Encinal turf Schools & Kids, posted by Disappointed, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2007 at 10:56 am
I'm surprised that this topic hasn't been raised already on this board (but then, this isn't Palo Alto, whose Town Square is bustling with pertinent discussions, not just sports scores, announcements of community events, and reprints of newspaper letters).
Although I am glad that the MP council voted 3-2 to turn down the approval of funding for turf at an elementary school not located within the city, I am disappointed at the process. Many members of the community spoke against the turf, but their arguments were overlooked by several council members, who were apparently more in tune with their own inner voices (or some other voices, who knows?) than with the input provided by residents.
I am particularly unhappy by Rich Cline seizing the opportunity for a rant against people who don't like "uncute" teens. The issue isn't whether or not they're cute, or whether they deserve a place to play (I think they do). It's whether the playfields for an elementary school should be transformed into a single adult-sized field, thereby displacing playing areas for younger kids (who will go...where?), and whether the city can legally spend in lieu fees to support that transformation.
Instead, the council allowed itself to be distracted by discussions about teens (love 'em? hate 'em?) and the environmental consequences of turf (personally, I think it's a wash when you consider the chemicals they put on the grass, the fuel used by mowers, the amount of water required and other factors). I hope that the school board does a better job of staying on topic tonight.
Posted by Kimberly Wainscoat, a member of the Encinal School community, on Apr 4, 2007 at 11:34 am
I am the chair of the Environmetnal Committee at Encinal. At Laurel and Encinal schools (sister schools) we plan to maintain Chemical Free Lawns. We began the process last year and will be pursuing it with the District mainetnance team Fall 2007. The Parks and Rec Commission decidedly to selectively omit this fact when weighing in their uninformed minds the the amount of impact of lawn versus artificial turf. We should not have any pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals or anything of the kind leaching into our groundwater or into our childrens' developing bodies.
Posted by Responsible Resident, a resident of the Menlo Park: Park Forest neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2007 at 11:46 am
Isn't this Encinal-playing-fields an environmental quality issue? For that matter, isn't the Environmental Stewardship "green ribbon" task force agenda an environmental quality issue? Wasn't the debacle over Bayfront golf courses and playing fields an environmental quality issue? So, where is the Environmental Quality Commission in all this? Counting trees?
Posted by Rich Cline, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2007 at 12:50 pm
"I am particularly unhappy by Rich Cline seizing the opportunity for a rant against people who don't like "uncute" teens..."
I did indeed make some direct comments about the need for teens to have facilities to play and recreate given our city's shortage of fields. My comment about younger children being cuter than teens was an attempt to inject humor into a contentious topic.
I disagree with your assertion that I ranted against people. I was trying to illustrate a point that we are underserving a very crucial child demographic. I was asking for help and consideration in the future about teens and turf. Nothing more.
To retiterate my position -- the need for field space in Menlo Park is most acute at the early teen age demographic -- 13-15. At 15 years and up there are high school facilities to try to make up for the void. I spent six years on the parks and recreation commission searching for fields for this age group. I was urging folks to consider this need and consider helping us find such resources in the future. I campaigned and voted against Bayfront fields for a variety of reasons -- cost being the primary driver.
Last night I asked the residents and council to try to avoid campaigning against turf. I believe we will need to consider turf -- some form of it -- in some future instances if we are to maximize the use of the small amount of fields we do have.
I think the people who spoke -- many of whom I know and respect -- made very strong comments. Although I voted to consider putting turf at Encinal -- it was not without careful consideration and not without six years of experience looking at fields, parks, schools and youth activities.
The public process worked and I am satisfied with the outcome even though I was in the minority.
Posted by out of the park, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2007 at 1:21 pm
Hey, Rich, what about what the first speaker said last nite about GM' 22 acres? Does it all have to be paved over with excess inventory? Isn't the city giving some tax breaks? Why not some reciprocation from GM? Just a couple of acres would do it. Think of the commercial/advertising/revenue generation possibilities of a joint venture sports park development. Aren't there any sports fans among the GM brass?
You could name it Bohannon-Boyle Baseball Park, Cline Diamond, Fergusson Field (that's 2 ss's in Fergusson), Robinson Recreation Complex or whatever!
It's right there for the asking, you've got almost $2million in Rec-in lieu, plus Measure T, donations, naming rights, all kinds of funding sources.
Posted by Disappointed, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2007 at 2:03 pm
OOTP is right: we need to see some more creative thinking here. Lots of empty lots on El Camino that could be used by kids (or adults) for sports if the city actually negotiates rather than rolls over whenever a developer is in the neighborhood.
Taking away space from younger kids to give it to slightly older kids is not the answer--that's just a shell game. Nor should our city's in lieu fees be handed over to a school in Atherton, especially as Atherton refuses to pony up. When the first round of Measure T funding was being disbursed, parks and rec was explictly informed by the city that none of that money could go to Encinal, even though its field was in THE worst condition of any local field, beause the school is in Atherton. Has something changed, or are we not adhering to a "don't ask/don't tell" policy in city government?
By the way, Rich, how about figuring out how to fix Burgess so that it's got a full-sized soccer field again? A full-sized field was in the plans, but someone, somewhere along the way wasn't paying attention, and when the dust settled, the field was full-sized no more. I suspect that can be fixed without sacrificing a diamond or costing more than $600,000.
Posted by Got Fields?, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2007 at 7:21 pm
Er, Need Fields, "Bayfront Park"? You haven't been around long have you! Or you have quite a sense of humor. Our city council needs to give not take from the community. The four soccer fields on the corner of El Camino in Palo Alto are a great use of unused space. Very creative solution. What about the El Camino car lots--you could have lights, plenty of parking, easy access. And we all want something done with that. Is the city council considering this? If not, why not?
Posted by out of the park, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2007 at 8:19 pm
Those car lots are owned by Stanford Univ., ground leases expiring in 7 years, no extensions, so they will sit there idle until Menlo capitulates to Stanford's desire to redevelop them in to high density mixed use projects like up in Redwood City, while the old Anderson's Chevy will become a convention mtg. hall for Stanford Park Hotel.
Palo Alto got soccer fields at ECR/Page Mill in a deal to allow Stanford to demo all those office bldgs. along ECR at Calif. ave. and build high density/mixed use projects. Stanford built the soccer fields as a condition of up zoning. Menlo has no leverage with Stanford because they rubber stamped the hotel at 280/Sand Hill without a quid pro quo. If you ask nicely, maybe Menlo could rent some field time from Stanford on their soccer fields on Sand Hill west of the Hospital. So the only short term hope is GM/Tyco at Bayfront/Willow, plus it's in the city redevelopment area and the city has power of eminent domain if GM doesn't want to make nice. But I suspect Detroit will see a win/win gold mine opportunity which will bring a captive sports audience to their showrooms out there.
Posted by Go Bears!, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2007 at 10:15 pm
Oh, come on OOTP. Everyone in town knows that Cline is the only non Stanford alum on the MP council. Why shouldn't Rich be the chosen one to cut a deal with the Robber Barons on the Farm (aka Stanford Mgmt.)
for Menlo Park. So you've got 7+ years left on the car dealer leases, and Wayne "Love them Dolphins" Huizenga Auto Nation group plays the jilted bride, for effect. So Sir Rich gets Stanford Mgmt. to appreciate that Menlo can just make the idle car dealer lots a "blighted area", eligible for Redevelopment Area envelopment, eminent domain proceedings, and, VOILA!, you've got the AXE!. Stanford's Prez. Hennessey detests bad press, so he tells those Trammell Crow trained brutes at Stanford Mgmt. to make nice with Menlo, and you get 7 years of soccer at no cost at Mucci Buick,etc. (before the superturf warranty expires). Because, Stanford puts in the soccer fields because they fear they will be condemned out of landlord status in Menlo ECR corridor (currently subject to a recent council approved $135K help us "planning" study).
Posted by Also Disappointed, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 9:56 am
Dear Disappointed, Reasonable people can come to different conclusions about whether they prefer grass or turf, and had the council considered all the information and voted against, I would have been fine with that. But I just watched the video clip of the Council meeting, and what disappointed me about the process is that the Council voted to short circuit a complete evaluation of the pros and cons. Boyle said that the school board meeting the night after the Council meeting was going to provide a lot of the pro/con information that was missing in the City staff's analysis on issues such as environment, safety, appropriateness for an elementary school setting, etc. The motion that Cline and Boyle advocated was not to approve turf, but rather to simply move forward with the consideration process and allow the information that would have come from waiting for the school board's discussion to be taken into account. It was kind of interesting to see how easily Robinson, Ferguson and Cohen were scared into short-circuiting a complete evaluation of turf. I'm glad to see that Cline had the guts to stand up for the principle of getting all the information before making a final decision. I'm not surprised about Kelly -- she flip flops at the slightest provocation. And there is no point even commenting on Moonbeam Cohen. The one who really surprised me was Robinson. I voted for him because I thought he was going to be independent. I would have expected him to go along with Cline on this issue and at least get all the information on the turf before closing the door on it.
Posted by So much for process, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 10:57 am
The real issue, whether it is even legal for Menlo Park in lieu fees to be diverted to Atherton, should have been given more consideration than it was. That may arise again, so I hope someone tackles it.
Boyle's intent was to give the school board the green light, with some conditions and caveats. The school board would have gone ahead with the turf project if that motion had passed, so it's simply wrong to say that the motion was focused on getting more information. If that were the case, Boyle could have moved to table the issue. Rich's siding with him seemed emotional rather than rational.
Andy and Heyward understood the concerns and properly voted against the motion. Kelly voted against it because her handlers were sending her signals about the consequences of looking un-green. Upshot: the field will be renovated in a manner that appears most appropriate for the students who attend the school, and Menlo Park still has its in lieu fees. Those of us who care about recreation and our city hope that they will be a little more careful about where they choose to spend that money.
Posted by Also Disappointed, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 4:54 pm
How can you say that the school board would have gone ahead with the turf project? The meeting they were to have the night after the council meeting was the first time it was on the school board's agenda. I agree that a discussion by the council over whether or not they wanted to invest rec and lieu fees in a school field, especially one in Atherton, was entirely appropriate. But that is not the reason that Andy, Kelly and Heyward voted to kill consideration of the project. Kelly said she doesn't think our community is ready for turf. Heyward said he had concerns about the appropriatness of turf for school aged children. But the city staff report didn't even cover that issue, so where is he getting his data? It seems like he caved to pressure from some fanatics who wanted to stop the debate before it could even get started. The council should have been willing to move forward for another week or two to see what position the school board would take on the desirability of turf for the Encinal students during the school day after seeing what their staff would present the next night.
Posted by fergetaboutit, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 8:31 pm
Whoa, AD, don't you remember that Ruben told Kelley that he wrote the staff report as instructed, because the school board reps. had approached the city and an agreement was hammered out without considering negative implications, ready for rubber stamp from the council. Are you kidding, the school board to turn down $600K from the city when they had asked for a city buy in in January? We're not as naive as you assume. That's why the voting majority had the common sense to run away from this "deal". This arrogance on the board's part is really ticking people off because they are not subject to city/state review, other than CEQA. Stay tuned for more unpleasantries.
Posted by menlo park resident, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2007 at 10:06 pm
Where does all of that AYSO money go to? With the thousands of parents forking over money every year to that organization, I believe that there are thousands of dollars unaccounted for. How about AYSO putting some of it's cash towards fields?
Posted by ForBetterInformation, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2007 at 10:52 am
Why doesn't the council demand more professional staff reports, not slanted or incomplete documents intended to support conclusions staff either wants or thinks the council wants. We need more professionalism, and with a new city manager perhaps it's finally possible. If the new Council demands it, too.
It's quite ironic to me that the fields problem is not being addressed across cities, and that residents of other communities expect Menlo Park residents to foot the bill. While I am not certain I support How the council arrived at its decision, I have a huge concern about Menlo Park using fees outside of Menlo Park when those fees are supposed to go towards new Menlo Park park facilities. How about soon?
Posted by Inside info, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2007 at 3:48 pm
AD, many of us who are involved with kids' sports received emails the morning after the council meeting stating that the school board had decided to pull back from turf because of the vote. They had yet to hold their own official meeting at that point, but the decision had been made. Ferget is correct.
menlo park resident, AYSO has set aside money in a reserve for fields. This is well known, and the reason that the city/board expected AYSO to chip in a big chunk of the costs. I understand that Little League was also being asked to chip in, but not sure they would have acquiesced given that the proposal was not really baseball friendly.
Posted by menlo park resident, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2007 at 9:40 pm
I have been a parent here for 17 years and have not seen one dime put towards new fields by AYSO. How long does their "reserve fund" go on until they spend some money. Where is that money by the way and who collects it and who oversees it? An interesting organization.
Posted by II, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Apr 9, 2007 at 8:06 am
menlo park resident, AYSO was one of the three parties (along with the district and city) that invested quite a chunk in the renovation of La Entrada about ten years ago. I don't remember the exact amount but it was well into six figures.
All the kids' sports programs will be seriously constrained over the next couple of years because of the public school construction. Would be nice to see the Atherton private schools step up to the plate, as they have lots of green space that doesn't get a whole lot of use. Or maybe some Atherton residents will let kids practice in their backyards? I'm serious. We MP residents have been footing the bill for facilities that are used almost as much by kids from Atherton as by kids from MP, and there is almost 0 quid pro quo.