EPA sports field approved amid heated debate

Emotional exchanges spark Planning Commission hearing on Rich May sports complex plans

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2010 at 8:22 am

I attended this meeting in support of the May family, the foundation and friends, but mostly for the children of East Palo Alto. I got there at 7PM had to leave at 9:50PM.

I was disappointed to find out that this issue was placed last on the agenda.This is a group who is trying to give a GIFT to the City of East Palo Alto to improve the lives of children. The planning commission did not once acknowledge that fact. I have to say i was quite impressed to see several parents with their children at the meeting. I'm talking about 12-15 children from 2 years old to 11 who were the best behaved kids I have seen in a long time, they sat through almost 3 hours of adult business waiting to show their support for the Richard May Field. I had to leave but they stayed.

What was missing from this meeting from Planning Commission side of the fence was sense of community or what I call the village.....It was not missing from the other side .
The village is alive and well people care about each other and they show up to support issues that matter.

Why was this last on the agenda?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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