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How do we solve the playing field shortage in Menlo Park?

Original post made by Kids need more playing fields on Apr 10, 2007

The majority on the City Council opposed Measure J to develop playing fields in East Menlo Park. They said we need instead to create playing fields more centrally located within our community. Now, the City Council has voted 3-2 against moving forward with any further consideration of joint-use agreements with the schools for artificial turf playing fields despite the fact that city staff said artificial turf is playable 100 more days every year than grass. So the only way to increase the availability of playing fields for our kids is to come up with a plan to buy land in central Menlo Park and turn it into playing fields. Is there any realistic and doable way to get a plan in motion to make this happen?

Comments (22)

Posted by worried parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 10, 2007 at 2:38 pm

The lack of playing fields has been an issue for so long now. It seems like the parent groups are just giving up because it seems hopeless. The editorial in today's almanac also says that we need to get serious about finding more playing fields for our kids, and it suggests that we need to make developers set aside land for more playing fields. But does anyone have any good ideas about where is there any land available for this purpose, regardless of who is paying for it?


Posted by Atherton kids need playing fields too, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 10, 2007 at 3:00 pm

I would like to see the Atherton Town Council and the Menlo Park City Council establish a joint effort to solve this problem. Atherton is no longer the place that it used to be. There are many young families who have moved into Atherton over the past 10 years. Our yards might be a little bigger than Menlo Park's, but we also are feeling the shortage of quality playing fields for our children. It's time for our elected officials to work together make a plan and get moving on this!


Posted by Responsible Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Apr 10, 2007 at 3:35 pm

The soccer playing field shortage in Menlo Park has been a major political issue for a long time. What hasn't been a major political issue is the quantity of public open space within the city, regardless of its use.

I would ask for a comparison with neighboring towns on a per capita basis; how many square feet of open space, such as parks and playing fields, are there presently in Menlo Park? My fear is that with the ongoing obsession for higher density housing, we will build and pave over every available square inch of our city with no new open spaces even under consideration.

What if we were to require of all developers henceforth that they provide, through purchase, in lieu open space within our city limits? Such spaces can be dedicated to various uses, recreation, pedestrian, passive, whatever, so long as they remain open and environmentally friendly.

If the open space problem is not solved, the soccer fields problem will become purely academic.


Posted by Constructive Ideas, a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 10, 2007 at 4:08 pm

Responsible Resident, You've got a very good point! There is a big article in today's Almanac about POST (Peninsula Open Space Trust). We need some kind of initiative right here in Menlo Park and Atherton to create more public open space (playing fields and otherwise). It's unlikely that private financing would work for this kind of iniative. But given the strong need in our community, couldn't our local elected leaders could come up with a plan (including how to finance it) and put it before the voters of our community? Given the success that both the Las Lomitas school district as well as the Menlo Park school district has had getting public support for improving education funding in our community, it doesn't seem like this is such a wacky idea. The Las Lomitas and Menlo Park school boards have done an amazing job improving our schools over the years, putting multiple well planned initiatives before the voters. The last major iniative to improve our community that hasn't come from the schools was Measure T. With some visionary and proactive leadership from the City and Town Councils, our community should be just as willing to support a plan to increase parks and playing fields.


Posted by go bears!, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 10, 2007 at 7:31 pm

check out the GM site at Bayfront/Willow 22 acres.
check out the blighted abandoned car dealerships that have 6-7 years left to run on Stanford ground leases. How about getting Stanford to put in the fields, since they won't sign any lease extensions for the dealers, and the artificial turf will wear out in about 7 years. Then Stanford can build 40 foot mixed use around the soccer fields. If Palo Alto can make such a deal why can't Menlo? Must be a few influential Stanford alums still left in this town


Posted by Fields 101, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 10, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Please note that the turf proposal would not have added to the stock of available fields but would have eliminated two fields used by smaller children in favor of a single field for teens and adults.

The solution proposed in today's/tomorrow's Almanac editorial is hardly new. And, as go bears! notes, there are a number of possible sites. The problem is that we've had a string of City Councils that have been kowtowing to developers, apparently afraid that if they put conditions on development, the developers will pick up and leave us to the worms. Taint so, and if you don't believe me, drive by the corner of Page Mill and El Camino and see the sweet field deal that Palo Alto negotiated with Stanford.

An even quicker and cheaper solution: the private schools in Menlo Park and (especially) Atherton have lots of great fields that they don't let outsiders use. Meanwhile, their students sign up for recreational leagues in soccer, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, and a host of other sports that rely on public (school and city of MP) facilities. If tuition-paying parents applied some pressure on private schools to share their facilities--as the public schools are legally required to do--our field shortage would be alleviated. Just like that. No new fields required.


Posted by go bears!, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2007 at 11:52 am

The liability insurance and the Atherton neighbors threat of legal action prevents the private schools from letting the public use their fields. Sorry, school activities only.


Posted by We're not asking for the whole cake, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 11, 2007 at 12:22 pm

Nice try, but the fields don't have to be open to the grubby hoi polloi. The private schools could contract with AYSO, Little League, the City of Menlo Park, and other entities to ensure that the facilities are used only by those kids, who may be reasonably well behaved and worthy of using the fields even if they do attend public schools.

Why is it considered appropriate for a St Joseph student to play soccer at Hillview but not for a Hillview student to play soccer at St Joseph?


Posted by go bears!, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2007 at 12:52 pm

It's still liability insurance and Atherton neighbors. It's been a dead end approach for a decade. Non-school functions are prohibited.


Posted by But I'm clean and brush and floss, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2007 at 1:07 pm

The public schools require liability insurance of $1mm. Not a big deal. The private schools can do the same instead of using liability insurance as a pathetic excuse. As for the neighbors, maybe they will change their minds after their kids are shut out of all the sports' leagues in town. Maybe we MP residents are tired of subsidizing their use of our fields when they throw up smokescreens to preclude our use of Atherton fields.


Posted by CreativeSolutions, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2007 at 1:14 pm

How about this, Go Bears: MP pays for the liabilty insurance (that's sure cheaper than trying to buy land or convert Bayfront Park) and as for Atherton, we as a town finally get some you-know-what and tell those Richie Riches to start sharing or else we're going to inspect EVERY Atherton house for fire code violations!!!


Posted by go bears!, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2007 at 1:28 pm

Atherton residents expected to shoulder larger burden of community service costs? For crying out Almanac! That'll be the day. LOL!


Posted by AYSO parent, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 11, 2007 at 2:40 pm

The likelihood of solving this problem with private facilities such as private school campuses seems pretty unlikely. While public schools make it a priority to make their campuses accessible to the community after school hours since it is the community that owns the campuses, private schools are no more public resources than any other private property. It may be hard to construct an agreement for public usage that the private schools will feel is in their best interests in the long-term. It seems that the only realistic way to solve the field shortage is by increasing the amount of publicly owned spaces. AYSO was very interested in investing to upgrade the Encinal field to turf to help improve the shortage of community field space for kids. The Encinal field was always planned to be used by kids, not adults. The reason for making the field as long as possible was to enable as many small fields as possible to run crossways -- this is what we do at La Entrada as well. The "adult use" disinformation was just part of the crackpot comments that were intended to scare the Encinal neighbors and thwart a responsible investigation of the pros and cons of turf at Encinal. The disinformation campaign succeeded in scaring off the City Council from allowing the investigation of turf to be completed, so now the school district is proceeding with renovating the field in grass. While this renovation will certainly improve the poor existing condition of the Encinal field, it will do nothing to increase the amount of usage this field can handle. Also, it is not helpful for Menlo Park and Atherton residents to be trading insults over the field shortage or any other issue. Our kids mostly go to the same schools (Las Lomitas and Menlo Park districts) and we have a great deal of shared interest. We need to work together for the common good.


Posted by Ignorance is Bliss, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 11, 2007 at 4:28 pm

"The reason for making the field as long as possible was to enable as many small fields as possible to run crossways -- this is what we do at La Entrada as well. The "adult use" disinformation was just part of the crackpot comments that were intended to scare the Encinal neighbors and thwart a responsible investigation of the pros and cons of turf at Encinal."


AYSO parent, a little information never hurt anyone. From the Menlo Park City Staff Report:

"At present, the City does not maintain a U-19 sized soccer field at any City parks or school joint-use sites. The only available U-19-sized soccer fields are at Menlo-Atherton High School, Menlo College, and Sacred Heart Prepatory School. . . . A study completed by the Parks and Recreation Commission in 2006 identified one or more adult-sized fields as the City's greatest need for additional fields."

The proposed U-19 synthetic field was not intended primarily for the benefit and use of Encinals' K-5 students--that's why it was inappropriate. The City expressly sought to install an "adult-sized" field--presumably so-named to accomodate, er, adults.


Posted by AYSO parent, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 11, 2007 at 5:06 pm

There may have been some interest in adult use on the part of the City, but there is no way that AYSO, Little League or the school district would have gone along with prioritizing adults over children. The school district has always given preference in both access and use fees to activities that benefit its students. And AYSO would not have invested in a field that was not going to give top priority access to the needs children. If the City had allowed the evaluation process to be completed, this would have been made clear all involved.


Posted by AYSO board member, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2007 at 5:26 pm

If there were plots of land available for fields, then AYSO parent might have a valid argument. But given the reality, and given the fact that the private schools do have fields that are not used that much, maybe it's time to think outside the box and (horrors) allow other children to use those fields. No one expects private schools to give away anything, but it would be a nice gesture for these tax-exempt institutions to indicate their support for the community by renting out available fields.

As for Encinal: if you build it, they will show up in droves. The Felton Gables neighborhood had a right to be concerned about the high probability that their neighborhood would become the parking lot for adult players. It's downright silly to suggest that AYSO, even if the organization had donated a chunk of change, would have had much authority over the use of the field.


Posted by co-opting fields, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 11, 2007 at 7:43 pm


AYSO Parent wrote:
"There may have been some interest in adult use on the part of the City, but there is no way that AYSO, Little League or the school district would have gone along with prioritizing adults over children. "

Dear AYSO Parent, The city was going to be managing the field at Encinal and scheduling players. AYSO, Little League, and the school district would have no say who played there. If you want factual information before you write more, please see the Menlo Park City Website for the facts.


Posted by athletic parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 11, 2007 at 8:35 pm

God forbid we priortize parents over children. I love watching the soccer players across the street from Stanford Shopping Center. Watching adults playing sports? Making sports OUR priority? What's wrong with that? I think it is much healthier to have the kids pull up lawn chairs to watch their parents play than the other way around.


Posted by Hillview parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 11, 2007 at 9:28 pm

I've heard complaints from CYSA soccer folks that the City is giving adults priority over kids at the Burgess League fields. I don't know whether or not this is true, but maybe this is why the school district said they would not consider any agreement with the City that did not require top priority be given to kids' activities. Adults need access to fields, too. But the school district always puts the needs of the kids as the top prioritiy.


Posted by soccer mama, a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Apr 11, 2007 at 10:27 pm

For a while, AYSO was able to use Sacred Heart's field. It was fabulous. Too bad that access went away.

What I don't understand is why somehow it is MENLO PARK residents' problem to solve where to put more fields when ATHERTON kids use our city's facilities and take advantage of fields on school grounds that our taxes pay to maintain.

Let's get some cross-community planning and fair sharing in place.


Posted by RH, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 11, 2007 at 10:40 pm

Has anyone heard how the artificial turf fields at Hoover and Fair Oaks elementary schools are working out for their schools? The fields at La Entrada are in such terrible shape even though they are closed down very frequently throughout the winter due to rain.


Posted by Angela Hey, a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Apr 17, 2007 at 11:05 pm

Reduce the emphasis on soccer to make more room for other life adventures - play other sports as well - have less frequent meets - have shorter games - improve scheduling. Offer a diversity of sports - cross-country trail running, adventure races, swimming, tennis, basketball, baseball, rowing.


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