A plan to turn McKelvey Park into a flood detention basin has drawn the ire of neighbors who say they may sue over plans that could increase noise from the park's baseball fields while removing the large redwood trees that shade their homes.
Neighbors Elizabeth Thompson and Tapan Bhat said Tuesday that a group of neighbors will oppose the redesign of the park as a flood basin at the Dec. 11 City Council meeting. It is up for a vote along with a larger Permanente Creek flood project that may or may not include a similar basin at the Cuesta Annex.
Neighbors say the plan to lower the park by 15 feet flips the orientation of the park's highly used baseball fields, putting the bleachers up against neighboring homes where there is now just an outfield. And nearly all of the park's trees will be removed, including a row of "old, big, gorgeous redwood trees" along their back fences that create a noise buffer with the park, Thompson said. The footprint of the trees would be replaced by the concrete walls around the edge of the flood basin that double as bleachers and walkways.
"They've got all the noise and lights where the people's houses are, which doesn't seem terribly logical," said Bhat, one of a dozen homeowners adjacent to the park.
"It seems that once it was brought up it should have been fixed," said Thompson, former chair of the St. Francis Acres Neighborhood Association. "And now it's coming down to a potential lawsuit -- it shouldn't have to come that."
"We are talking about getting a lawyer to force some kind of legal action to get this redesigned," Bhat said. "This is something we don't want to do, but we are being left with no other choices."
Thompson began raising the issues in 2010 when she and others proposed two smaller baseball fields at McKelvey to make room for more park space that would serve everyone, which they say the neighborhood lacks. Youth sports leagues strongly opposed the idea of losing what's known as the "Big McKelvey" field. Thompson was not pushing that idea this week.
"We just want a design that is for the next 50 years that doesn't negatively impact anybody, and I think it's possible," Thompson said. "At least try."
"We are not arguing against doing this project or against flood protection for the area," Bhat said. "We just want this area redesigned. It's OK to plan for the future but when it gets to the point when it is affecting your home, affecting your property values, it is getting personal."
In the $10 million revamp of McKelvey Park, local Little League teams were promised new ball field facilities, including new bleachers, a new snack shack, artificial turf and improved lighting, among other amenities. The park would also have a new mini park and playground for the neighborhood.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District has offered to pay for the revamp of the park in exchange for being able to use it as part of its Permanente Creek flood protection plan, a project that has barely stayed within its $40 million budget so far. The project aims to protect over 1,600 properties north of El Camino Real in the event of a rare, 100-year flood of Permanente Creek. A so-called 100-year flood is a severe flood that has a 1 percent chance of happening every year.
Similar basins proposed for Blach Middle School and Cuesta Annex have been cut from the Water District's proposal, leaving McKelvey and a basin at Rancho San Antonio.
Thompson and Bhat say the design of the parking lot for the mini-park next to the ball-fields also remains a source of complaints from neighbors. They want to remove a second turn-around for cars next to the new neighborhood mini-park in order to increase the size of that section of the park.
"It puts this drop-off area there in which basically cars would drive into the driveway and immediately drop off the kids where the playground is. We are concerned with not only safety issues but a really big waste of space."
The meeting is set for the evening of Dec. 11 at City Hall, 500 Castro Street. See mountainview.gov for a council agenda to be posted on Dec. 6.