"The Blair Park Project," News, 6/22
Some of the "facts" in the article are not correct. The proponents' current plan is not smaller than the original; in fact it is larger, because the upper parking lot is bigger. It does not have "one field instead of three"; there never were three, and they just rounded the corners of the smaller field and are calling it "the grassy glade." It would still be used for practice, but they think calling it a glade makes the whole project smaller. How Orwellian. It cuts into the hillside just as much as the original plan, so it is not smaller. The environmental impact report that was wrongly approved simply glossed over dealing with the utilities. The article says the plan calls for "rerouting sewer lines in the hillside"; it does not talk about the sewer main that would have to be relocated somewhere in the hillside behind the retaining walls, nor the twenty-inch water main, nor about the storm drain, nor the gas lines, all of which mean more digging into the hill. It doesn't talk about the other digging: The design of the walls calls for fifty-foot "tie-backs," which means digging fifty feet into the hillside behind the retaining walls to install the tie-backs in multiple places (which would end up going beyond some peoples' property lines). The boring into the hillside that is required by this type of retaining wall, combined with the long list (above) of utilities that would need to be relocated by digging into the hillside behind the retaining wall, is serious land destabilization. And yet, the details about the utilities and how much digging would be required to relocate them did not come to light until after the environmental impact report was approved!
The Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization and Piedmont City Council (except Garret Keating) are promoting a very dangerous plan. People who think they are in favor of this project need to take a serious look at what the real issues are, the ones the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization and most of the council have glossed over and tried to suppress, the ones raised by the planning commission in its unanimous rejection of this project. They just might change their minds.
Susan Kahn, Oakland
Leave It to the Planners
This is what happens when the Piedmont City Council allows the cocktail party set to do town planning — no traffic plan, a poor environmental impact report, a project whose design changes at every meeting, no due diligence, no costing, environmentally destructive, too expensive, unsafe, and perilous to the 25 homes above Blair Park. If you had $6.5 million to donate, would you use it to build a forty-foot wall and two plastic fields? This is an example of what not to do.
Lynn Dee, Piedmont
Excellent article. It is about time that this massive (and inappropriate for its site) proposal by ELS architects and the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization begins to get the regional attention it deserves. It is hypocritical for us to tell the Brazilians and the Africans not to cut down trees in the Amazon forests and the Serengeti but then go ahead and destroy nature in our own backyard and replace it with synthetic turf while there is so much dilapidated, broken concrete and asphalted land around us that can be revitalized by the likes of this project.
When it comes to environmental issues, it is mind-boggling to see so many wise men be so wrong, not to mention that you can probably get three times the field space for the money if you did not have to move tons of earth, excavating and building massive retaining walls to contain the hillside that is located very near to a known fault line. There is a good reason (actually more than five good reasons) why more than a thousand people signed a petition to oppose this destructive and unsafe project.
Sinan Sabuncuoglu, Piedmont
The Triple Threat
The Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization and the underwriters of the Blair Park "gift" are the perfect triple threat: personal wealth aided by political influence, and emboldened by a brazen sense of entitlement. It's their plan or no plan, with no regard for how their plan impacts the community. Yes, kids need more space to play sports. But this issue does not trump all the reasons why the current plans (at least as much as we know of them) are inappropriate for Moraga Canyon.
Karen Cutler, Piedmont
Return to the Record
Piedmont is a small town with a very strict set of design principles. If a resident wants to change out an old window or build a new fence, the project receives intense scrutiny. However, if a wealthy subset of residents decides to build a forty-foot-high concrete retaining wall along a major artery, creating myriad traffic, safety, and risk concerns, the city council majority seems to be only too happy to approve it. Anyone wondering about the appropriateness of this project need only watch the video of the planning commission meeting on this topic — in which the commissioners voted unanimously to reject the project in its entirety. Here you will see the architects and engineers who serve on this body describe in excruciating detail all the fatal flaws in this project. As one commissioner says, "I don't know where to begin." But then she does begin, and when she is finished you will be left wondering how any elected official could in good conscience approve this project.
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