The design was the result of several community meetings this year to find a way to lower the two large baseball fields that dominate the park — by 18 feet — and leave room for parking and a long-desired mini-park with playground. It also preserves large trees around the edge of the park previously proposed for removal.
After it was widely touted as the best compromise possible, council members were finally persuaded to approve the favored design option, "B-1," in 6-1 vote. Member Jac Siegel was opposed, saying he wasn't sure the flood basin was necessary.
"I think the water district is at a point where it can say, 'If you don't want the (flood) protection, we've been working on this for three years, fine, we did what we could,'" said council member Mike Kasperzak. "I really think we're at that point. Somebody was complaining that they've spent $20 million designing (the entire flood protection project) — it's because we had them go back to the drawing board so many times."
The new design provides a mini park the size of Mercy Bush park (.62 acres), retains a row of redwood trees along the back fence (20 of 37 large trees would still be removed), includes all-new Little League baseball field facilities, a community room, bleachers, dugouts, batting cages and concession stands and bathrooms.
All of it will be paid for by the Water District, which estimates the cost at $9 million.
Neighbors threatened a lawsuit over a previous design which rotated the larger field to more efficiently use the site but increased noise impacts, they said, and would have removed a row of redwood trees that buffer their backyards.
One of those neighbors was Tapan Bhat, who told the council Tuesday that the approved design "makes the best out of a bad situation — everyone has given a little bit."
Nevertheless, he said, "I don't think it's good enough." The project would reduce the number of parking spaces in the lot and on the street. He complained that on Saturday one Little League baseball game had filled the entire parking lot and cars were parked on Mountain View Avenue, Park Drive and Miramonte. It was later explained that this was an unusually big game.
"We are trying to solve three different competing needs in one piece of land. How much is it really going to protect for floods? I think there's still a gap in knowledge," Bhat said.
A few neighbors said the city should block the flood basin and fund the new park itself. Council member Ronit Bryant replied, "Wanting a park badly is one thing, getting one is another. Downtown, we waited for a park for years. It's almost an insult to the process that our residents and the groups have engaged in wholeheartedly, to say, 'No, I don't think so.'"
Water District Board member Brian Schmidt urged council members to approve the park design, saying it was an opportunity to keep hundreds of local property owners from having to pay an average of $1,200 a year on flood insurance. "An opportunity to fix this is rare," Schmidt said.
Paid for by the voter-approved Clean, Safe Creeks Natural Flood Protection Plan, the McKelvey basin is part of a project designed to protect 2,720 local properties (2,440 in Mountain View) from a so-called 100-year flood, an inundation that has a 1 percent chance of happening any given year.
There is also a flood basin planned at Rancho San Antonio Park, which has yet to be approved by Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors. Flood basins at Cuesta Annex and Blach School in Los Altos were found unnecessary after Water District staff found errors in its flood prediction model. There is $34 million left for the entire project, which also includes widening the creek in some areas.
Fewer neighbors spoke than in previous meetings, with one neighbor, Jonathan Herbach, speaking for several supporters.
"What we have is a very good compromise," Herbach said. "It offers baseball facilities that are sufficient (and) a field orientation like what we have today, which will minimize noise, and a mini-park with restrooms."
He urged council members to approve it.
Although the large baseball field is reduced in size by 5 feet, youth baseball leagues supported the plan to replaced the decades-old baseball facilities in the park.
"I think it's a great plan and our board thinks it's a great plan," said Elaine Spence, president of the the local Babe Ruth baseball league. "I live in Mountain View and I'm not looking forward to a flood."
The Water District will be responsible for finding temporary baseball facilities while construction begins in summer 2014, possibly using local school fields. New baseball fields approved for Shoreline Park have been delayed until 2015, said public works director Mike Fuller.