Despite residents' concerns about traffic impacts, the East Palo Alto Planning Commission approved a $3 million playing field for East Palo Alto's youth Monday night -- a memorial sports complex to be named for slain police Officer Richard May, whose family members live in Atherton.
Commissioners approved the field 4 to 1 during an acrimonious and emotional hearing.
The soccer and rugby field, which would replace a dirt and weed-strewn lot behind St. Francis of Assisi Church on Bay Road, has been four years in planning by May's family and friends through the Rich May Foundation.
The family wanted to establish the field as a way to help keep youth in the city engaged and out of gangs, foundation member Frank Merrill, May's stepfather and a resident of Atherton, has said in previous interviews. May was shot and killed in 2006 by Alberto Alvarez, an East Palo Alto gang member who has been sentenced to death for the killing.
Planning commissioners have been hesitant to allow the playing field, with some citing traffic congestion.
Tami McMillan, May's sister, said the traffic issue is being mitigated by a 500-foot setback for the passenger drop-off area. During the meeting, an emotional exchange erupted between McMillan and commission Chairwoman Renee Glover Chantler.
McMillan said a small group of people within the city were supporting the status quo.
"The status quo killed my brother," she said.
McMillan said the issue was scheduled for the end of the meeting, when kids and other supporters would not be able to stay because of the late hour. A few people in the community were letting small political issues get in the way of helping the kids, she said.
She said she believes opponents will appeal the decision.
Sharifa Wilson, president of the Ravenswood City School District, said the project should have an environmental impact report to address impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. She could not be reached Tuesday (Nov. 23) for comment regarding whether she plans to appeal the commission's decision.
Commissioners required a traffic study to be done by the project architect within one year.