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ACTION: Speak/write to City Council Tuesday re Blair Park restoration phasing

Piedmont City Council, Tuesday, January 21, 2014, at 7:30 pm, City Hall

Come to the City Council meeting and see the presentation of the proposed landscape improvement plan for Blair Park.

This will be the only opportunity to comment on the landscape plan for Blair Park, prepared by Restoration Design Group (RDG), before the Council votes on it. RDG has done an excellent job of designing a vision for Blair Park that includes new plantings, a pedestrian path, removal of dead and dying trees, and long-deferred maintenance of existing oaks and other native plants.

Unfortunately, the City staff report is recommending that the Council approve the Piedmont Park Commission’s proposal to divide the design plan into two phases and proceed ONLY with Phase 1, which is nothing more than deferred maintenance. The Park Commission concluded that Phase 2 should wait until a traffic study is conducted and further stated, “the entire community should be consulted and Citywide consensus reached in support of any future development for Blair Park….through surveys, referendum or vote.”

Friends of Moraga Canyon asserts that the Settlement Agreement of our lawsuit, executed by the City Council, requires approval forthwith of RDG’s complete landscape design plan, not just the deferred maintenance proposed in Phase 1. We believe the City must commit to a tree replanting plan and pedestrian pathway improvements (at a minimum) in order to comply with the legal requirements of the Settlement Agreement as well as with the “scope of work” specified in the contract with RDG.

FOMC also contends that RDG’s landscape improvement plan (both Phase 1 and 2) does not increase access to the park (in fact it removes parking spaces) and does not change the current use of the park, as claimed by the Park Commission and City staff.

FOMC has sent a letter to the City Council outlining our objections in response to the staff’s recommendation.

Blair Park is the first item on the Council agenda. We urge you to attend the presentation; it is important to our city. If you cannot attend in person, please write to the City Council with your thoughts (a sample email is included below); then tune in on KCOM or stream the meeting live through the city’s website on Tuesday. You can view the staff report and design plans on the city website as well.

Again, we urge you to attend the presentation as it contains much more information than what is in the staff report. Your comments on the design plan will be extremely beneficial.

Thank you for your ongoing support of Blair Park. RDG’s landscape design plan will accomplish what we have all been working so hard to achieve – a beautiful, natural, open-space park that serves as a lovely gateway to Piedmont – but only if it is fully executed in a way that meets the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

If you have any questions, please contact us.


You may email your comments to City Council via John Tulloch, City Clerk, at jtulloch@ci.piedmont.ca.us

Sample email to City Council:

Dear City Council members,

I urge Council to approve the complete landscape design plan for Blair Park (Phases 1 and 2) prepared by RDG. Approving only Phase I will not meet the design requirements agreed to in the Settlement Agreement between Friends of Moraga Canyon and the City of Piedmont. Since RDG has developed a concept for the entire plan, it makes no sense and would be a waste of money to approve only the first phase. The city can determine how to implement the plan over time, as funding becomes available.

* Include here any specific comments you may have regarding the design elements of the Blair Park Landscape Improvement Plan *

Signed,

[your name]

URGENT: Park Commission meeting Thursday – serious concerns with plan

Dear Friends of Moraga Canyon,

A critical public meeting on the restoration and future of Blair Park will be held by the Piedmont Park Commission this Thursday, December 12th at 5:30 p.m. at the Piedmont City Council Chambers. Please plan to attend and speak or submit comments in writing to the Park Commissioners by email to mfeldkamp@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

RDG, the landscape consulting firm retained by the City to prepare a plan for Blair Park, will present their schematic landscape proposal for review by the Park Commission and public comment. Although this is a “schematic design plan,” it includes all of the elements of the final plan.

WE BELIEVE THERE ARE SERIOUS ELEMENTS MISSING FROM THE PLAN THAT MUST BE ADDRESSED NOW!

  • There is no reference to a pathway through the park, even though this is included as a design element in every contract document.
  • The proposal recommends removal of all non-native trees and provides for a central meadow of native grasses.  There is no plan or recommendation for any new trees.
  • Removing ivy from the perimeter of remaining trees is proposed, but no recommendation for other invasive plants.
  • Improvements to drainage and erosion at the west end of the park, where soggy conditions exist every winter, are proposed to be remedied merely with “subtle surface grading”  and modest improvements at the storm overflow.
  • No improvements are recommended for the two existing parking areas (2 spaces each), which would remain in their current dilapidated condition.  
  • The only new elements proposed for the park are a “gateway monument” with a potential planting area and “vehicular restrictions” to prohibit driving onto the park.

 The intent of the Blair Park landscape improvement plan was to:

  1. ensure that the City takes care of deferred maintenance that has mounted over the past decade;
  2. restore and improve the natural habitat of the park to a level consistent with all other Piedmont parks.

Here are links to key information about the plan:

Your comments at the Park Commission meeting would be extremely beneficial.  If you can’t attend, please submit comments in writing to the Park Commissioners by email to mfeldkamp@ci.piedmont.ca.us

As always, thank you for your continued interest and support of Blair Park.  We must remain vigilant to ensure that our goals for restoring and improving the park are met!

Jim Semitekol,
President, FOMC

Blair Park progress

Dear Friends of Moraga Canyon,

roped treeTHE STORY POLES ARE DOWN! DEAD TREES ARE REMOVED! IMPROVEMENT PLANS FORTHCOMING!

It is heartening to report that progress is continuing towards a revived Blair Park. The story poles were removed earlier this month with little fanfare. The City of Piedmont contracted with Bailey Fence at an estimated cost of $1,857, according to Public Works Director Chester Nakahara.

Last week, a large Monterey pine along Moraga Avenue in Blair Park fell into the park. It was removed quickly by City Dept. of Public Works staff, and we have been notified that two additional trees in the park that warranted removal over a year ago will be taken out this week.

We are encouraged that this is a step (albeit a small step) in the right direction towards recognizing Blair Park as an important part of Piedmont that deserves the same amount of care and attention given to all other City parks.

The preliminary design plans for Blair Park will be presented at the December Park Commission meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, December 4th; however, it may be rescheduled because that is the same evening as the tree lighting ceremony. We will keep you posted of the exact date when the plan becomes available for public review and comment. I hope you will take the time to examine the plan and provide your comments to the Park Commission. Most importantly, I hope you will attend this important Commission meeting.

Thank you for your continued support and interest in Blair Park and Moraga Canyon.

Sincerely,

Jim Semitekol
President

P.S. An informative article was published on the Piedmont Civic Association website today regarding the rezoning issue before City Council tonight (November 18th) that is worth reading.

Reports on Park Commission meeting

On October 2, 2013, the Piedmont Park Commission unanimously acknowledged the need to maintain and improve Blair Park, and agreed to move forward with the development of a landscape design plan. The Commission heard presentations by Bob Birkeland, landscape architect of Restoration Design Group (RDG), and arborist Jim Clarke of HortScience, Inc., the two firms collaborating on the design. Birkeland and Clarke outlined their initial assessments of the park’s potential, its constraints, and the condition of many of its trees. Audience members then described their concepts for improving Blair Park and what the park means to them.

A proposed landscape improvement plan for Blair Park is scheduled to be presented by RDG and HortScience at the December 12, 2013 meeting of the Park Commission.

For more information, read the following media reports:

PLEASE ATTEND OR WRITE: Park Commission Meeting, Wed Oct 2

We urge all interested persons to attend the Park Commission meeting on Wednesday, October 2nd at 5:30 p.m. to express your wishes for Blair Park. This is the opportunity for anyone to voice their opinion regarding the future of the park. Comments from the Public Hearing will allow the Park Commission to prepare recommendations to the Consultant for the landscape improvements and maintenance at Blair Park. This is the first of the two public hearings that will be heard by the Park Commission regarding this matter.

If you can’t attend in person, please write to the Commission with your suggestions, thoughts and concerns. You can send email to mfeldkamp@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

Again, we must caution that all suggestions should be made with the constraints and reality of the park’s site in mind. It is accessible only by car or bike, since pedestrian access across Moraga is unsafe. The park is a gateway to Piedmont, viewed by thousands of motorists every day. As such, it should be an attractive, well-maintained, natural open space, in keeping with all other parks in the city of Piedmont.

* * * * * * * * * *

PUBLIC NOTICE: The Piedmont Park Commission will conduct a public hearing on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, located in City Hall, 120 Vista Avenue to consider a landscape plan for Blair Park.

Restoration Design Group (RDG), the consultants chosen by the City Council in consultation with the Friends of Moraga Canyon to develop the Landscape Improvement Plan for Blair Park will make a presentation. RDG will report on existing conditions, site constraints, and their investigations and observations. Presentations will be made by the project team composed of Bob Birkeland of RDG and Jim Clark, their Arborist from Hortscience. The information presented will serve as a baseline from which their plan and ideas will be developed.

The Park Commission meeting, including this issue, will be televised on KCOM-TV, Channel 27, the City’s government access TV station and broadcast on the City website.

You may write to the Park Commission by e-mail at mfeldkamp@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

For further information, contact Mark Feldkamp, Parks & Project Manager at 420-3064.