Neighbors should have upper hand in park designIt is no surprise that the City Council balked at rubber-stamping the Santa Clara Valley Water District's final plan to lower the floor of McKelvey Park 15 feet so it could serve double duty as a flood basin and continue to be the home of two Little League playing fields.
The new park's final design would reorient the fields so home plate and the bleachers would back up to what is now the outfield fence. The change would also take out 32 of the tall redwood trees that line the park's border and provide shade and a sound wall for the neighbors.
On a 6-0 vote, the council sent the project back to see if another design that's more acceptable to neighbors can be found. It was the right decision on this contentious project, on which the water district is relying to take away the threat of a rare, 100-year flood along Permanente Creek, which now trickles by just a few yards from the edge of the park.
Water district officials say the park design has been difficult since neighbors want more than just Little League playing fields, which draw teams from all over the area but do not do not serve most residents who live nearby. To meet that need, the park design includes a mini-play area, parking for 47 cars and a turnaround, so parents easily can drop off young players where they won't have to cross a busy parking lot.
If the district returns to the design in place now, it will remove parking for eight cars, and may impact a turnaround option if neighbors' complaints about them are heeded. One alternative, to reduce the size of the larger ball field, is not likely to be acceptable to Little League officials.
We believe the neighbors have made a good case and should have priority in this redesign for a park in their backyard. The redwood trees must be saved and fields reoriented, so crowd noise and lights that illuminate the field will not impact neighbors. Let's not forget that many of the players who use the park are residents of other neighborhoods or another city.
McKelvey Park is a critical part of the district's flood control plan, and if neighbors sue, as they have threatened to do, it could hold up approval for months, if not years, an outcome that would not be good for anyone.
The district has already agreed to give up the basin once planned for Cuesta Park Annex, so McKelvey and a basin at Rancho San Antonio Park are the key ingredients for the plan to protect 1,600 properties north of El Camino Real in the event of a catastrophic flood. The plan has many critics, including some who claim that there is no certainty that a 100-year flood will ever occur. But in the wake of the recent cataclysmic storms on the East Coast and the continuing worry about global warming, it is not easy to bet against taking precautions.