Nearly every community today confronts threats to its quality of life. If the issue isn't underfunded local agencies or an uptick in crime, it might be a pollution-spewing refinery that endangers residents' health (although it's hard to imagine that happening).

For Alamo, the big problem is a fearful dearth of lighted tennis courts.

That's what brought representatives from Round Hill Country Club and the club's next-door neighbors before the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday for a final verdict in a battle that has raged for nearly two years. Round Hill, which has scraped by for years with only nine illuminated courts near its clubhouse, has been angling since the end of 2010 to shower lights on six so-called "overflow" courts on the edge of its property line.

They're so close to the edge, in fact, that a careless player could launch a topspin lob into Paul and Kathi Shafer's bedroom or Mark and Marge Taylor's backyard.

"We're 35 feet from the tennis courts," Marge Taylor said.

The proximity was of little consequence when the courts were used only in daylight hours because the thwacking and grunting ended at sunset. It was when Round Hill began plans for illuminating the courts until 11 p.m. with 48 metal haloid lights atop 24-foot poles, each 1,000 watts and producing 125 foot-candles, that they became alarmed.

The Shafers created a website (Stopthelightsinalamo.com), neighbors signed petitions, and battle lines were drawn for a showdown that traveled up the ladder of county planning and zoning officialdom.


Advertisement

Proponents sent letters citing the incalculable value of the sport. Their message was so consistent they even used identical wording. "Tennis is an excellent form of exercise, and helps keep people, young and not so young, fit and strong." Talk about like minds writing like sentences.

Club members also were uniform in their belief that lighted courts were a community upgrade. One suggested that brightly illuminated asphalt courts would "enhance" property value. Maybe he was thinking of his property, two miles away.

Paul Shafer saw it differently: "Round Hill is serving members who will not be living next to these lights. As the nearest homeowner, I'm concerned for my family's way of life, our property value and our privacy."

Things work slowly in government -- at least when lighted tennis courts are involved -- but the lengthy approval process did yield small victories for the appellants.

Lighting was reduced from 125 foot-candles to 75. Lights-out time was moved to 9 p.m. A shield was to be hung on the fence around the playing area. ("If we hadn't fought every step of the way, we wouldn't have got any of that," Marge Taylor said.)

Still, the Shafers and Taylors were hardly thrilled, perhaps because as Mark Taylor explained: "For over 30 years, there were no lights, and the prior club manager assured our neighbors there never would be."

Tuesday's appeal was to pry further concessions -- less lighting, earlier hours -- but those requests were denied after Round Hill's lawyer, lighting consultant, manager, tennis director and members took turns making their case. Goliath stomped all over David.

"I'm just sad," said Marge Taylor.

She was thinking about her quality of life. You know, there are a lot threats to that these days.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at twitter.com/tombarnidge.