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1999 newspaper article on PlayfieldsIRS Everyone benefits from playfields After reading the letters by Blair Con- rad and Steve Kurasch in the Jan 20 issue of the SARATOGA NEWS, I felt a response was called for. The task force on playfields has spent a lot of time and energy trying to determine how the limited funds can benefit the majority of the children in the area. The recommendations being proposed are only recommendations. They will still have to be presented to and approved by the City Council. Even if the recommendations are accepted and approved by the City Coun- cil as presented, it is not final. At such point the city will request that an environmental impact report, including a traffic study, be completed. A negative report could cause the City Council to suggest changes or even an alternative to the recommendations. Regardless of where sports fields are eventually improved or installed, there is going to be some negative impact on the area, and many residents living in the affect- ed area(s) are going to use many arguments for why it should not be in their back yard. Saratoga has more than its share of NIM- BYs (not in my back yard). Many of these same citizens would be some of the first to complain if their children were not able to participate in various community sports activities. This is so troublesome that I have given thought to a policy that if we are unable to utilize one of the selected sites because of the NIMBYs, then we should not allow children from the area to partic- ipate in Saratoga youth sports activities. This would be interesting, since it would be a disclosure that would have to be made upon the sale of the affected homes. Of course, we are not going to do this since the ones affected are the children. i It is regretful, but our area has changed over the years and as the population con - tinues to grow, the area is going to change more. I often hear the statement, "We went home and it was so nice, nothing has changed." Well, believe it or not there are still a few of us that were born and raised here. As a boy, the population of San Jose was 60,000 and the surrounding commu- nities were all farms and orchards with very little population. Yes, our area has changed a great deal. I have now heard several people state that the Heritage Orchard should be turned into a sports field. There are a cou- ple problems with this. First, that inter- section is perhaps one of the busiest in Please turn to page 15 LETTERS Continued from page 14 Saratoga, Second, for those few natives left in the area, this Heritage Orchard is very important and as it is, because the area continues to grow, the library and library parking is already going to have to be remodeled and enlarged, taking even more of the Heritage Orchard. The traffic, for sports activities, would not be much different than it is now. As for AYSO, the field would continue to be used for practice, as it has been for years. The only difference is the field would be safe for the children. While I can not speak for Lit- tle League, it would most likely be used for practice and perhaps some games. One of the letters stated the Little League games would increase the Saturday traffic by hun- dreds of cars. Assuming there would be four Little League games on a Saturday, and assuming every player showed up and, further, there were no car pools, this would involve about 90 cars, not hundreds. One letter states that additional traffic creates a hazard for the local children play- ing in the street. I agree, but this has become the case in almost all neighbor- hoods; fortunately, your children can play at the school and sports field. This is .a lux- ury that most of us do not have. Yes, times change and we must all change with the times. Over the past sev- eral years the traffic in front of my home has increased by several hundred percent, and the quality has gone from the average vehicle going a little over the speed limit to the average vehicle going 10 to 20 mph over the limit. Believe me, even though this is a community with a lot of children, we do not let them play even by the side of the road. Mr. Kurasch states: "The whole impe- tus for doubling up on school use for sports came from the problem of maintenance costs, which are not covered by the park fund; the school district would be respon- sible for maintaining the new facilities." It is true that the funds being used to improve and create the fields, which will be used by the schools, sports groups and all citizens, cannot be used for maintenance. I contacted Mary Gardner, SUSD super- intendent, and Larry Perlin, Saratoga city manager, a couple of years ago stating that since the schools had some land that could be used for sports, and the city had some money to improve these fields that AYSO would like to work with the schools and the city to see if the fields could be improved and that AYSO would be willing to provide funds for maintaining the fields, or at least contribute a fair portion. This meeting was the first of this process. As it is, the different sports groups will be paying the largest portion of the field maintenance. These groups include Saratoga AYSO, Saratoga Little League, Los Gatos Girls Softball, and Cupertino DeAnza CYSA Soccer league. It should also be noted that even with- out the field improvements, which all will enjoy, the fields can be used by any and all citizens, when not being used by the school or reserved by a community group. It is interesting that if the schools had the money to improve these fields, they would just be improved; there would be no pub- lic hearings, impact reports or traffic stud- ies. It is only since this is city money that hearings even have to take place. AYSO will be paying its fair share for the maintenance of the fields. AYSO has always paid the city, under a written con- tract, and the different schools, also under written contracts for the use of the fields during the soccer season. Additionally, Saratoga AYSO is in partnership with the Saratoga Schools. We have donated funds each year to the school so that the schools could obtain needed items. LARRY FINE Regional Commissioner Saratoga AYSO /999 COMMENTARY Sacrifice school trees for community gain By NANCY CALDERON and SUE NAKAJI Those of us who are parents and friends of Saratoga School make education our priority. We, along with the plan- ning committee, have spent tireless hours trying to make the best school remodeling decisions for the future of our chil- dren, the school, and our community. We take these decisions seriously and realize the legacy we are creating for years to come. Within the context of preserving the character, charm and his- toric significance of the buildings and site, our primary objective is to create the best possible learning environment for a growing stu- dent population within the confines of a limited budget and space. In the past, when 100 children in grades K -8 attended the school, the small quaint playground may have been adequate. Today we face the reality of accommodating a projected 500 children in grades K -5 and have the challenge of optimizing the design and layout of the school grounds. With the fourfold increase in students, the existing play- ground provides an 84- square -foot hardtop area per child, with notlat playground or usable grass field. By comparison, the Arg- onaut and Foothill facilities will provide over 150square feet of hard surface play area per child, plus a minimum of 175 square feet of grass field area. There has been much public attenticn given to preserving two particular eucalyptus trees on the playground. Doing so would not only limit improving the play space and layout, but would also require installing an extensive and costly drainage system. These eucalyptus globulus are the second most hazardous eucalyptus spectres in terms of unpredictable branch failures (limb drops), espe- cially on warm or windy days, and the potential for hazard will grow as they age. Additionally, it remains unclear how the heavy con- struction around the trees will affect their stability and lifespan. It is important to understand that we are preserving the over- whelming majority of the old as well as planting new trees on the school grounds. One recent letter that was printed in the Sarato- ga News stated that "27 beautiful trees would be destroyed with the money we approved from the Saratoga School bond." The facts of the approved iiutial plan include: 36 new trees planted plus additional landscape trees, 17 trees re located to other locations on the school grounds, 11 trees removed, some due to disease. The current plan for the school grounds will provide approx- imately 115 square feet of hard surface and play field area per child and was approved unanimously by the Saratoga Union School District board. Additionally, 196 parents and residents of Saratoga signed a petition for the removal of the trees. Those parents and friends were in favor of removing the trees because they believe it is the safest and best alternative for the children. Finally, every consideration has been given by the planning committee to preserve the architectural style of the school_ Some of the design suggestions contemplated (i.e., arched Mis- sion -style windows) were outside the guidelines of seismic com- pliance or cost prohibitive. We have given careful consideration to all aspects of this plan. We have made proposals that have been approved by the school board. We cannot afford the time nor expense of going to the drawing board yet again. Now we want to begin creating a future for Saratoga School and our children. The children are our pri- ority and the longer the approved plan is challenged the more our children lose. We implore you to choose to join together with us and create an environment that will move us forward as a school and community. Nancy Calderon is a Saratoga business executive and the par- ent of a student at Saratoga School. Sue Nakaji is Saratoga School's PTA president. Ten other residents of Saratoga signed their names to this commentary. 077 News Questions remain in debate over traffic safety at schools Letters express concern over congestion, speeding By STEVE ENDERS Since the beginning of the new year, let- ters from residents have been trickling into the city's Public Safety Commission about traffic safety on streets around Saratoga schools, especially Saratoga School on Oak Street. And while most letter writing in the city pertaining to schools recently has cen- tered on trees, the district's and the city's attention is now shifting to concerns over cars and trucks that, residents say, are speeding by the schools. They're also con- gesting narrow streets, letter- writers say. And now, various committees through- out the city and school district are begin- ning to do something about it. On Jan. 19, Saratoga Union School Dis- trict Superintendent Mary Gardner and a panel of guests addressed concerns about district -wide traffic issues and those at Saratoga School to an audience primarily of residents from Komina Way near Saratoga School. Representatives from the city's Public Safety Commission and Alternative Transportation Solutions (Altrans) were also on the panel. Altrans has been successful at starting carpooling, busing and shuttle programs at area colleges, and is now focusing on elementary schools including Saratoga's. The panel agreed that they would like to implement a busing system in Saratoga that would alleviate traffic backups near schools. However, busing is expensive, they said, and will require extensive sur- veys to determine exactly what is needed. Another problem is that Saratoga School District is not the only district that serves the city's children. Any city busing plan would also have to include those school districts. The Sheriff's Department is also throw- ing itself into the fray at the request of the Public Safety Commission. Deputy F.W. Zanker is conducting a traffic survey on Oak Street, among other places, and gave a preliminary report to the commission at its last meeting. "The problem's very similar to all the schools in the West Valley," he said. "Since the '50s, kids have been bused in and dropped off on the corner, and that's not happening anymore. Now you've got par- ents who are dropping off and picking up their kids all at the same time. And what you have now is a horrendous traffic situation." One letter the commission received two weeks ago asked for a stop sign on Oak Street, and others in the commission's pack- et call attention to increased traffic prob- lems near two Saratoga private schools. Pete Gonda, the Public Safety Commis- sion's administrative analyst, said that the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department is still conducting traffic surveys along Oak Street near the Saratoga School. When the results are compiled, he said, the Public Safety Commission will likely begin seek- ing a solution to the problem. Gonda also said that the commission hasn't made any concrete decisions on adding traffic - calming devices or stop signs on Oak Street because of construction scheduled to start at the school this summer. "We'd like to hear from others in the neighborhood to see what they're think- ing," Gonda said, adding that he'll also compile information from the sheriff when it comes in. Gonda also said the commission may begin looking at a request for a stop sign on the street now, however. The request calls for a stop sign at Third and Oak streets, mainly to slow cars down when they cross the intersection. Deputy Zanker said another stop sign may not help there, because he's seen many parents drift right through existing stop signs to hurry their children to school. When he sees people who don't stop, Zanker said, he'll cite those drivers. r- " d U Consider sacrifices when building This is in response to the article by Larry Fine and Mark Linsky, in the Jan. 6 issue of the SARATOGA NEWS. Although I have no disagreements with his comments on the need for additional soccer fields; I think he missed addressing the entire picture. Simply wanting additional athletic fields doesn't mean that we must "do whatever it takes" in order to have them. We must first consider the value of the sacrifice. A similar situation exists at Saratoga School regarding the removal of the euca- lyptus trees. The school district wants "improved facilities for the kids." We must first consider the sacrifice: does "for the kids" include being shaded by and enjoying the presence of stately established trees? A reprise of the "improved facilities" theme was heard once again as the j ustifi- cation for removing the trees at the Arg- onaut Shopping Center. Saratoga has already sacrificed acres of open space and ripped out heritage "messy" trees that "can drop branches." Does that mean we should remove every tree in our city because it might someday injure us or our children? If we convert small neighborhood parks to large athletic fields and remove land- mark trees "for the kids," we adults have taught our children that respect for others and nature is irrelevant when we are "improving facilities." We must temper progress and improve- ments with thoughtful regard for others' wishes, our environment and the future of Saratoga. We must explore all options and be creative in our solutions. We must not dumbly accept the solutions offered by any special interest group. For example, there is still undeveloped land in our city that might be available for use as additional athletic fields; has anyone seriously con- sidered exploring that option? The issue of additional athletic fields and tree removal has already pitted neigh- bor against neighbor. We cannot allow such problems to divide our city; too many county, state and federal agencies are attempting to do that. We must work together to find viable solutions. We Saratogans have a difficult decision to make: we must decide whether we want top -notch athletic and shopping facilities or whether we want the beauty and majesty of mature trees. Do we want to retain our unique semi - rural ambiance or do we want to sacrifice it? Do we want to look like just another bedroom community? Do we want to be a minimum services city or a provider of comprehensive services? We must care- fully evaluate what is ultimately in the best interests of children, ourselves and our city. MARCIA FARISS Saratoga Glen Place _!54rP_ATP�iA -lam Vol. 46, No. 5 Wednesday, February 3,1999 COUNCIL HEARS LONG - AWAITED PRESENTATION ON PLAYFIELDS Many residents turn out to argue both pro and con Decision is due in March By STEVE ENDERS t was supposed to be a Saratoga City Council meeting designed, in part, to take in a long- awaited presentation by a city -hired consultant on how the city should proceed with building playing fields at four sites in the city. But before the presentation ever got off the ground on Jan. 26, resident after resi- dent gave a pitch to the council pleading both for and against the fields, especially the field reconstruction under considera- tion at Marshall Lane Elementary School. After the dust settled, more than 25 res- idents, mostly from the Marshall Lane area, had their say —most repeating to councilmembers time after time the need to consider the potential for increased traf- fic around Marshall Lane. Nearly three hours later, the council final- ly was able to do what it had assembled to do, as residents still continued to press both the consultant and the council with ques- tions pointed mostly to traffic safety issues. Some residents also expressed concern that they had not had an opportunity to pro- vide information to the Playfields_Devel- opment Task Force, which has held many meetings over the past nine months around the city to take comments from the public. City staff and task force representatives repeatedly told the audience that no one has been excluded and that the public will Please turn to page 12 Playfields Continued from page 7 be heard again at upcoming public hearings. The meeting on Jan. 26 wasn't supposed to be a public debate on the issue but a chance for the council to get information from its consultant. Residents were sched- uled to have their say at a public hearing before the city's Parks and Recreation Commission Feb. 1. At that meeting, the commission was scheduled to make a recommendation on the playfields to the City Council, which will likely rule on the matter after further public hearings sometime in March. City -hired landscape consultant Jay Beals, despite pleas for traffic safety, wasn't prepared to deal with traffic issues. Rather, he was hired to figure out how to best renovate the fields and how mainte- nance costs and responsibilities can be shared by the city, local school districts and the users of the fields. "The traffic situation in a locked -in neigh- borhood like Marshall Lane needs to be resolved," Beals said. "There are answers for that, and it wasn't our charge to answer it. When all the studies are done, they'll find ways to mitigate the traffic issue." Beals told the council that the burden and cost of maintaining the fields can be split by entering into agreements with the Campbell, Saratoga and Cupertino school districts, which operate three of the four PI 4�4 llzn playfield sites. The city will also have to form similar contracts with the users, which include soccer leagues and Quito Little League, to maintain the fields. The playfields proposal includes reno- vating or completely rebuilding the turf at Congress Springs Park, Blue Hills Ele- mentary, Marshall Lane Elementary and Foothill Elementary. Beals also said that the user groups and school districts are willing to help maintain whatever fields are built. When referring to costs of the project, Beals told the council that costs tothe city will decrease signifi- cantly because of the help it will likely get. Still, the overall cost of the project to the city will be nearly $2.1 million, which will be paid for from park development funds. Beals also suggested the creation of a nonprofit organization that could raise funds and volunteer its members to help keep the fields and parks in good shape. He said such organizations have been suc- cessful in neighboring cities that have recently upgraded their fields. The council heard that the fields are in such disrepair that they're almost unsafe. "The clay soil that we have around here does real good for fruit trees, but not so good with so many little feet pounding on it," Beals said, while explaining the extraordinary amount of wear a field sees in its lifetime. Beals said that he's spoken with one maintenance company which will guaran- tee that, if it is awarded a contract, the fields will have a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. Fields will create unsafe traffic Yes, kids should have a place to play soc- cer. But soccer traffic should not impact our neighborhoods and the safety of the children coming and going from school, nor use up land which provides a place for free play that is fundamentally important for our school and neighborhood children. From my experience, vans are the favored transportation system used by soccer moms in the area. Vans just do not allow a person to see very well as they try to park and back up. I have now been run into twice (my body once and my car once) by vans trying to back up in the Lucky store parking lot. Both times van drivers were very sorry. They just didn't see me. I don't think of myself as a large person, but I am much larg- er than a young child and though small, my car is very much larger than a young child. I have been to soccer practice many times at Fisher, where my little car was the only car and the rest were vans, mostly very large vans. This is the last thing we need -in a place like the Marshall Lane neighborhood where there is no defined place 'for children to walk and thus they walk on the edge of the road, exactly where vans would try to parallel park. Children walk there not j ust at times when school is beginning and ending, but by 11:30 a.m. and all through the afternoon at odd times right up to 6 p.m. and later in the summer and all through the weekends. When I was on the city council, we start- ed to establish walking and bike paths in this eastern part of the city beginning along Allendale Avenue and Quito Road, but the space is too narrow to provide a separate, safe place for the children, especially imme- diately around Marshall Lane. The city never had the will or dollars to provide a safe space to walk in the neighborhoods even where there may be room for paths. Adding vans to the mix vastly increases the danger. Some have suggested using the Heritage Orchard for a new playfield. The hard -won promise of preservation of our city heritage orchard would be violated by using that space for soccer. This orchard was used for environmental mitigation to make up for other open space and heritage losses and cannot be used for other activities without violating the trusts of past agreements. When I was on the council we did every- thing we could to preserve the space where the main post office now stands for a soc- cer /ball field. It was an ideal site, but Red- wood School wanted short-term dollars by selling that field. I even went to Washing- ton D.C., and met face to face with the postmaster to get postal officials to change their mind on using the Redwood field. With more community support influenc- ing the school board decisions, we might have saved that site. Over many years we fought the loss of the Quito School and its field where dense- ly packed houses now stand. That would have also been an ideal site (though on the border, not actually in Saratoga). Again the school district wanted the short -term dollars and the land was sold. Later the Cox/Saratoga— Sunnyvale park site was somehow transferred by a pro - development council in [what I consider to be] a highly questionable sleight —of —hand conversion. This would have also been a good, accessible soccer site. Realistically, decisions to convert open land in public ownership to private, built - on land cannot be undone. Even where private land potentially well situated (such as the Abrams property) is still open and may become available, new park land pur- chase does not seem an option at today's land prices compared with city revenues and set -aside funds, though possibilities could, of course, be investigated. As a councilmember 19 years ago, and as a citizen I fought hard to prevent these open space losses as did many friends. Short-term interests prevailed. We are trying to solve a problem that now has no good solution. I have to favor the safety of our school and neighborhood children over the new proposed activities. CHERIEL JENSEN Quito Road YOUTH HAVE THEIR SAY If you're 18 years old or younger, and you've got something on your mind, the SARATOGA NEWS would like to hear from you. You can express your views in Youth Talk, a column intended to serve as a voice for the youth of the Saratoga community. Topics can range from music to sports to politics ... or anything that strikes your fancy. We're looking for essays of 950 words. For deadlines and other information, contact editor Dale Bryant. Voicemail: 354 -3110, ext. 31 oremail:dbryant@sjmetro.com. FEBRUARY3, 1999 SARATOGA NEWS 15