"It's a community asset, that's why it deserves to stay," said council member Tom Means of the major league-sized field at McKelvey.
Five other council members agreed. Laura Macias had to recuse herself from the discussion because she lives near McKelvey.
The meeting brought Little League players and their families out en masse to defend the baseball tradition at McKelvey. A 90-foot field and a 60-foot Little League field have existed there for more than half a century. Families say evening games keep kids out of trouble on Friday and Saturday nights. And moving the 90-foot field to another location, as some neighbors proposed, would mean splitting up families who have young ones playing on the little field while their older kids play on "big McKelvey."
But the council chambers were also filled with nearby residents who said the kids in the neighborhood end up playing in the street because there is no real neighborhood park, despite the large space at McKelvey.
Community service director Dave Muela said 660 kids a year use McKelvey's baseball fields during the evenings and all day on the weekends for most of the year. But according to one neighbor in the Saint Francis Acres neighborhood, "We also have 300 kids with no place to play."
With the Santa Clara Valley Water District proposing to rebuild McKelvey as a 15-foot-deep flood basin for Permanente Creek, neighbors saw an opportunity to move the larger field to the Shoreline area, where new baseball and soccer fields are being built. A second 60-foot field could replace the 90-footer at McKelvey, leaving more space for a park, neighbors said.
But under the position the council took Tuesday, the 60- and 90-foot baseball fields will remain at McKelvey and neighbors will have to settle for a .7-acre mini-park squeezed onto the edge of the park. Council members noted that while it may sound small, it is actually larger than other mini-parks in the city, including Mercy-Bush Park — a "jewel" in the Old Mountain View neighborhood, said council member Ronit Bryant, who lives nearby.
The city is planning to build new 60- and 90-foot baseball fields and two soccer fields at Shoreline along Garcia Avenue, which would meet only the current demand for fields, according to city staff. Adding a second, larger baseball field to Shoreline would pose several problems, according a city staff report, including the need for a tall fence where perching raptors would endanger the rare burrowing owls. It would also mean spreading a baseball field across both landfill and non-landfill areas, which settle differently.
The City Council has yet to approve a detailed final plan for McKelvey, and construction could be several years away.