Reactions to the filing of a lawsuit challenging the environmental impact report on the controversial Blair Park sports field project brought reactions Friday that ranged from "We haven't seen it yet" to "It’s a sad day for Piedmont."
Attorneys for the non-profit group Friends of Moraga Canyon (FOMC) filed the suit against the City of Piedmont Thursday, Jan. 5, in Alameda County Superior Court.
The charges that the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) is fundamentally flawed and that the Piedmont City Council approved the final plan for the project in December without adequate public review of significant changes made since last August.
City Manager Geoffrey Grote said Friday afternoon that city officials had not yet received formal notice of the suit and thus had not read the complaint.
He noted that the city does have an agreement with the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO) that protects the city from bearing legal costs in case of a lawsuit over the Blair Park project.
PRFO deposited $125,000 with the city in November, 2011, to offset costs incurred because of litigation over the project, Grote said. If needed, he said, both city and PRFO attorneys could become involved in defending the city against the lawsuit.
PRFO is the main backer and the funding source for the $6 million-plus, privately financed plan to build practice fields in Blair Park, now a largely natural park on Moraga Avenue.
Jessica Berg, PRFO president, issued the following statement Friday in reaction to the lawsuit:
"PRFO has not seen the lawsuit yet so we cannot comment on specifics.
"We are saddened, but not surprised, to hear that the Friends of Moraga Canyon intends to file a lawsuit against the City of Piedmont and a group of community volunteers. Despite the years of threats of litigation, we had hoped that they would respect what was a long and thorough public process.
"In the end, the lawsuit most impacts the kids and families of this community who will now have to wait even longer for a new public park.
"It’s a sad day for Piedmont that a small group of people with resources can hold up a public project to protect their narrow self-interest."
Mark Landheer, president of the Piedmont Youth Soccer Club, said Friday, "Just because one may not like the outcome of a decision, should not mean that one must sue."
Landheer commented at length in an email to Piedmont Patch. Here are excerpts from his statement:
"Let me explain some of the benefits of why so many are in support of building Blair Park to Oakland and Piedmont:
- 300 players a week can practice soccer at Blair Park instead of in Alameda, including many kids from Oakland. Many more baseball, softball and lacrosse players will be able to do so too.
- Since the fields in Alameda will NOT be available to PSC after 2012, only Blair Park will address that need.
- There are more than 200 Oakland kids playing on Piedmont Youth Soccer Club teams, in addition to those playing with other Piedmont sports teams.
- If FOMC successfully sues to stop Blair Park, it will deny both Piedmont and Oakland kids the ability to play soccer and other sports as there are no other local fields available.
- PSC and the other sports clubs want to continue to allow any child, whether from Oakland or elsewhere, to play sports with their friends on the team of their choice, rather than have to turn kids away due to field space shortage.
"I hope FOMC would see the greater good of accepting the City Council’s decision as explained above.
"Furthermore, the majority of letters and speakers to the council about Blair Park were in favor, the environmental and community benefits of building Blair Park are much greater than keeping it unused and inaccessible as it is today.
"Most of the recent changes, such as a roundabout, moving the entrances to the park and lowering the retaining wall were due to feedback from FOMC.
"After 5 years of review and analysis, it was time that the city decided to move forward with this project."
The Piedmont City Council voted 4-1 Dec. 6 to move ahead with the Blair Park proposal. The council's actions included approval of an addendum to the project's final environmental impact report (EIR). Opponents of the project contend that because of recent changes in the project's , a supplemental or new EIR is required under state law.
For more information and previous articles on the Blair Park proposal, see Piedmont Patch's Blair Park page.