East Palo Alto youth to get sports field

City Council vote moves memorial to slain East Palo Alto police Officer Richard May forward

The "field of dreams" the family of slain East Palo Alto police Officer Richard May has hoped to build in the city since his death on Jan. 7, 2006, can move forward, the East Palo Alto City Council decided Tuesday night (Feb. 8).

The field, which is located at Bay Road near St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, would be a memorial to Officer May, said his stepfather, Frank Merrill of Atherton.

The family wanted to build a safe, state-of-the-art playing field to provide a healthy outlet for youths so they wouldn't engage in crime and end up like Mr. May's killer, Alberto Alvarez, Mr. Merrill said.

Mr. Alvarez, 23, was a drug dealer and former gang member who was convicted of first-degree murder on Dec. 22, 2009. He shot Officer May while trying to run away, after the officer stopped to question him about a fight at a nearby taqueria.

The proposed playing field is not without its critics. Council members split 3 to 2 in favor of granting a building permit, and former mayor Sharifa Wilson has said the council is not following proper protocol because it has not conducted an environmental study of the potential impacts of the field.

Councilman A. Peter Evans, who voted against the permit, said he was against strangers coming into the city to build the field. Mr. May was an employee who did not have any allegiance to the city, Mr. Evans said at the meeting.

Councilman David Woods, who also voted against the permit, said he had the opposite view of Mr. May but felt the study of potential impacts should be done prior to granting the permit.

Mayor Carlos Romero, Vice Mayor Laura Martinez and Councilman Ruben Abrica voted in favor of the permit.

Tami McMillan, Mr. May's sister, said the family was thrilled with the decision.

"I think this will be a great thing and a sense of pride for young athletes of every sport in East Palo Alto. I can't even be more ecstatic than I am," she said.

Ms. Wilson, who is president of the Ravenswood City School District board, said Thursday that she wanted to be clear that her opposition had nothing to do with her connection with Ravenswood, past or present. But she was speaking in her capacity as a homeowner who lives a half block from the field site.

"I'm disappointed the council did not make its priority safety and concern for the quality of life of residents," she said.

The project is bigger than she expected and goes beyond the scope of just the kids, she said.

"Everyone could accept a soccer field for the kids -- I was not against a soccer field. But now it's much, much larger. Kids could bike and walk to a soccer field, but an adult rugby field has other impacts," she said.

"Whenever there's a project, (the council) is obligated to do a negative declaration to evaluate if there is a need for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). They did absolutely nothing.

"They decided it's already an existing use. But my contention is it never had 60-foot lights or was open until 9:30. Those things would trigger the need for an EIR," she said.

In the past, Ms. Wilson has threatened lawsuits if a study was not done. On Thursday she said she is giving herself time to reflect.

Ms. McMillan said field proponents don't want to do anything that would upset residents. Getting the permit was key to getting donations, some of which can be used to fund the study.

"That's been the tightrope all along," she said.

The impact study would be done prior to any groundbreaking, she said.

When the council voted affirmatively, Ms. McMillan said the contentiousness of the meeting disappeared.

"I was almost numb. I thought I would be mad at Evans. But when I saw how many youth came out and how many speakers were in favor of the field, I thought, 'Let's just move forward and make this happen.'"

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Like this comment
Posted by Kathy
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2011 at 8:52 am

The officer was okay to protect your streets and get killed but Peter Evans calls him and his family strangers when they want to do something great for East Palo Alto ? Maybe I'm not reading this right but I really do not undersand that comment. My grandmother new Officer May. She lived in East Palo Alto until she passed away 2 years ago. She said he was a very special person, and a great asset to the community.

Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Let me see if I have this correct. The family of a slain East Palo Alto Police Officer wish to pay to build a playing field for the kids of East Palo Alto in order to preserve his memory and build a lasting connection with the community. And Peter Evans has the absolute audacity to call him and his family "Strangers". What a filthy disgrace. Why the voters of EPA keep voting this [portion removed; disrespectful language violates terms of use] to office eludes me. Perhaps he will find another target to throw his coffee at. [Portion removed]

God bless the May family for their efforts. and thanks Officer May, your commitment in both life and death will never be forgotten.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I truly understand the concern about traffic in the area, because there already is a lot of bad traffic there. However, residents also have to balance out what EPA needs vs. problems the solutions to those needs cause. Sharifa Wilson isn't trying to be difficult as she has legitimate concerns about the traffic & I'm glad she has spoken up. But the field is such a great idea, as well. It is looking a gift horse in the mouth - sometimes that's necessary to assess the health of the horse. May's family is laudable in their generosity & commitment as well. I wish Evans would be sent to etiquette school...what a nasty way to behave. It's very East Shallow Alto/NIMBY. Well, Peter, it's a backyard that belongs to others, too. At least Sharifa's concerns are legit even if I disagree w/her.

Like this comment
Posted by jackrabbit
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Feb 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Having attended the meeting in EPA re: the May Field, it was quite surprising (and disappointing) to hear Evans' comments that were singularly inarticulate, offensive and without logic, merit or common sense. EPA needs help and this proposal along with the generosity of St. Francis Church, the May, Merrill families and a host of youth proponents and activists involved in the community spoke passionately and wisely in support of the field as a major improvement and assist in positively directing younger, committed athletes. Sadly, the objections to May Field were shallow and transparent. Fortunately good prevailed.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm

jackrabbit, Evans is an embarrassment & a problem for the community. It's odd - away from city council, he's been pretty cool. He also knows that May was no saint & that's part of his bias against this whole thing & his considering them all outsiders. So I understand some of his perspective, but I don't believe it's a healthy, progressive or helpful position to take. This field is something valued by May's family & many residents who've worked in accord on it.

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

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