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Archive for the ‘Parks’ Category

Blair Park and the Forgotten Fate of Coaches Field

Posted by Len Gilbert on March 20, 2011

You’ve heard the argument for and against Blair Park. You’ve seen the mailers, seen the lawn signs. But lost in the shuffle is Coaches Field. This field is the only 60 & 70 foot baseball diamond in Piedmont. Thanks to the efforts of the Piedmont Baseball Softball Foundation (PBSF) and the Piedmont Recreation department, the field is now one of the best in it’s class. It’s nicer than fields in Orinda and Moraga and a jewel for baseball and softball in Piedmont.

The "soccer" plan to pave over the baseball/softball field for use as a soccer field.

This abomination has been suggested.

But the controversy around Blair Park has led some ill-informed and short-sited individuals to suggest paving over the beautiful baseball field with a plastic soccer field. Somehow this is considered “the lesser of two evils.”  I strongly disagree and hope that you do too. The baseball and softball programs should not be sacrificed in the name of 24/7/365 soccer. The field at Coaches was clearly designed as a baseball/softball field, with soccer as a secondary use. There are already U10 soccer games and practices there. To sacrifice baseball and softball for soccer is not appropriate.  This is the only baseball field that can accomodate our 10-13 year olds. The city only has two baseball fields: Hampton and Coaches. Hampton is used by the 7-10 year olds and Coaches by the next group. Our older Pony players (13-14yr olds) use the Witter Baseball field for games, which is a school district property, but they also practice at Coaches. Coaches field is also used for adult and youth softball. To lose this wonderful field to a plastic grass soccer field would be a shame to Piedmont and a disservice to the youth baseball and softball programs.

Whatever your feelings about Blair Park, I ask that you sign the PBSF petition for lighting at Coaches Field, then write to the city council asking them to retain the natural baseball field surface of grass and dirt.

  • Please sign the online petition
  • Show up at the Piedmont City Council Meeting, 7:30 pm on March 21st, to support both lights at Coaches and no paving over the baseball field.
  • Send an email to the Piedmont City Council to let them know that lighting coaches is a well-needed project and an appropriate use of a city park and that covering the baseball diamond with plastic is not acceptable.

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Objection to PSC & PBSF Support for Blair Park

Posted by movenden on March 20, 2011

Dear Boards of the Piedmont Soccer Club and Piedmont Baseball and Softball Foundation,

As a parent with kids in both soccer and baseball/softball, I am very disappointed in your decision to use your membership lists to promote the proposed Blair Park project. Calling members’ attention to the playfield space issue and to the public process that is going on around this project would be a legitimate use of those lists, but encouraging people to support one particular project is not. Families are very busy and don’t have a lot of time to read through EIR documents, watch lengthy commission meetings, etc. So when they get a communication from a trusted source such as their children’s sports leagues, they are inclined to assume it is an apolitical, neutral message that just states the facts, and many will adopt the view you propose. I know that your one-sided use of your lists has eroded many families’ trust in you.

I started out “on the fence” about the proposed Blair project. Even though in my heart of hearts I would prefer leaving Blair Park as open space, I support finding solutions to our playfield shortage, and I see the benefits of an in-town solution. I am willing, to some extent, to give up on open space in order to meet playfield needs. But as I read the drafts of the EIR and listened to the different hearings, I became progressively disillusioned with both the process and the project. When I commented at the hearings on the first draft EIR, I focused only on the synthetic turf infill issue (which I am happy was resolved in favor of an organic, safer material). At that time, I did have concern that alternatives to the proposed field (both in-town and elsewhere) needed to be studied, but I assumed that would be part of the EIR process. So I was pretty shocked when the next draft came back, and the only evidence cited in the sparse discussion of field space alternatives was a consultant’s discussions with our own Recreation Department Director. I had assumed that thorough, independent research would be undertaken. I also was amazed that child pedestrian safety issues were hardly covered either (and I still don’t think those have been sufficiently addressed …)

I also have strong concerns about long-term liability issues for the City and several other issues. All of these are outlined in the attached letter to the City Council that I have signed on to. As that letter states, I believe that we can and should take the time to look into expanding Coaches into a U-12 field and building two small practice fields at Blair. This would not require cutting deeply into the hillside at Blair, putting up such large retaining walls, and looming out over Moraga . Plus many of the trees and more of the open space could be preserved. I think this would be a much more rational, cost-effective, and less risky use of the available space. It should have been explored from the beginning, but, since it wasn’t and since there are so many problems with the currently proposed Blair project, we need to take the time now to look into it.

I completely understand that volunteers with the sports clubs have devoted many, many hours to searching for playfield space, and that this is a very difficult problem. I am very appreciative of all the efforts of so many in our community to make it possible for our children to play team sports. But I do think we have collectively gone astray by letting ourselves get involved in a one-sided process that only looked at only one project. It’s not too late to get back on a better course. I hope PSC and PBSF will take a leadership role in pushing for a compromise project that will be better for our community.

Margaret Ovenden
Fairview, Piedmont

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Coaches Field Lighting Support Appeal

Posted by Len Gilbert on March 17, 2011

Piedmont Baseball Softball Foundation (PBSF)  is asking for you to support the lights on Coaches Field. I am very involved with the program as a softball and baseball coach and a board member. In the context of Blair Park and the issues around the proposed development and opposition to that development, I feel that the project to add lights at Coaches has been overshadowed. Adding lights is a relatively easy, minimally impactful way to improve our very limited baseball and softball resources in Piedmont. The PBSF announcement about their campaign for support of the lights is below. Whatever your position on Blair Park, I ask that you consider the benefits for adding lights to Coaches Field.

PBSF - Your Hometown Baseball and Softball League

Attention Parents of Piedmont Baseball and Softball Players of All Ages

We Need Your Support Now for Lights at Coaches Field!

You’ve already heard about PBSF’s commitment to ensuring that the Blair Park Sports Fields project is approved by the City Council. We’re working with many other youth sports organizations and community leaders on this effort and we’re hopeful that Blair Park will become a reality in the near future. However, Blair Park is only part of the solution when it comes to addressing the shortage of usable field space for our local youth baseball and softball players.

We’re writing today to ask for your assistance in supporting the other half of the solution-field lighting at Coaches Field. This issue is on the agenda for the March 21, 2011 Piedmont City Council meeting along with Blair Park and it’s very important for baseball and softball supporters to make their voices heard both in advance of the meeting as well as during public testimony.

Read the rest of this entry »

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City of Piedmont – Regular Meetings

Posted by Len Gilbert on January 28, 2011


February 2011

Pursuant to Government Code Sec. 54954.1 this is the official notice of City of Piedmont meetings during the month of February, 2011. All meetings are held at 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, unless otherwise noted.

Agendas for meetings will be posted in City Hall and the Piedmont Police Department at least 72 hours prior to each meeting. Copies of all agendas may be requested from the office of the City Clerk, 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont or by calling 510-420-3040. Notice and agendas of special meetings will be provided at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting via FAX.

Monday February 7 City Council 7:30 pm Chambers

Monday February 14 Planning Commission 5:00 pm Chambers

Wednesday February 16 Recreation Commission 7:30 pm Chambers

Thursday February 17 Park Commission – 5:30 pm Chambers Moraga Canyon Public Hearing

Tuesday February 22 City Council 7:30 pm Chambers

Thursday February 24 Planning Commission – 6:30 pm Chambers Moraga Canyon Public Hearing

Prepared and distributed January 28, 2011

John O. Tulloch, Interim City Clerk

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Blair Park – Viewpoint

Posted by Len Gilbert on November 15, 2010

Blair Park comes before the city council November 15th and December 6th. I received this email and Michael agreed to my request to repost it for PNN readers. I think captures a lot of the depth of the issue surrounding Blair Park and wanted to share it with you.


Dear fellow Piedmonters,

As an environmental scientist who teaches classes on natural resources management, sustainable cities, sustainable development, and other such topics, let me take off my soccer coach’s hat and put on my objective, academic hat and weigh in on this issue with a few points.

A sustainable community is one that balances the economic, social and environmental aspects of its citizens’ lives, not only within the confines of its boundaries but with respect to the surrounding communities and the broader environment.

Moraga Canyon/Blair Field is indeed one of the few open spaces in Piedmont as has been pointed out in email exchanges. However, in my professional opinion, it has limited environmental value. Because of the development of the upper part of the valley with houses and the presence of Highway 13, it does not likely function much as an ecological corridor. Although it has a few mature oak trees and some surrounding Chaparral on the south slope, it is not really large enough to be a refuge for wildlife passing through on their way to somewhere else. While it is adjunct to a larger area of open-space namely the Cemetery District, it is largely disconnected from that by the busy road, by coaches field, and the corporation lot. It does not house a stream or any other watercourse and offers little benefit, because of the modified drainage caused by city streets and culverts, as an absorption area for urban runoff. While the existing vegetation does offer a carbon sink, most of the trees are already mature and are fixing little in the way of carbon (if new trees were planted in and around the newly built sports facility, these would actually provide a more active sink for carbon as they grow to maturity). Assuming the trees cut down would be put to good use as firewood, they would offset the use of fossil fuels and could be mitigated by Piedmont financing the planting of additional trees elsewhere in the community or in some other local (a carbon offset) as part of the project. All other removed vegetation could be composted so as to keep that carbon as much as possible in its terrestrial form. Note that the current vegetation is not a pristine ecosystem. It is full of non-native species (Algerian ivy, broom, acacia, grasses, etc.), mixed with native ones. It is routinely cut back by city staff and is ringed by gardens and fences and other ecological barriers on all sides. Based on the above considerations (and one would of course go into much more detail on this as part of an full environmental impact assessment), this site probably cannot be assigned much environmental value in a consideration of community sustainability. Its environmental value, whatever a full analysis turns out to show in terms of habitat for native species, could be relatively easily mitigated by Piedmont residents using our considerable human resources and some of our financial resources to protect and enhance more obviously valuable ecological assets elsewhere within our surroundings – for example, in the nearby East Bay Regional Parks – or even further afield.

What the current Moraga Canyon/Blair Field site does have is amenity value – it is undoubtedly a community asset in its current form. It is most obviously a visual asset – I and many other’s enjoy its natural appearance as we drive up and down the valley. It is also dog-walk area for a few of Piedmont’s families and residents from Montclair and other parts of Oakland who drive their dogs there for exercise (I see little foot traffic because of the lack of sidewalk access to and from surrounding areas and the busy traffic). Thus, the number of individuals using this amenity seems limited and within the immediate surrounds there are existing alternatives that could be enhanced or could be argued already meet these needs. Similarly, the visual asset aspect of this location is something that too can be mitigated with appropriate landscaping that would preserve the current wooded feel of the valley and it must also not be forgotten that the sight of a well-designed recreational complex replete with happy and active children playing their favorite sports will also bring pleasure to many in a form that might be equal, though different, to that currently enjoyed by the canyon in its current form.

The biggest issue, it seems to me, is that in its current form, its main value is not so much its current value to the community of Piedmont as a whole, but to the specific portion of our community living immediately adjacent to it or above or below it on the transportation corridor it contains. The valley is an attractive buffer for the residents who live on the ridge above – a low-noise area and also a radiant cooling space between their properties and the busy road, the residences of the Maxwelton neighborhood, and Coaches Field. Very few properties have an active view of the canyon, but the few that do undoubtedly value the tranquility and the absence of glare that its unlit space provides. I know I would. The absence of all but the occasional dog-walker on the current open-space also acts to limit traffic flow to the ambient through-flow that Moraga supports from Montclair and Highway 13 down into Piedmont and the Piedmont Avenue areas (and on to other locations) and to the relatively limited evening and weekend traffic that accompanies visitors to Coaches Field for sports and skate-boarding. Clearly, as quantifiable by a thorough environmental impact review, the situation described would change for local residents due to the increase in use of the valley for sports and recreation, increasing the number of vehicles accessing this area, and adding noise and light that are currently at relatively low levels. Travel time through the valley at certain times might be increased due to the presence of traffic lights and the in-and-out of visitor’s vehicles. However, this might also be offset by greater road safety for drivers, bikers, and joggers due to the slowing effect that road modifications would have on through traffic forced to stop for lights.

In deciding what to do with the valley, as it is with many of the issues faced by a community when it comes to development of sites within them from one land-use type to another, our community needs to take the big picture. How many of our members will be disadvantaged by the change being proposed? Can the potential negative effects or loss of utility be mitigated or compensated by appropriate design or the provision of suitable alternatives at other nearby sites? What are the trade-offs in terms of enhanced amenity value afforded to the community as a whole? Do the enhanced community-wide values outweigh the more localized net-negative impacts affecting adjacent property owners (because it must be remembered that they too share in the positive effects of any change)?  Ultimately, in a community planning process, these kinds of issues are usually put to a vote – either a plebiscite such as a ballot measure, or as a proxy system by way of elected officials empowered by our community to act in our best interests, as communicated to them through the public consultation process. As a soccer coach and an environmental scientist and academic engaged in sustainable development teaching and research I will be happy to provide continued input to this discussion and will be attending the meeting on Monday November 15 and December 6th.


Michael Lee

Professor (Sustainability, Water, Development), Cal State East Bay
PYSC Volunteer Coaching Coordinator, Board Member, and E License Coach

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