An overflow crowd is expected at tonight, when the Piedmont City Council is poised to make a series of crucial decisions about what's officially known as the Moraga Canyon Sports Field Project.
One aspect of the project, a proposal to build privately funded youth sports fields in Blair Park on the south side of Moraga Avenue, is one of the most divisive issues to come before the council in recent years.
The council will meet at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers, 120 Vista Ave. Staff reports, a public hearing and several action items for the project are on the agenda. (Also on the agenda, largely overshadowed by the sports field issue, is a vote on spending a little over $623,000 for a new fire engine and ambulance for the city.)
The meeting will be broadcast live on the city's government access, KCOM-TV (Channel 27), and streamed live on its website (where you can also download the Silverlight video player program).
Although the project officially includes suggested changes at another city facility, , that part of the plan is almost certain to be scrapped. Any Coaches Field improvements would be financed entirely by the city, and City Administrator Geoffrey L. Grote says in his report to the council that the $648,000-plus set aside for that field "should be retained by the City until the current financial uncertainties pass."
The $6 million-plus construction at city-owned Blair Park, though, would be paid for entirely by private funds. Those would be raised through the efforts of the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization (PRFO), the nonprofit group that is backing the Blair Park plan.
The new fields are needed to provide adequate, easily acessible space for youth sports teams (including soccer, baseball and lacrosse) to practice, proponents of the plan say.
The council will be considering a revised master plan presented recently by the PRFO, which includes changes in the number of fields, traffic mitigation measures and other aspects of the project.
The PRFO is also asking the council to let it move ahead when it has enough funds to pay for only the first phase, rather than the entirety, of the project.
"Our goal is to get started as quickly as possible so we can get the fields in place by next fall when the leases at Alameda [currently used by Piedmont youth sports groups] expire," PRFO President Jessica Berg told Piedmont Patch in an email.
"As soon as we have the money in the bank we will start phase 1. If we have enough money to do the entire thing we will do it all right away. If not we will do phase two as soon as we're able. The phasing just gives us flexibility so the entire project isn't held up."
The items the council will consider tonight include:
- Consideration of an addendum to the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the project and a "statement of overriding considerations," items that would let the project move ahead without preparation of a new EIR.
- Consideration of the modified PRFO plan and conditions of approval for the project.
- The first reading of an ordinance authorizing a lease between the city and Blair Park LLC, the private legal entity set up by the project's proponents to handle financing and construction at Blair Park. The principals of Blair Park LLC are Eric Havian, chair of the PRFO's legal committee; Steve Schiller, PRFO vice present; and Mark Menke, a member of the PRFO executive committee.
Visit the PRFO website for information on changes to the Blair Park master plan and why the group feels the project is necessary.
For additional information on the history and scope of the project, visit Piedmont Patch's Blair Park page.