Voter Guide 2006: Measure J heats up Bayfront Park debate
• Community divided on advisory measure, future of park.
The consensus among a lot of Menlo Park residents is that the city needs more sports fields.
But whether Bayfront Park, the 160-acre park off Marsh Road, is the place for those fields is a different — and divisive — question.
Enter Measure J, the advisory ballot measure that asks voters if the city should pursue building fields on no more than 17 acres of the park.
All six council candidates say that, if elected, they will honor the results of the vote, but because Measure J is an advisory measure, the results are nonbinding.
The measure was put on the ballot by a divided council in July, with council members Lee Duboc, Nicholas Jellins and Mickie Winkler backing the measure and council members Andy Cohen and Kelly Fergusson opposing.
The city doesn't know the specific costs and environmental effects of building fields at the park, which is built atop a capped landfill and is adjacent to a wildlife refuge and the Bay.
The city will continue further studies, including an environmental impact report and traffic studies, only if Measure J passes, says city staff.
Thus far, representatives from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and Regional Water Control Board "have no problems" with the city's conceptual plans to develop the park, said Ruben Nino, the city's director of engineering services.
Consultants hired by the city said it is possible to build fields at the park, and have pegged the costs of grading, capping and building on the landfill at about $1 million per acre.
Preliminary plans show 10 to 17 acres of the park "that could be developed with up to two full-sized regulation, lighted soccer fields and one to two adult baseball diamonds," according to City Attorney Bill McClure's impartial analysis of Measure J.
The cost of building four fields is estimated to be $15 to $17 million.
According to the measure, "developer fees, user fees, donations and other voter-approved parks and recreation funds" are identified as funding sources.
The only major funding source identified by city staff is $6.5 million in park-in-lieu fees tied to upcoming development projects that could go toward building fields.
Specific line-item costs and additional estimated costs for maintaining the fields will be unknown when voters head to the polls Nov. 7.
Public Works Director Kent Steffens said fields could be built at the park in about three years.
Opponents of Measure J say high costs and environmental issues discredit consideration of building fields at the park.
Opponents have formed the No on J committee, and have raised $4,367.
"The process of trying to put fields at the park could take 10 years," said Lennie Roberts, the San Mateo County legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills. "There could be serious environmental challenges to any [environmental impact report] for this ... and enormous costs of complying with regulatory agencies."
Measure J supporters say that Bayfront Park is the city's only viable option for fields, and the site is worth a look. Opponents say several potential alternative sites have been identified, including two existing fields that can be enlarged to accommodate older players.
Local sports participants have rallied behind the measure and the three council candidates who support it — John Boyle and incumbents Duboc and Winkler.
"Measure J is a mandate for the council to take the next step," said Andy Kirkpatrick, a coach for Menlo Atherton Pop Warner football and a commissioner for the Alpine-West Menlo Little League. "All we're looking at is whether it's possible to build fields at Bayfront Park. It's an exploratory measure."
No political action committee has formed in support of Measure J. Instead, mailers in support of Measure J have been funded and distributed by candidates Boyle, Duboc and Winkler.
Candidates Vincent Bressler, Richard Cline and Heyward Robinson are opposed to the measure.
For more information, including the ballot arguments in support and opposition to Measure J, go to SmartVoter.org/ca/sm, click on "Local Measures" and select "Measure J."