What should be done with the city's longest running youth baseball fields at McKelvey Park? That's under scrutiny by a group of neighbors who want one or both baseball fields removed altogether in favor of a neighborhood-focused park.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District's latest design for McKelvey, which would be rebuilt as a 15-foot-deep flood basin, will be the topic of a meeting scheduled Thursday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers.
Some neighbors are loudly questioning the need for McKelvey's two baseball fields, which have taken up the entire park for at least 50 years. A group of neighbors are feeling snubbed by the city for not allowing the neighborhood to lead the redesign of McKelvey as other neighborhoods have been allowed for their neighborhood mini-parks.
"That's exactly why were presenting this concept to them Thursday," said Public Works Director Mike Fuller of the latest design. "McKelvey is different than a traditional mini-park. A traditional mini park is not displacing other uses. That's why McKelvey is a little more difficult."
The latest design includes a concession to neighbors, a .7-acre mini-park and playground area. It fits next to the two baseball fields -- a concept the council supported in March. But Fuller said he's heard "loud and clear" from a group of neighbors who are now saying they want the larger, major league sized field removed for more neighborhood-oriented features.
McKelvey neighbor Lloyd Yu is among those leading that group. He believes that two baseball fields in the works on Garcia Avenue near Shoreline Park could replace the baseball fields at McKelvey. But advocates for youth baseball, including council member Tom Means, say that those fields were designed to compensate for a lack of baseball fields in the city as demand for McKelvey's fields is intense.
The City Council was presented with a petition last week signed by 200 neighbors who "would like McKelvey to be transformed from a single-use baseball facility to a multi-use neighborhood open space." Yu has gone farther in coming up with his own design for the park removes the park's two baseball fields altogether.
Yu points out that the St. Francis Acres neighborhood has no neighborhood park within a half-mile walking distance, which is a goal for every neighborhood in the city. He adds that McKelvey, at 4.7 acres, is too small to be classified as a regional sports facility, though it is used as one.
"While we obviously recognize an historical use of McKelvey for Little League baseball, it is equally obvious that McKelvey does not serve the needs of the neighborhood," wrote Yu in a letter to the City Council.
He doesn't believe the city should even be working with the youth sports leagues in designing the park either. "Whether we should have ball fields is primarily a neighborhood decision," according to city policies, Yu said.
Fuller said it would be up to the City Council whether the ball fields would be removed.
The vision for McKelvey outlined by Yu, which is not endorsed by the St. Francis Acres neighborhood, removes the baseball fields and replaces them with a field that could be used for lacrosse, soccer, football and Frisbee. Yu notes that those sports have a shortage of space as well.
Yu's design also includes tennis and basketball courts, a water feature and a playground.
Yu said that it would be "irresponsible" for the Water District to spend a proposed $9.1 million on the new baseball fields with new snack shacks with garbage disposals in the sinks, batting cages, bleachers, even WiFi throughout the facility -- when a suitable neighborhood park could be built for only $4.6 million.
McKelvey neighbor and council member Laura Macias supports her neighbors' increasing involvement in the process, but she said, "It would be hard to see no baseball" at McKelvey. She said it had become a "convenience and a tradition."
"I can live with what is now being proposed," Macias said. "There is a generous piece being laid out for a neighborhood park. It is larger than Mercy-Bush Park at .7 of an acre for the playground and open space. That's pretty good. It is a lot more than we have now."
"As selfish as it might be to say I don't want ball fields as a neighbor, as a city dweller I'd say we all have to carry the load for being part of city facilities," Macias said.
Nevertheless, Yu says the city should have asked for more input from the neighborhood. "The city's guidelines say the city should be working very closely with us and they are not. I don't feel that process is being adhered to in the slightest."
Vice Mayor Jac Siegel said making McKelvey a council agenda item would be a priority as he is in line to be mayor next year.
"If somebody is talking about it, let's talk about it," Siegel said. "I will push to have the Water District, the neighborhood and the ball players all get together and really see where we can go with this."
More information about the project can be found on a Water District Web page devoted to the Permanente Creek flood detention project.