give approval to the project, too.

Measure J seems like a political wedge issue being exploited by the canditates who are supporting it.


Posted by Commuter, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2006 at 6:28 pm

Marsh Road is actually a relatively easy commute in the evening. The traffic flows and there is very little backup compared to Willow Road. Possibly becuase one does not go through neighborhood traffic to access HWY 84. Willow Road is a nightmare. They are not the same, notwithstaning the misinfromation that is being portrayed in these threads.


Posted by SoccerIMBY, a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Nov 2, 2006 at 6:45 pm

One issue I hear a lot from people who have actually used the area is the extraordinary amount of duck excrements all over the area. Many people seem to think that that is not circumventable. I want fields in neighborhoods, not on the outskirts of town. Driving all the way out to Bayfront at 5:15 pm and returning at 6:15 (our schedule this year) is a nightmare our family does NOT need.


Posted by SoccerMomx4, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 2, 2006 at 9:54 pm

UndecidedVoter, Measure J is a non-binding ploy specifically created as a tactic to convince you to vote for the incumbent slate. It's a meaningless exercise, as the council could conduct this study without a vote. And the reason Measure J asks if the public approves of a study (rather than asking directly if the public approves of spending money to build fields there) is that even the incumbents realize that it will never be financially or environmentally feasible to build fields at Bayfront.

I believe all six candidates have said they will abide by the results of Measure J, but the challengers would like to explore other options, especially ones that are better located and less controversial. (Note that all three challengers coach field sports, two are Parks and Rec commissioners, and all have young children.) Bayfront is often cold and windy, doesn't smell terrific, and has the excrement problems already noted--wouldn't be my first (or second, or third) choice for my kids to play even if the site didn't have financial or environmental issues.


Posted by More Misinformation, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2006 at 9:13 am

There is no excrement problem. There is also no land in the middle of Menlo Park on which to build fields. Bayfront Park is not that inaccesible, it is more accesible than Kelly Field. The environmentalists can't have it both ways, it can't simultaneously be a wonderful open space for people to explore and a duck cesspool at the same time.


Posted by BayfrontBuff, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2006 at 11:12 am

UndecidedVoter --

I'm from another town, but have been watching the Measure J debate closely. Because I'm from out of town, I won't be voting on the measure, but here's some information about Measure J:

- The measure is nonbinding. Three council members back it, the other three oppose it. But, according to the Almanac's voter guide, all six council members have gone on record stating that if Measure J passes, they will honor the voters' request to look at fields at Bayfront.

- The initial estiamted costs of building fields at the park is $10 to $17 million. But, information about the costs isn't included in the actual ballot measure language. This estimate does not include additional costs of maintaining the fields if they are built.

- The city says that if the measure passes, and the council explores putting fields at the park, that's when environmental and traffic studies will take place. There are also some unanswered regulatory and permitting questions that need to be answered because the park is built atop a closed landfill.

That's some of the basic info. For more information, I suggest checking out the Almanac's voter guide story on the issue: Web Link

You can also read the ballot arguments for and against the measure, and watch video presentations about Measure J at smartvoter.org.


Posted by AgainstMisinformation, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2006 at 12:29 pm

MoreMisinformation, a park absolutely can "simultaneously be a wonderful open space for people to explore and a duck cesspool at the same time." It's a bird habitat, and when you have birds, you have bird excrement. That's how it works.

The problem with J is that little kids and bird excrement aren't a good combination. If individual parents want to take their kids to Bayfront to watch birds, more power to them, but that doesn't mean that Bayfront provides a hospitable environment for soccer or baseball.

Bayfront may indeed be more accessible than Kelly, but no one uses Kelly now for practices, and there's no reason to think that parents would be more inclined to want to travel to Bayfront. By the way, you can get to Kelly more quickly via Marsh, but that still doesn't make it an appealing site for practices.


Posted by Wondering, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:16 pm

Why doesn't anyone uses Kelly Park? I thought there was a terrible field shortage for youth sports teams.


Posted by More MIsinformation, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:25 pm

Kelly Park is used. The nuance is that it is not oversubscribed for soccer practice on weekdays due to the commute problem for families traveling from West Menlo accross 101. Go there tomorrow - if it's not raining you will see it being used. We do have a field shortage - no one has refuted this assertion and the obvious fact has been studied and recorded by the Parks and Recreation Commission. It's convenient for the Anti-J folks to continuously float this canard.


Posted by NoMoreMisinformation, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:36 pm

With all due respect More Misinformation, isn't there enough misinformation out there already?

The anti-J folks do acknowledge the need for more fields, especially practice fields. Note that the challengers are all baseball or soccer coaches themselves. Kelly is currently being used for soccer games for five-year-olds for three hours on Saturday afternoon, but it's not used AT ALL for soccer practices.

New fields need to be centrally located on sites that are not environmentally vulnerable. It's interesting that you cite the Parks and Recreation report, which does name other sites. There are other possible sites in addition to those named in the report, but when you have a council that rolls over and gives away rezoning (and land) to developers rather than negotiating for field space, it's impossible to make the most of those possibilities. For example, why didn't this council negotiate for playing fields in conjunction with the new Sand Hill Road hotel? Palo Alto now has two fields on El Camino thanks to their council's negotiating skills with Stanford, but MP got zip.


Posted by Take Back Menlo Park, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:47 pm

OK, UndecidedVoter, let your education begin on Measure J. First from those leading the effort AGAINST it:

The Bayfront Park Coalition is spearheading the "No on Measure J" campaign. They argue against the measure by taking it at "face value," with a brief summary of their arguments being, as taken directly from their website:
--- Measure J asks you, the voter, to approve a BLANK CHECK to develop an athletic complex at Bayfront Park while Menlo Park is suffering a financial crisis.
--- Measure J will transform sensitive open space into a developed athletic complex.
--- Measure J is a "bad idea" (too expensive; no limits on spending and no funding plan; construction would unearth hazardous waste; environmentally irresponsible; will take years to complete; will preclude funding for other high-priority projects such as the Burgess gym renovation, etc.)

For more info, see
www.savebayfrontpark.org


Posted by Take Back Menlo Park, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:49 pm

Now our view from:
www.TakeBackMenloPark.com

There is an entirely different rationale for opposing Measure J that springs forth when you DON'T take the measure at face value and instead take into account the politics behind it, especially in terms of its source and backers – namely, the Winkler/Duboc/Boyle political slate. With that in mind, consider the following:

--- It is a totally unnecessary ballot measure – given its completely non-binding nature and lack of specifics, the same basic information on public opinion towards playing fields specifically at Bayfront Park could have been gained both cheaper and faster through the use of a simple telephone survey of city residents – but it wasn't under the council majority of Winkler/Duboc/Jellins.

--- The Winkler/Duboc/Boyle slate has made playing fields at Bayfront THE cornerstone of their campaign – a rather curious choice given that:
--- Winkler/Duboc/Jellins' FIRST CHOICE for Bayfront Park was having a DEVELOPER PUT A GOLF COURSE there, with some playing fields thrown in just to "sweeten the pot."
--- Winkler/Duboc/Boyle have been stressing budget cutting and fiscal responsibility, including moving city services to the private sector even if only very nominal savings can be achieved (for example, the mere $72,000 that city staff said would be potentially saved with privatizing the childcare program), yet they are SEEMINGLY more than willing to spend the $15-17 MILLION that it is currently estimated to cost to put playing fields at Bayfront Park ("seemingly" being the key word here – see below).

--- The measure is completely NON-BINDING, meaning that the city council is free to do anything it wants to no matter what the results of the vote are.

--- There is no independent "Yes on J" organization out there, with the measure being solely supported by Winkler/Duboc/Boyle, who have been funding and distributing mailers in support of the measure.

--- The Winkler/Duboc/Jellins council majority has been talking about Bayfront playing fields since before they were elected FOUR YEARS AGO - as reported in the Almanac back then, their campaign literature for the 2002 election included a major goal of "Including a mix of playfields and open space at Bayfront Park." What has happened in all that intervening time (other than the ill-conceived golfcourse proposal last year)? Not much, despite them being in the voting majority - but now they want you to give them ANOTHER four years to examine the issue?

So what to make of all the above? One very logical conclusion that can be made is that:
Measure J is merely a thinly-disguised political ploy by Winkler/Duboc/Boyle aimed at getting themselves elected AND
They have NO REAL INTENTION of ever putting in playing fields at Bayfront (unless it is tied into some other development project like the original Bayfront Golfcourse Proposal).

Think about it – Winkler/Duboc/Boyle come out "in favor of playing fields," while looking to have their opponents labeled as "anti-playing field" (a dirty, but effective, labeling ploy), thereby seeking to garner votes from anyone with kids or grandkids or anyone who plays sports (so basically just about everyone in town) – but after the election is over, they have a very "easy out" to not follow through on any of this, as the measure is completely non-binding AND the basic arguments against playfields specifically located at Bayfront (too expensive, tough/impossible to do technically, takes money from other projects like renovating the Burgess gym) remain just as valid and therefore can be cited by Winkler/Duboc/Boyle afterwards in killing the project ("well we would love to do this, but…").

Plus, there is a telling precedent for such "about-face" shenanigans from Winkler/Duboc: To get Measure T passed (the funding mechanism currently in place for various Park and Recreation projects, including the Burgess Park and Pool upgrades), Winkler/Duboc saw to it that a "new" childcare facility was thrown into the list of projects to be funded under Measure T when public opinion polling showed that such an addition would lead to passage of the measure. Ms. Duboc then recruited childcare parents to help pass the measure with the "carrot" of a new childcare facility thrown in front of them.

But no sooner had the votes been counted and Measure T passed, Winkler/Duboc did a lightening-quick about-face and – in a classic President Clinton hair-splitting moment – said "new" didn't really mean "new" but rather "refurbished" (and the city ended up with a reduced childcare program as the old police headquarters where the program is now located can't accommodate the same number of kids that the old facility could – but that's another story!).

So here's a warning to all of you involved in (or supporting) youth or adult sports leagues:
Think twice about Measure J and especially Winkler/Duboc/Boyle, who sure appear to be playing you like a fiddle (and many people in this city have unfortunately heard that bad tune before)!

And even if you DO vote for Measure J, don't automatically vote for Winkler/Duboc/Boyle as well – in fact, if you still DO want a significant amount of playing fields at Bayfront, you really SHOULDN'T vote for Winkler/Duboc/Boyle as all indications are that they'll never deliver on their "phantom promise."

But on the bright side, remember that there are viable alternatives out there for playing fields, including the "win-win" suggestion recently made by a resident that General Motors provide playing fields in return for allowing them to develop the "Tyco property" for an auto dealership complex.


Posted by Take Back Menlo Park, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:51 pm

But you don't have to believe us or the Park folks - here's The Almanac's editorial on Measure J:

The Almanac's Editorial Opposing Measure J:

Slippery slope on Measure J; vote no
October 18, 2006
Source: Web Link

Measure J asks Menlo Park voters if the city should investigate building playing fields at Bayfront Park, a 160-acre tract atop a capped landfill.

While this measure is not binding on the City Council, it would set in motion more study of the idea, which we think is foolhardy and should not be pursued. There are several good reasons:

-- Bayfront Park was designed and built in the 1970s for passive recreational uses. If its uneven landscape is developed as playing fields, the park would have to be leveled, temporarily exposing the garbage and leachate collection system. Even when leveled, fields built on a decaying landfill would continue to subside, presenting a serious maintenance problem, even if artificial turf were used.

-- At an estimated cost of up to $1 million an acre (an estimated total of $10 million to $17 million depending on how many fields are built), the high cost of fields may prevent other recreation programs from moving forward.

-- Bayfront Park, which is adjacent to the Bay and the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge, should remain in passive open space. It offers sweeping views of the Bay and is home to many species of birds and other wildlife. Lighted playing fields, and all the associated impacts of multiple sports teams and spectators, would not be compatible with the current use.

If the city is sincere in its desire to add playing fields, and if a new council is willing to commit funds, why not partner with sports league officials to purchase playing time at private schools or other venues? In addition, the recent study by the Parks and Recreation Commission showed that more field space can be squeezed from sites already owned by the city.

It is a shame that the council majority continues to push for any type of development at Bayfront Park, raising false hopes that it is simply open space ready for development. (Remember the failed golf course proposal?) In reality, this is a former landfill that is decaying and subsiding every day. The sooner playing field proponents realize that this is a losing proposition, the sooner they will devote their considerable energy to finding other, viable solutions. We recommend a "no" vote on Measure J.


Posted by Take Back Menlo Park, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:54 pm

And finally, a guest opinion from someone actively involved in local kids sports leagues:

Almanac Guest Opinion Article Opposing Measure J

Guest opinion: Longtime coach will vote no on fields
by James R. Madison, Menlo Park Resident
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Source: Web Link

No one in Menlo Park has agitated longer for more soccer fields than I, both as an AYSO coach and also as a CYSA coach. Field limitations have restricted play ever since I began coaching U-16s 30 years ago.

Residents may, therefore, wonder why I oppose Measure J for development of fields at Bayfront Park. Folks should know that my opposition is not based on preserving the park as parkland. As a soccer person, I would sacrifice 10 percent of the acreage in a heartbeat if I thought it was feasible to construct fields there.

My opposition is based instead on my training in civil engineering and my fiscal conservatism. The cost estimate of $17 million for Bayfront Park fields is fantasy, even in 2006 dollars. The cost by the time any fields were built is likely to be twice as much.

In current dollars, the proposed turf fields alone would cost about $500,000 per acre. Imagine the additional cost of excavating the existing cap and the necessary underlying refuse and disposing of it; redoing the methane collection system; installing a system to prevent leachate from reaching the Bay; obtaining earth for, laying down, compacting and grading a new cap adequate to support the proposed fields without subsidence; and constructing the appurtenant facilities.

Alternates are available, at least for soccer, for a minor fraction of the Bayfront cost.

Local AYSO and CYSA leaders both signed off on a design for renovating Burgess Park that included a full-size soccer field. Unfortunately, the city and its consultant (who, incidentally is also the city's current sports field consultant) deviated from the approved design by carving a segment out of the northeast corner for landscaping and a few parking spaces. This error could be corrected for $200,000 or less with the result we would have a full-size field at Burgess.

Similarly, all that Kelly Park needs to accommodate a full-sized field is some regrading, together with the elimination of 10 or fewer parking spaces and the removal of two picnic tables and three trees, another modest construction project.

Add on the cost of installing artificial turf, if you want, and even lights if they would be tolerated, and we are still talking far less than the cost of a single field at Bayfront.

Former City Council member Chuck Kinney proposed acquiring land at St. Patrick's for an emergency water reservoir and building a soccer field on top. Some of the cost would have been borne by reservoir funds, which would have resulted in minimizing the cost of a field.

If St. Raymond's, St. Joseph's and Sacred Heart were to see their way clear to give a little back to the community by sharing their fields, four or five more full-sized fields would be available.

What's more, while full-sized fields are needed for teenage and adult play, we should not lose sight of the pressing need for cut-down fields to accommodate the majority of our players, who are younger and play on teams of fewer than 11 each.

Spending a disproportionate share of our Measure T bond money on Bayfront Park would preclude the much-needed renovation of various school sites, such as Encinal, Hillview, Las Lomitas and La Entrada, on which our younger players depend. Renovation of Encinal might even yield another full-size field, and the Terminal Avenue site would also be suitable for fields for younger players, as would the former Hoover School that is currently leased out for the German School.

It is no answer to say that La Entrada is not part of the Menlo Park City School District and that Las Lomitas is not even within Menlo Park. Joint powers authorities could deal with that issue.

In short, my view is that we should remember our priorities and spend our limited funds prudently.


Posted by Take Back Menlo Park, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 1:56 pm

So you see, "Undecided", it's pretty clear when you look at it from the various angles and hear from various sources:

NO on Measure J!


Posted by More Misinformation, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2006 at 2:48 pm

The Parks and Recreation Commission report says 2 ADDITIONAL full size fields are required (Web Link). They then recomennded adding .25 + .25 to existing fields (Burgess & Kelly) and identified a site - Hamilton Ave. that is not available. Every time the No J side cites "negotiating with developers" and "central MP sites" they never identify spcifically where they wil get the land - there is NONE! I for one would like to see a specific reccomendation of a specific site that is acceptable to the No J faction where we can build 2 ADDITIONAL fields (and a cost analysis for aquiring and building fields on the sleceted site).

Now if Heyward Robiinson really wanted to do something for Menlo Park playing fields he would have already negotiated with Stanford to allow Menlo Park to use the "fields" that he helped to develop on Sand Hill Road. He could have done this in the last two years when he was on the Parks and Recreation Commission - no one was stopping him.

The bottom line is that the No J people really don't have a solution - expanding Burgess is not a soluttion, expanding Kelly is not a solution, there is no "playing field land" on Hamilton avenue -certainly not 17 acres.

The bottom line is the No on J faction has no plan at all to help expand playing fields.


Posted by NoMoreMisinformation, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 3, 2006 at 3:27 pm

Geez, More Misinformation, you do live up to your name! Mickie, is that you hiding under that nom de plume? Spellchecker broken again, eh?


Posted by Paul Collacchi, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 3, 2006 at 6:37 pm

Just to answer the original question ...

Supposedly, costs associated with studying the idea are those costs to prepare the required California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA") environmental impact report (EIR). I have not seen a staff estimate for those costs, but popularly quoted estimates are $250,000.

I have suggested elsewhere that because of nearby Federally-protected, sensitive habitats, the Federal equivalent, NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act will also certain be triggered particularly because of night lighting. There will be NEPA costs, and NEPA forces its own timing on the approvals.

I would also suggest that "typical" EIR cost estimates given might be on the low side because of the unusual complexities of BayFront Park being a landfill and because no fewer than four government regulatory agencies would have legal standing as "responsible agencies" in granting or denying portions of all the discretionary approvals needed for the project.

In this case, hazard protections, and habitat protections are complex areas where those other responsible agencies have far more expertise and are likely to compel a rigorous set of compliances. Those agencies are also regional, state, or federal in nature and are not subject to local political influences.

The cost of compliances have not been figured into the $18M, and there is no guarantee that the lead agency, I believe "BCDC", the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, will change the terms of the existing permit and grant approvals for the active uses.

Menlo Park's local County Supervisor, Rich Gordon, suggested contacting BCDC to get some indication of whether the project would be considered a non-starter by that agency, but his advice was ignored.

Frankly, its a complex project location, so I think the approvals are likely to be quite costly, and worse, will take far longer than most think, and approvals might not be granted.

I would not be surprised if the environmental approvals themselves took longer than the term of the next council.


Posted by communitymom, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 7, 2006 at 12:23 am

If it were really necesary to have a vote of the people to know whether playing fields at Bayfront is OK to pursue, why didn't the slate put their misguided GOLF COURSE plus playing fields on wetlands at Bayfront proposal on the ballot first too?

The only difference is that the fields-only follow up to the golf course could be dovetailed in a futile attempt to prop up the re-election of the Slate whose dismal record - esp getting priorities wrong by spending staff and council time and money pursuing insane ideas like a golf course at Bayfront meant they needed some wedge issue to distract people with.

Too bad for them, the wedge they picked ALSO costs too much and won't be done in our kids' lifetimes even if it were affordable - which it isn't

Measure J is a a Rovian ruse.
Don't be fooled.


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