Kevin Moran Park plan goes to council … one more time

Heavily contested plans to develop Kevin Moran Park went before the Saratoga City Council once again on June 7. At the meeting, more than 50 people told Mayor Norman Kline and council members why they were for or against the project.

Dave Nelson, the city’s design consultant for the renovations, admitted his inability to create a plan for the park that suited the needs of all residents. “Every plan gains some acceptance from some people, and is rejected by other people,” he said.

He later added, “If you please every tenant, you can’t put a soccer field in this park.” Saratoga residents who oppose the renovations greeted that statement with applause.

Nelson and John Cherbone, Saratoga’s public works director, spoke directly to the council about the new conceptual design for Kevin Moran Park. The new plan features a competition-size soccer field that measures 330 by 195 feet and runs nearly parallel to the park’s north property line. This is the most cost-effective layout for the soccer field, which had been placed in the lawn bowl in previous plans. It would also limit tree removal to one redwood and one sycamore. Previous plans had required the removal of many trees of both types.

The latest plan, however, is financially unrealistic. The city has allotted $390,000 to be spent on the renovation, $40,000 of which will be spent on the design consultant alone. The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.8 million, which would leave the city with a deficit of at least $1.45 million.

Saratoga resident Marvin Cohn also urged the council to consider costs not accounted for in the original estimate provided by Nelson, such as speed bumps. He argued an increase in traffic would require such improvements to the surrounding neighborhood in order to protect residents and park visitors.

Scott Emery, a parent whose children are avid soccer players, supported the project despite its costs. “Break it down into phases, and renovate in phases as funds become available,” he argued in his address to the city council. “It’s a huge park–there’s no need to do everything at once.”

The price tag is not the only issue. The new location of the soccer field also violates the 100-foot buffer zone required by the city to protect the privacy of residents living along the park’s perimeter. It also requires the removal of a footpath taken to and from Blue Hills Elementary School by numerous children on a daily basis. Developing the soccer field as it was presented in the latest plan would require children to take a paved pathway around the far northwest corner of the park.

Kline was skeptical that children would use the pathway. He told Nelson that in his experience, “Children will go from point A to point B using the shortest route possible.” This would require them to cut across the soccer field, which would prove detrimental to the grass. If children were to take the paved path, it would drastically increase foot traffic near neighboring homes.

Nelson had suggested a “good neighbor” fence or soundwall as an option for the northwest corner of Kevin Moran Park, so local residents would not be disturbed by the increase in foot traffic. That option seemed to negate the money saved by moving the soccer field in the first place.

The new development plan also includes a full-size basketball court, rather than a half-court as had been previously planned. This court would be located along the western perimeter of the soccer field, and would be separated from the soccer field by a large hedge. This worried parents, many of whom believed it would limit visibility of their children, and would be an ideal hiding place for predators.

The most contentious aspect of the Kevin Moran Park development project is that soccer leagues will be using the park. Part of the desire for a soccer field at Kevin Moran has to do with the lack of facilities both in Saratoga and surrounding cities, but Saratoga residents say as many as four out of five children using the soccer field will not be residents of Saratoga.

“Soccer is a profit-making business,” said Saratoga resident Adelle Salle, “and [the council members] are selling the park out to it.

This piece originally appeared in the Saratoga News.

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