Piedmont Neighborhood News

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Archive for November, 2008

Revisiting “Fair and Equitable”

Posted by Len Gilbert on November 30, 2008

piedmont-measure-e-portablesI’ve had some positive comments on my post about a fair and equitable solution for placement of portables during Measure E construction. Overall, I think the Piedmont community agrees that we need to do what’s best for the educational needs of our children.  And not just “our children” (my own children) but “Our Children” being all the kids of Piedmont.

It’s hard to decide what is the best solution, when clearly each of the solutions has problems and affects someone or some group that another plan might not impact as greatly. However, we must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each proposal with the goal of giving our children the best educational experience possible, even during construction.

In my mind, I’ve narrowed the decision down to a few key factors.

  • What is best for the educational needs of the children?
  • Which option is the most cost-effective? (let’s spend the money on school repair and improvements, not portables). Remember to consider the costs for restoring to it’s current state the site when construction is complete.
  • Which option is least disruptive to the entire community and individual neighborhoods? Of special consideration here are programs and facilities outside the scope of school-aged children. Recreation dept programs, schoolmates, tot lots and preschool facilities, etc.
  • Which location provides walkable options? A walkable location can encourage families who currently use the car to start walking to school. Some options may contribute to congestion or inconvenience, but congestion issues are different that children’s safety issues. If we alter traffic, adding to already busy traffic areas, safety becomes a consideration.
  • Which option can be implemented in time for students to “move in” for Fall 2009 classes? PUSD properties seem to offer the fastest options for setup of the portables.

The joint Piedmont city council/Piedmont Unified School District board meeting is Monday, December 1st, 7:00pm at City Council Chambers, 120 Vista Avenue.


Please leave a comment on this issue.

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Winter Spare the Air Alert in Effect Today

Posted by drewbendon on November 25, 2008

No cozy fires today.

The Winter Spare the Air season runs from November 1, 2008, through February 28, 2009. This winter, for the first time in the Bay Area, it will be illegal to burn wood, pellets, or manufactured fire logs when a Winter Spare the Air Alertis issued.

In the wintertime, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) becomes the pollutant with the greatest impact on air quality. Fine particulates can bypass the body’s natural defenses, penetrating deeply into the lungs and even passing into the bloodstream. Prolonged exposure to the fine particulates in wood smoke has been linked with aggravated asthma, lung and heart disease, and increased mortality rates. Wood burning in fireplaces and woodstoves creates about one-third of the winter particulate matter air pollution in the Bay Area.

When the morning forecast predicts unhealthy particulate matter concentrations, BAAQMD will issue a Winter Spare the Air AlertWinter Spare the Air Alerts will be posted on the Spare the Air home page and on BAAQMD’s home page atwww.baaqmd.gov. It will also be recorded at 1-877-4NO-BURN. Residents and businesses can sign up for e-mail AirAlerts and automatic Phone Alerts as well, so they can “check before you burn.”

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Where to put the kids? What is fair?

Posted by Len Gilbert on November 24, 2008

The issue of Measure E interim student housing has become a bit of a hot topic around town. Various ideas for the location of temporary portables are being floated, including Witter Baseball field, Hampton Field, Coaches Field/Blair Park, Havens plus tennis courts (possibly throw in 801 Magnolia), and Beach Field. Each of these locations has a positive and negative side.

Measure E was positioned to retrofit our schools, not to build new ones. The Becker plan found a way to rebuild Havens using those funds and I think that’s a good thing. It is visionary to take what could have been functional, but uninspiring and figure out how to do something great for the community. However, the direct benefit, and therefore the bulk of the hardship, should be borne fairly and equitably.

So where should the portables be? What is fair and equitable?

Let’s look at Witter Baseball field. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m very pro-baseball and as a PBF board member, I know that losing Witter Baseball for 3-4 years will have a huge impact on the older players, but also ripple through community baseball and soccer programs of other age groups. However, when I take off my baseball hat and consider the issue as a Piedmont resident with school aged children, it seems to be not such a bad idea. It’s central, has plenty of room for portables, and keeps students (except Beach) generally close to their original schools. Witter baseball field adjoins Wildwood, PHS, and PMS and is about 4 blocks from Havens. (see this map to get an idea of the relative location of Havens, Wildwood, PMS, and PHS to the Baseball Field.) The main baseball diamond could be retained for practices as well as student use during the day. And while direct drop off via automobile is problematic, the central location means that walking to school is viable from most of Piedmont. Overall, this plan is better than many of the others. It keeps each school together in a centralized, walkable location.

Another option is Beach field, however this seems to be extremely weak proposal and not well thought out. This location is not easily walkable from most of Piedmont, so cars will be blocking Linda every morning and afternoon. Already there are traffic safety issues on Linda during school hours or soccer or baseball games. How would this be improved by adding to, possibly more than doubling, the student and teacher population there? Drop off and pick up would be a traffic nightmare. It also seems extremely unfair for Beach, which has the smallest amount of repair work needed, funds allocated, and improvements planned, to have to take the brunt of the interim housing effort for 3-4 years.

Hampton field is a decent choice, at least at first glance. It has four streets that come into a drop off point, has a large, contiguous field that could house portables, and also would allow for a small playground and basketball courts on site. Again, there are negatives. These include that the four approaches all meet at the same corner, so drop off would need some traffic coordination. Also, Hampton is very highly used by youth baseball, softball, soccer, as well as community tennis and basketball. If you think losing Witter baseball has a big impact on youth sports, imaging losing Hampton. The impact is much greater and directly affects a large pool of children aged 6-12.

Whew, what’s left? It seems there are still three or four options that won’t totally crater youth sports or put the burden on a school community who isn’t the primary beneficiary of the bulk of the Measure E construction. First is Witter Baseball Field, mentioned above. Aside from youth sports impact, it seems to offer the best location if the goal is to provide some continuity and community for displaced students. The field impact primarily affects 3 baseball teams. Second is Crocker Park. Yes, it’s not been considered, but it appears to be about as big as the Beach location and its temporary use would displace no youth sports or overburden one of the smaller elementary schools. Third is Coaches Field/Blair Park. The big negative here is traffic. However, the housing density is low compared to the other proposed locations, and if school walkers cross at Highland Avenue at the light, there is a separated sidewalk directly from Highland to Coaches field. The space to be considered should be all parking lot areas, the baseball field’s deep right field, and the corporation yard. Those three spaces alone allow for a huge area for portables, the baseball diamond as a field for school use, plus baseball, softball, and soccer could still use the field evenings and weekends. Parking for staff would be across Moraga in Blair park.

The final option is the one Drew mentioned in a previous post. “Flatten 801 Magnolia and put the PHS portables on that site and on Bonita from Magnolia to Vista. Once the Havens rebuild is complete, move the WW kids, and then the Beach kids, to the Havens portables.  Since there are (I think) about 40% fewer kids at WW and Beach than at Havens, there would be a need for fewer portables, so instead of portables taking up the whole play space, they could build the new field and all the kids would have a big field (and the brand new MPR) for PE, etc.”

None of these proposals are perfect. Each has enough drawbacks and problems to take it out of the running. Yet, we need to figure a way to get this work done quickly and safely, and most of all, fairly. I encourage you to participate in the discussion at two upcoming community meetings.

Dec 1, 7:30 pm, City Hall, Joint meeting of the City Council and Board of Education
Dec 10, 7:00 pm, City Hall, Regular meeting of the Board of Education


Feel free to comment on this post. The purpose of this blog is discussion and debate for the Piedmont community and you are encouraged to participate in the conversation.

Posted in City News, Parks, Recreation, School, Youth Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

1st PUSD Green Initiative Committee Meeting

Posted by movenden on November 15, 2008

Below is the agenda for our first meeting, as well as a list of the committee members. Please let others at your school know that this is an open meeting and that comments and feedback are welcomed. The main goal for this meeting is to review the charge of the committee, share our visions of how Piedmont schools can become more green, and start developing a common vision. There will also be two short presentations to start orienting us to some of the issues at hand (see below). Committee members, be sure to bring your calendars, as we will be setting meeting times for the rest of the school year. Look forward to seeing you on Thursday!

Agenda for 1st PUSD
Green Initiative Committee Meeting

Thursday November 20, 3:30-5:30 p.m., PUSD Offices, 760 Magnolia St .

  • Introductions
  • Review tasks/charge of committee
    • 3-year Policy and Action Plan to present to School Board by June 09 (with policies for Sustainability in Construction, Waste Reduction, Landscaping and Grounds, Environmental Education)
    • Year 1 (2009-10) Develop policies for Energy Conservation, EPP (Environmentally Preferable Purchasing), Climate Action
    • Years 2-3 (2010-12) Continued implementation and evaluation of action plan and policies
  • Presentation: What is a green school? What are other schools doing? (Presentation by Deborah Moore of the Green Schools Initiative)
  • Visioning process (hear from everyone, summarize) (30 min)
    • Questions: How could you envision our schools being greener 4 years from now?
  • Presentation: Sustainability in Construction: Modernization & Measure “E” (Presentation by John Nelson of Murakami/Nelson)
  • Comments on Sustainability in Construction presentation
  • Set future meeting times
    • January (PUSD Green Progress Report, continue with Sustainability in Construction, start with Waste Reduction and Environmental Education)
    • March (Continue with previous policy areas, Landscaping and Grounds)
    • May (tie it all together, getting ready to present to School Board

Margaret Ovenden

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Portables on the PHS Baseball Field for 3 Years?

Posted by drewbendon on November 5, 2008

As I understand it, the logistics of the seismic retrofit will require moving some PHS functions, and the whole of Wildwood and Beach Elementary Schools into portables each for one year.  I also understand that the current proposal is to house each of these in successive years in portables on the PHS baseball field.  I understand that one rationale for this is that a large portion of the cost of portables is installation.  But there are logistical headaches here too.  For example, when WW is in its space and Beach is in the portables, will all the Beach kids enter from the WW drop off area?

I am not currently aware of any other options that are being formally discussed.  The School Board will take up this topic at its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 @ 7:00.  They may address it again at a special meeting the following week, but I understand that a resolution is desired by the December 10, 2008 regular meeting so that there is time to arrange for the portables to be in place prior to construction beginning.

Because the discussion is restricted to a short time frame, it might help if other ideas were floated, so here are some of my own thoughts:

1) Flatten 801 Magnolia and put the PHS portables on that site and on Bonita from Magnolia to Vista.

2) Once the Havens rebuild it complete, move the WW kids, and then the Beach kids, to the Havens portables.  Since there are (I think) about 40% fewer kids at WW and Beach than at Havens, there would be a need for fewer portables, so instead of portables taking up the whole play space, they could build the new field and all the kids would have a big field (and the brand new MPR) for PE, etc.  I bet the kids would think that this is incredibly fun and you could even mix things up a bit by, for example, having the Havens 5th graders stay in the portables so that the WW and Beach Kindergartners could be in the new classrooms and the 2 schools’ 5th graders could mingle, like they will the next year at PMS.

3) Put the portables for WW and Beach at Blair Park, or

4) Dracena Park  – where there is already one real bathroom that the teachers could use and a playground, or

5) Hampton Field – where there are real bathrooms a playground, basketball courts and tennis courts. (If the new field at Havens is open, this would only be a slight downgrade in field space from what exists now and it would only be for 2 years.)

With only one month to investigate any idea other than using the PHS baseball field, I encourage you to come to the School Board meetings and to contact your School Board.  I also encourage you to comment here.  Len and I started this blog primarily to increase the opportunity for meaningful discussion of issues like this.  Blog commentary allows you to see what others are saying and respond as if a live in-person discussion were happening.  You are not restricted to a 3 minute presentation to the Board and there is the opportunity for real give and take.  So let’s hear it Piedmont.  How would we like the School Board to handle this issue?


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