There’s a chain link fence in Menlo Park
On one side is Flood Park, where there’s a bitter struggle brewing over a plan to cut down the heart of a beloved woodland to make room for a soccer field.
On the other side is a vacant lot, big enough to hold that soccer field.
It would be great if the soccer field could be built on the vacant lot, allowing the woodland to be saved!
Unfortunately, there are obstacles, involving money and different visions of the best use of public lands. The vacant lot belongs to the Ravenswood School District, which wants to lease out the land as a source of income to bolster their hard-pressed budget. Flood Park belongs to the County of San Mateo. County administrators want to stick to their plan of carving a spot for the soccer field out of the park’s woodland, and assert that the County doesn’t want to expand the park and doesn’t have funds to pay for the lot. Instead, in their “Reimagine Flood Park” plan, funds are focused on construction of “amenities,” including sports facilities, but also funds are being spent for cutting down the heart of the woodland and greatly reducing family use capacity of picnic areas.
Plus, there are many complicating factors. Decision-makers are immersed in conflicting agendas. Housing advocates are pushing for low-income housing. Development must be balanced by green space. Real estate prices are at all-time highs. The site is not well-suited for housing. Adjacent neighborhoods are worried about increases in traffic. Soccer supporters are pressing for more fields. Environmental groups are calling for better stewardship. Local residents are organizing around saving the park’s woodlands and public-use areas. Fund-raising for non-commercial use would be challenging, but possible.
It’s all too easy for good initiatives to get lost during the debates.
And, there’s a time factor. Ravenswood School District has issued a Request For Proposals on how they should use the site. Responses are due November 17th. The candidate proposal is to be selected in early December.
Despite the obstacles, the benefits of using the vacant lot to house the soccer field are compelling. It would enable Flood Park to preserve its natural woodland, and it would help resolve a growing community battle over park stewardship. It would provide practice and competition space for school and community teams all along the peninsula, and it would improve the recreational and green space balance for development in Menlo Park, Atherton, Redwood City and North Fair Oaks.
At this late date, what will have to happen to make this possible?
The County Board of Supervisors will have to take action, take back the stance taken by County administrators, get together with the School District, and make a deal. So far, despite urging from residents, that hasn’t happened.
If you’d like to see the soccer field built on the vacant lot adjacent to Flood Park, making it possible to save the woodland, please add your name to the petition to that effect (at FloodPark.org) and e-mail the County Board of Supervisors and the Ravenswood City School District. Please act right away, before the opportunity is gone.
Building Smart and Balanced
With the area growing so fast we need to pay attention to balance. Yes, absolutely, we need affordable and low income housing throughout county, but we need to be smart and balanced when addressing this housing inequity. It needs to come with a balance of:
- Greatly improved and useable transportation
- Nearby local amenities like retail, services, and schools all in walking distance
- A dire need for local – close by green space, parks, and playgrounds
We have scores of residential housing projects in progress – we have virtually no new parks and similar green space areas being allocated and developed near local neighborhoods. This green space requirement is a must have to service this growing population, let alone the existing population. Some neighborhoods like NFO and EPA have lacked support for such green space and related nature parks for many decades, further degrading those neglected neighborhoods and cutting the standard of living for children and families, and keeping the residents at undue risk.
On this Webpage —
Reasons and Benefits
Stewardship. This change will make it easier for the County to be good stewards of the woodland environment entrusted to them in Flood Park. In the Reimagine Flood Park Plan 2020 Landscape Plan, pressure for the creation of multiple playing fields led to slating the central grove of the woodland for destruction. This alternative placement saves those trees and could be a step toward a much-needed woodland stewardship program in the park.
Actions like this on our local scale are what it takes to incrementally turn our culture away from ruining its environment and move toward sustainability. Saving these trees is the right thing to do.
Recreation. New playing fields for soccer and lacrosse have been requested by schools and community groups. This will answer those requests, plus, there’s room on the site for additional small courts, expanding the range of sports that can be offered. It would be a welcome addition to the portfolio of recreation and greenspace needed to balance extensive housing and business development now taking place in the area.
Savings. In the Reimagine Flood Park plan, putting the soccer field into the middle of the Flood Park woodland would result in many costly efforts, including moving picnic areas, rerouting park pathways, installing utilities, and, of course, the expense of removing dozens of large trees. Instead, the woodland side of the park could remain largely as it is today, for a large potential savings, which could be put toward offsetting loss of income for the School District.
Community. The placement of sporting fields in the Reimagine Flood Park plan has polarized the community, creating artificial conflict.
Most people like soccer, and most people see the value in woodlands, but the Reimagine plan put them in competition for the same limited area. This alternative placement of the soccer field will help the community once again unite around enjoying both aspects of the park, rather than fighting over them.
On another front, putting housing on the lot is also likely to draw stiff opposition from the surrounding neighborhood, especially on the grounds of increased traffic, already a touchy subject in the area. In contrast, the soccer field would not require any additional traffic on the neighborhood streets – the players and their families would come and go through the park, and use the park’s existing parking areas. Developers are also likely to face challenges over housing density, affordability, and design, which could result in years of conflict and delay. A soccer field project could come to fruition much more quickly and easily.
In order for soccer and other playing fields to be placed on the site, both the County and School Board will need to interrupt their current thinking and their official plans and move quickly and nimbly. For institutions, this can be hard to do.
Funding. The School District is planning on generating income by leasing the property to a developer. That foregone income will need to be offset by funds from the County, funds from other sources, or some other kind of value created for the District.
Suggestions for funding sources include local, county, state, and federal government, both sports and ecological organizations, corporate sponsorship, property swaps, and campaigns for donations in wealthy local communities.
Momentum. It’s unfortunate that in the past, the County and the School District have missed several opportunities to link up Flood Park and the lot next door – both remnants of the historic Flood estate. County administrators have taken the stance that the County doesn’t need to expand the boundaries of the park (even though they clearly want to expand the services of the park). With the site sitting vacant for more than 10 years, and no interest from the county, the School District has explored many options, and has embarked on the path of leasing the site to developers.
Does it Make Sense for High Density Housing?
- Affordable and low income housing is needed in County and the SF Bay Area.
- For affordable housing, location matters:
- Need for frequent dependable public transportation
- Walking distance to retail, markets, and services
- Healthy clean environment
- Flood School site doesn’t fit the above criteria –
- This property is near sea level – what will be the cost of sea level rise mitigation in coming years? (See County Climate Report showing forecasted risk at this area.)
- Neighborhoods are already choked with local traffic volume, adding hundreds of trips more a day won’t help. What analysis and mitigation will be done to protect local neighborhood from this added traffic on their residential streets?
- Benefits a fortunate few that live in the high density housing, rather than the benefit to thousands if the property were used as green space and sports areas for Flood Park
- The housing project is just a chainlink fence away from the busiest freeway on the peninsula and thus noise, pollution, health issues is a challenge for this living environment
- Potentially very long development process to complete housing: Must address local residents concerns, change zoning, find ways (if any) to mitigate traffic increase, and address other mega housing development issues.
- There are far better and available areas to build high density and affordable housing to the west of Bay Rd and in areas where affordable housing does not yet exist. These areas are close to transportation, markets, and retail.
- Does it make any sense to add thousands of housing units with out any care or thought to the accompanying need for green space, nature, trees, and park areas? For NFO and EPA, ignoring the need for such green space compounds the problem of neglected and deprived neighborhoods.
- Isn’t it short sided thinking to ignore the need for green space and parks when adding thousands of housing units? There needs to be green space like parks as part of increased housing units.
- Increase in population means school districts will need more space for their students for sports and after school activities, where green space is a big benefit to school districts and their ability to meet future needs
Youth Activites, Local Sports, After School Programs
- North Fair Oaks, Menlo Park, and Bellehaven districts need more sports fields for their future student enrollments which will grow as more housing is added
- Adding the 2.5 acres of School site to Flood Park as sports/green-space makes sense
- This site could be developed as a sports field quickly and made available for use well before the Re-Imagine Flood Park project
- High cost of dollars and major cost to the environment that results to the heart of the woodland being destroyed by a 2nd soccer field, is eliminated. It is less expensive to have a larger 2nd soccer field on the school property and the woodland would be preserved.
- Better location in the park for sports. Allowing the freeway side of Flood Park to host sports and preserving the other half of the park as a nature retreat is a natural fit.
- Having the school site as sports fields, means that the school districts are able to still provide the sports benefit to their future students – not avail if high density housing is built
Preservation of Historic Woodland, Wildlife, and Environment
- Flood Park is known as a nature retreat in the midst of suburbia
- Adding the School site to the park can save the treasured and historic woodland from destruction
- High cost of placing 2nd soccer field in woodland is not just dollars: The unrecoverable high cost to loss of environment to scores of bird species and other wildlife is a major factor to be considered.
- While County firmly states that tree canopy, natural environments, health greenspace are essential and a priority, gaining the school property as park space puts these spoken promises into meaningful action
- What are we teaching our children? In the fight for the environment, climate change, and canopy preservation all being top priority, County Supervisors support this mass cutting of scores of significant trees and the gutting of the beloved heart of the woodland park?
School Teachers, District Managers, PhysEd
- School districts need to have more sports fields to offer students and after school programs: Now and even more so in future years.
- Adding the School property as sports fields preserves the nature education experience provided by Flood Park’s historic woodland, called by County as the “Heritage Grove”. This woodland is a fantastic teaching resource for young students – it should not be destroyed as currently planned by County parks when the school site is a better place for sports.
- In future years, the demand for sports fields will grow as the student population grows and the school site addresses that need.
- By only building out sports fields, not structures, future options are left open should the need arise for the School District, County, and the overall community.
- Kids need a healthy outdoor area for both nature and sports
- School District benefits by increase in available sports fields and priority of use
- A sports field use is has low development costs and still keeps future options open for the school district
- School site as a sports field is low cost, fastest development, lowest impact. High density housing is a poor fit and takes many years to develop, resulting in high impact on local community and park.