Ever since the Santa Clara Valley Water District proposed rebuilding McKelvey Park so it's 15 feet lower, in order to use it as a Permanente Creek flood basin, residents of the St. Francis Acre neighborhood have been seeking more useable space in their neighborhood park. McKelvey has been taken up completely by two baseball fields for over 50 years.
Last week the Voice reported on a new proposal from park neighbor Lloyd Yu that would completely remove McKelvey's two baseball fields in favor of a smaller multi-use sports field for football, soccer and lacrosse. Yu argued that city policies say the neighborhood should lead the redesign of the park, and pointed to a petition signed by 200 neighbors that "would like McKelvey to be transformed from a single-use baseball facility to a multi-use neighborhood open space."
But since then a different group of neighbors has presented another idea to the Voice, which neighbor Elizabeth Thompson said has been discussed for over a year. It involves trading the larger of the two baseball fields at McKelvey with another Little League-sized field proposed for the Shoreline area along Garcia Avenue. The result would be two Little League fields at McKelvey and two major league-sized fields at Shoreline Park.
Thompson said that change would leave plenty of room at McKelvey for neighborhood enjoyment and Little League baseball, while also eliminating noise and the bright lights used for nighttime baseball games on the larger fields, which kids play on after they turn 12.
"It seems to work out really well," Thompson said. Little League teams will have two fields at McKelvey and "we get a pretty decent space to have neighborhood park." It makes for a more "neighborhood-friendly environment."
"We don't want to displace" the baseball teams, Thompson said. "We understand that there is 50 years of history" of baseball at McKelvely.
But one of the main users of the larger field at McKelvey was not pleased with the proposal. Elaine Spence, president of Mountain View Babe Ruth Baseball, said that the 12 and older kids "would lose field time" under the proposal for a number of reasons. One is that the Shoreline ball fields in the works have already been designated as multi-use fields, which means that baseball teams would be "lobbying soccer, softball, lacrosse and everyone else for field time."
The proposal would also split up some families when their 8-year-old is playing on the Little League fields at McKelvey and their 13-year-old has to play with the bigger kids out at Shoreline, she said.
"Having both fields together near downtown Mountain View is a plus for families that play baseball," Spence said. "Mom and dad can watch both games."
She added that McKelvey's central location allows a lot of kids, including those who play Marauders football at McKelvey, to ride a bike to their games and practices. The Shoreline fields make kids more dependent on their parents to drive them there. And a lot of parents may not even want to face the traffic on Shoreline Boulevard and Rengstorff Avenue, especially during concerts at Shoreline Amphitheatre, Spence said.
Spence reiterated comments made last week by council member Laura Macias that the .7-acre carve-out for a playground and neighborhood park in the latest design for McKelvey is actually larger than other neighborhood parks in the city, including Mercy-Bush Park.
Community Services Director Dave Muela said that an alternative proposal from neighbors won't be the proposal city staff brings to the City Council for approval, unless the council specifically asks for such a design.
Muela said city had not considered the added cost of building two major league-sized baseball fields at Shoreline. The city has budgeted $9 million in Shoreline tax district funds for the Shoreline ball fields while the Water District says it will cost $9.1 million for its latest proposal at McKelvey.
City Council meetings on both the Shoreline and McKelvey fields are expected sometime early next year.