http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2007/08/31/good-call-on-new-mini-park


Mountain View Voice

Opinion - August 31, 2007

Good call on new mini-park

The City Council had a choice last week: Approve purchase of a badly needed mini-park at the end of West Dana Street north of Shoreline Road, or back out of the deal at the behest of neighbors fearful of badly-behaving teens from the neighborhood.

We believe the council made the right call, opting on a 4-3 vote to pay $1.6 million for the property, despite concerns of nearby residents that a park could bring nothing but trouble.

Park supporters must concede that current conditions in the neighborhood, including illegal activities, justify (in the short term) some hesitancy in acquiring the park site. And those conditions are what convinced Mayor Laura Macias and council members Jac Siegel and Ronit Bryant to vote against buying the property.

But despite hearing spirited testimony in opposition from neighbors, a majority prevailed on a 4-3 vote. It was a good call for many reasons, not the least of which is that opportunities to purchase such infill parcels of property do not come around very often. To pass up this parcel simply because of short-term problems with unruly young adults strikes us as short-sighted in the extreme.

Instead of backing away, the prevailing four council members said they would attempt to immediately clean up any current misbehavior in the neighborhood. That is a good first step, and more will have to be done to make this L-shaped lot, with limited access and sightlines, into a safe and viable park.

Residents who opposed the park were concerned that police would not be able to prevent nighttime criminal activity due to the poor visibility and access. The nearby Victory Outreach halfway house for gang members was another reason cited by opponents, who are concerned that the park would become a haven for gang activity.

These are valid concerns that should be addressed immediately by the city, whether the park purchase goes through or not. But there are other ways for the city to address these problems, including making a strong effort to purchase the corner parcel that would turn the park into a square shape.

We would urge the neighbors who fear criminal activity to work together with police and the relevant city departments to design a well-lighted space that would benefit the entire neighborhood. During last week's hearing, council member Matt Pear noted that some years ago a similar crime-laden spot in his neighborhood was cleaned up by residents, who used video cameras to record gang activity at the park.

West Dana property owners could do the same, in cooperation with the Police Department. If gang members and other nefarious characters hear that criminal activity will not be tolerated, it is likely that many, if not all, will avoid using the park as their personal fiefdom. Such an effort would require a working commitment from neighbors, but in the end it will be more than worth the price.

Comments

Posted by Nick Perry, a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 5, 2007 at 12:58 am

Matt Pear was talking about Klein Park, which he lives across the street from. It doesn't take a genius to see that Klein Park and the proposed park on West Dana are two different animals in terms of siting and visibility.

Klein Park is on the corner of California and Ortega Street. The West Dana Park is surrounded by the backyards of adjacent homes with a narrow opening on Mariposa and an even narrower opening on West Dana.

At Klein Park, neighbors in apartments adjacent and across the street from the park turned their video cameras on from balconies and windows to record nightly activity and get police (and eventually City Council) attention.

I find it ludicrous that both Pear and the Voice are volunteering neighbors' video cameras as a solution to potential problems on West Dana Street. That is not a solution – rather, it will be a clear sign that the City made a mistake with this purchase and failed with the design of the park.

This editorial also ignores the true reason Mayor Macias, Councilmember Siegal and Councilmember Bryant voted against the resolution. They were all in favor of purchasing the parcel – they simply disliked Vice Mayor Means' amended resolution which closed the door on exploring other options for the site after purchase.

They simply wanted to explore the possibility of keeping some or all of the affordable housing units on the site. They recognized that both affordable housing and parkland are desperately needed in this neighborhood. Unfortunately, the slim majority of the City Council decided it wasn't even worth *looking* at the option of maintaining the current cottages. It was a poor and narrow minded decision.

Nevertheless, the decision has been made and despite their concerns, the neighbors are willing to make the best of the situation. Hopefully by working together with the City and police, neighbors will be able to address safety concerns and make the park as safe as can be via its design. In other words, hopefully no video cameras will be needed.

The Voice's suggestion that the City purchase the parcel that currently makes the park site L-shaped is a solution worth exploring. I would support that, but only if the restored Victorian house on the site is re-used or relocated rather than demolished.

However, I doubt the current owners have any interest in letting go of their beautiful home…

…but who knows....maybe that'll change after they get tired of manning the park-monitoring video cameras on their back and side-yard fences ;)

I kid.

Kind of.