THE PIEDMONT City Council is aggressively pursuing a project to create a sports complex in Moraga Canyon. The project includes adding artificial turf and night lighting to Coaches Field, creating two play fields and parking for 90 cars at Blair Park and a pedestrian bridge connecting the two sites. Blair will require significant grading work, cutting into the hillside and installing a retaining wall up to 40 feet high and another retaining wall along Moraga Avenue up to 20 feet high, plus fencing on top of that. The cost is conservatively estimated at $7 million! The project is proposed to be funded by both private donors and city funds, the scope of which is unclear.
The city administrator in his budget message for fiscal year 2008-09 stated: "The city is not in a financial position to take on additional large new projects."
In his Feb. 2 staff report he recommends that $2 million be deferred from the Capital Improvement Project reserve to be available for possible General Fund shortfalls caused by decreases in revenues.
We are paying the maximum municipal services tax ($1.54 million a year) and the maximum sewer tax. We still owe $5.5 million on loans used to replace 17 miles of old clay sewer lines as ordered by the state of California. More sewer lines must be replaced.
To spend any additional city money on discretionary sports fields flies in the face of prudent financial management.
Page 35 summarizes Piedmonters supporting capital improvements for landscaping/tree planting, utility undergrounding, bike paths, teen center, town plaza, recreation and free Internet wireless.
Page 36 states, "Additional recreational facilities came in behind these (five) projects" and in fact 37.6 percent of the residents indicated they somewhat oppose or strongly oppose these additional (recreational) facilities.
We are appalled by the proposed sports complex design. The shockingly high cost comes from attempting to create level playing fields on a narrow site on a steep incline which is clearly inappropriate for the project. Changes at Coaches Field go directly against promises made to the neighborhood when the field was built. We expect that Piedmonters will not be pleased once the design and circumstances are widely known.
In light of all that we cite above, we ask: Why is the City Council pursuing costly sports fields when Piedmonters chose other projects as a higher priority?
What have these ventures cost so far —— in dollars and staff time?
How much more will this cost in the future? What capital improvements are we giving up for this spending on a sports complex?
Friends of Moraga Canyon is a fast growing group of more than 70 individuals who have joined together to ensure that the tranquility and environmental well-being of the Moraga Canyon area is preserved. We believe that issues affecting the welfare of Moraga Canyon should be addressed with reason, responsibility and consensus.
Joannie Semitekol is a Piedmont resident and a member of Friends of Moraga Canyon.