The council voted 4-1 to approve the concept with members Jac Siegel opposed, Laura Macias abstaining and Mike Kasperzak absent for the third week in a row.
Council members and sports leagues were largely supportive of the idea, saying it was an opportunity to upgrade the park at no cost to the city and that lowering the park by 15 feet could actually be aesthetically pleasing. But neighbors said the park's new conceptual design was too oriented towards sports and not enough towards neighborhood needs.
The concept is part of a larger Water District plan to protect 2,250 homes in Mountain View from a "100-year flood" — when the waters of Permanente and Hale creeks overflow their banks — and to save homeowners in certain areas from having to buy flood insurance. Three other flood basins have been proposed, including two in the Los Altos area which have yet to be approved and another one, already approved by the council as a concept, in the Cuesta Annex.
A handful of neighbors opposed the use of artificial turf proposed for the new ball fields, which they said would keep them from being able to walk their dogs at the park. And a new playground for the park, which has never had one, was slated for a dangerous location, neighbors said, facing oncoming traffic at the northern tip of the park on Miramonte Avenue at the corner of Park Drive.
Council members agreed, and said the playground should trade places with a portion of the parking lot in the design, which is twice as large as the current one with 72 spaces.
The City Council will likely impose new design requirements on the project in the future to address neighbors' concerns.
Macias was advised to abstain from the council dais because of the proximity of her home to McKelvey Park, but she decided to oppose the project from the public speaker's podium. She said that when voters approved the Clean and Safe Creeks Act of 2000 to fund the project, they did not intend to have such an impact on open spaces. She added that the city does not have the space for what has become known as a "regional" sports facility at McKelvey Park.
In a recent closed meeting, the council considered buying four unfinished homes on Mountain View Avenue to extend the park, but decided against it. On Tuesday, neighbor Gene Lee and others revisited the idea, saying it would allow more room for a neighborhood-oriented portion of the park along Mountain View Avenue.
"Our neighborhood doesn't really have a neighborhood park," Lee said. "We need a neighborhood park. You can today determine that you want those four properties and make the Water District buy it. We're talking a 100-year flood, let's take an extra year and do it right."
Siegel agreed that it was a good idea, but said the Water District had not been "active in trying to say, 'We can put this into the plan.' I really wished that could be part of the park."
Representatives of local youth sports leagues were largely supportive of the conceptual project, including the proposed artificial turf, which would allow them to use it year-round. The park's fields currently are closed in the winter months.
The conceptual plan includes a long list of improvements for the two baseball fields, including new snack shacks with garbage disposals in the sinks, batting cages, bleachers, even WiFi throughout the facility.