The Mountain View City Council appeared to support transforming McKelvey Park into a 15-foot-deep flood basin in a plan that would provide new baseball facilities there at no cost to the city.
Though no formal decision was made at the Tuesday night study session, comments from council members agreed with the concept as long as there were no unforeseen problems.
"I support this project (at McKelvey), I think it's a win-win," said Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga. The Santa Clara Valley Water District says the flood basin would help keep Permanente Creek from overflowing its banks in a major storm.
City manager Kevin Duggan said his staff would take a conceptual plan to the Parks and Recreation Commission and to a public hearing for the surrounding neighborhood to gather feedback before an official council vote on the concept. Duggan said it would be a significant amount of time before the council approves a detailed plan.
If the concept ever does make its way to fruition, the city "will have a great new amenity we can take advantage of," said council member Mike Kasperzak.
The Water District has already garnered support from the local Little League and other teams who use the two baseball fields at McKelvey. Elaine Spence, president of Mountain View Babe Ruth baseball, told the Voice that the concept was a "win-win" for flood control and for the teams happy to get new baseball facilities.
The "win-win" theme was hit on more than once Tuesday night.
"I don't know why this isn't a win-win -- it seems like it is," said council member Jac Siegel, who seemed to be the most concerned and critical of the six members present. (Although in the past she has been sharply critical of the proposal, council member Laura Macias recused herself from Tuesday's discussion due to the proximity of her home to McKelvey Park.)
According to the Water District, the McKelvey flood basin -- along with flood basins proposed for Blach Middle School and Rancho San Antonio in Los Altos and for the Cuesta Park Annex -- would help protect 2,250 properties in Mountain View in the event of a 100-year flood. The entire project would be funded by $38 million from a flood control measure passed by 70 percent of Mountain View residents in 2000, said Patrick Kwok, District Five director for the Water District.
While Macias and other community members have questioned the need for more flood control along Permanente Creek, council member John Inks, a former engineer, said he wasn't going to second guess the Water District's claims.
Council member Ronit Bryant said global warming and the resulting rise in sea level would mean that floods predicted once every 100 years could happen twice as often in the near future.
"I actually think the risk of flooding is likely to go up" because of global warming, Bryant said.
The concept was also supported by council member Tom Means, who countered complaints that the plan would ruin the park, which is covered by two baseball fields: "A lot of fields are sunken. The fields at Stanford are sunken. It is an easy way to get stands in."
Kasperzak pointed out that the alternative to the flood basins is a dam near Hansen-Permanente Quarry, which would have major consequences for wildlife in the area.
Siegel peppered Water District representatives with questions, such as whether there might be unforeseen hold-ups in the project due to unknown toxics in the soil; how much useable park land would be lost; the quality of the new fields; whether the reconstructed parking lot would be adequate; and whether toxics might get washed onto the baseball field during floods.
Water District engineer Afshin Rouhani said that at other flood basins, including one in Morgan Hill, toxics washing into the area has not been a concern. He added that it can take four to six weeks to clean a flood basin after a flood.
Floodwaters would enter McKelvey at the southwestern corner adjacent to the creek. Gravity, not pumps, would drain the basin back into the creek after the flood subsides.