News

Residents protest private club's wish for public well

Benefit to Menlo Park unclear

The city's proposal to install an irrigation well in Nealon Park, a popular communal open space owned by Menlo Park, aroused the ire of the park's neighbors at an informational meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 24.

The Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club wants to pay for the well and a pipeline to water its golf course, which could also irrigate three city parks and a school. The well would save the club money by switching to groundwater for irrigation instead of potable Hetch Hetchy water, but what the city gets out of the deal remains murky.

Matt Oscamou, the city's interim engineering manager, said every aspect of the project, including construction cost and the direction of pipeline alignments between the park and club, would have to be factored in before calculating any type of financial numbers. The city would also need to negotiate an agreement for the club to cover ongoing maintenance costs.

Staff suggested the proposal could help the city meet the state's mandate to cut water consumption 20 percent by 2020 by saving about 60 million gallons of Hetch Hetchy water annually.

However, David Alfano, a 24-year resident of Menlo Park who attended Wednesday's meeting, said the well proposal does nothing to meet this requirement; it only changes the source of water from Hetch Hetchy to the park's aquifer.

The well would be located in front of the tennis courts facing Middle Avenue, within a 10-foot by 30-foot area enclosed by screens designed to match the court fences, according to city engineering staff. They estimated construction would take six to nine months, and need one week of 24/7 drilling, which didn't sweeten the deal from the neighbors' perspective, despite staff's promise of a temporary noise barrier.

Residents objected to the proposal on environmental grounds as well as the appearance of a private club benefiting from diverting a public resource.

"I believe any public-private venture in open space and a depleting valuable natural resource is not an acceptable use. This appears to be a sweetheart deal for a private country club," said Elizabeth Houck, a lifelong resident of Menlo Park.

The suggested non-recreational use of the park provided another avenue of objection.

"We want our park to be a park and not used as a light industrial space. Just a month ago they proposed to plant cell-phone towers at Nealon. I'm wondering if there will ever be a time when we can just relax and not have to worry about our park being used for non-recreational purposes," Mr. Alfano said.

Toward the end of the meeting, a club representative mentioned that another private business is also interested in the aquifer, but declined to identify that business.

Staff plans to present the proposal to the City Council in October or November. If approved, construction could start in fall 2012, once the pipeline alignment also gets the green light.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm

This kind of reporting drives me up the wall.....

Come on Almanac get on the ball.

How much does the City currently pay to irrigate the three parks and school?

Assuming the project is approved, how much will the City pay in the future?

What percentage of the park area will the proposed enclosure make unavailable?


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Posted by interested enough to read
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Interested -

"...said every aspect of the project, including construction cost and the direction of pipeline alignments between the park and club, would have to be factored in before calculating any type of financial numbers. "

TBD, ma'am...

Curious about ongoing noise of pumps for well and moving the water up hill.

But, TBD...


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Posted by Ralphie
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm

While not wishing to accuse anyone of bad faith, the slides from last night's presentation of this project pretty much make it appear that city staff is wholeheartedly on board, and that the "proposal" nature of the investigation is merely a cover for a full recommendation to the City Council to proceed in November.

A genuine presentation of this as a speculative project, which it most assuredly is at this stage, would have provided a lot of detailed information regarding the aquifer and the financial aspects. From the question period, it's not at all clear whether this information is in hand, hidden, or not collected at all.

It was very clear that the substantive issues in this matter are troublesome, and it's difficult to know what laws really apply. None of this was presented, while those in the audience made several substantial suggestions that would serve the city's purposes without the intrusion this massively disruptive undertaking will produce.

Roxie's right; city resources should be focused on city matters, which this is not.

The Almanac has again bifurcated the public comment on this matter. Previous posts can be found here: Web Link

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Almanac does not create these different threads. They are created by the first person to comment on a story or start a topic. In this case, someone commented on the story that appeared in advance of the meeting, and several comments followed. Then, when a story was posted after the meeting, someone commented on that story, and this thread was created.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Aug 25, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Interested enougth to read........

Try living up to your moniker.....

None of my questions are answered in the article....Nor in your response.

The article indicates that the proposed project will provide water to three parks and a school. While it does state that "The Park" (presumably Nealon Park) will be served and the infrastucure for "The Park" will be paid for by the Country Club, it does not state whom will pay for the costs of installing and maintaining the two other parks and the school that will also be served by the project.

If the Country Club is agreeing to pay for the entire project and it's maintenance, this might well be a great deal for Menlo Park, which is going to have to find the means to reduce its use of the Hetch Hetchy system by 2020...

Hopefully you will be "Interested enough to read" my first post again.



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Posted by Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm

1. Using Hetchy Hetchy water (which in fact is Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River water) to irrigate a golf course is an outrage.

2. By referring to Hetchy Hetchy water as "potable" the story implies that groundwater is not. Groundwater is potable (drinkable), although in some cases needs treatment.

3. But before jumping to the conclusion that groundwater ought to replace Tuolumne River water, we ought to consider how much groundwater is available; which leads to -

4. Every golf course in the state ought to be using recycled water. It ain't cheap, but neither are tee fees.


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Posted by Susana Ortiz
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 26, 2011 at 11:29 am

Depleting a natural recourse for a private club is not acceptable.
This project would not reduce consumption by 20 percent just would change the source of water.
Again, the well water can be potable and might be needed in future in possible dry periods.
Menlo Park residents do not get any benefit from this, the opposite: less space in the park available for recreational use, construction noise, depletion of aquifer. Next we know is that the Nealon Park is going to be sold to the next "private company" to drill and find something else. Leave our park alone please.
If the club wants to spend less money in water they can get artificial grass as many of us are planning to do.


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Posted by source please
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Re: "4. Every golf course in the state ought to be using recycled water." I consider myself an environmentalist but this sort of unsubstantiated general statement, from someone that deigsn to know what is right for all citizens, do nothing but drive conservatives and undecideds in the other direction on general principles. Are you saying that a golf course in a place where water is plentiful (parts of Northern CA) must use a more expensive and maybe less environmentally friendly resource. Recycled water generally contains salts that can damage vegetation so can't always be used.

I'm no golfer but also a bizarre foisting of one person's values on society "Depleting a natural recourse [sic] for a private club is not acceptable." umm depletion, that is a polarizing word, do you consider yourself "depleting" a resource for your private shower (which you may well take more than is medically necessary and maybe with the water actually flowing for the full length of the shower)? Water in general is a fixed resource on earth, so we might have issues with its location, but hard to see it being depleted. Now if you ever drive a car, take a train, or buy food shipped to a store, then you ARE depleting petroleum resources which are finite in the short-term. Not that you ever would engage in depleting a natural resource for private use, just saying theoretically...


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Posted by Central Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm

source please: I believe the reference to recycled water was the suggestion that golf courses collect and recycle the runoff water from their irrigation systems. No, they wouldn't be expected to truck recycled water for use.

Maybe more important - Menlo Park has an ordinance that prohibits residents from drilling to pump groundwater for their personal use. If enough residents did that, it could easily deplete water from the local aquifer. That could harm our environment a number of ways. You are correct, water, for the most part is used and re-used (unlike petroleum, which is consumed). The concept, though, is that water can be depleted within a neighborhood. This could lead to sinkholes, contanimation and a host of problems we don't want to deal with.

I too, would like to pump wanter for my personal use...but I can't do that. And I certainly don't want a private club to do that (where there are limited communal resources) when I cannot.


Like this comment
Posted by Excellent Point!
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Aug 26, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Excellent Point "Source Please", I agree. It doesn't matter who wants to structure the deal for financing the water source, are we envious because it's a "private club"?? Who cares? If the finances of this deal works and we achieve more water, at a lower cost to the city, or obtain some other benefit from private getting involved (aka Tim Sheeper pool), what is the big deal? Why is it that folks get so crazed about private benefits from actually, in a different way, this could help decrease the amount of taxes we require? This makes no sense.

We can argue 'til the cows come home about which source of water is better, and what golf courses should be doing etc., but I look at this as a straight financial deal that if the numbers work, we should explore the creativity of this deal, and perhaps try it in other places. And please give me a break about the space in Nealon being taken over, I could argue that I have never picked up a tennis racket in my life, but here we have 6-8 tennis courts that are taking up my valuable dog walking space!


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Posted by Waterlogged
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Aug 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Was staff time for this boondoggle was not budgeted in this year's budget. If not, then the 'balanced' budget that started 7/1/2001 is already unbalanced.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Susana

"This project would not reduce consumption by 20 percent just would change the source of water."

The State is not required to reduce its water consumption by 20%. It, and its municipalities are required to reduce its use of Hetch Hetchy water by 20%. It seems to me that any local government looking for alternatives should be commended.

"Again, the well water can be potable and might be needed in future in possible dry periods."
.
Good luck with that. If you think the proposed irrigation project is a problem, just wait until the water from this aquifer is used as potable water. The infrastructure required to ensure this water is "potable" will cost a fortune and take up far more space than the proposed project.

"Menlo Park residents do not get any benefit from this, the opposite: less space in the park available for recreational use, construction noise, depletion of aquifer. "

Really, I was not aware that the City did not currently pay for the water to irrigate these three parks and school. In fact I would be amazed if that was true. The potential savings to the City may well be significant and certainly worthy of consideration.

As to less "space in the park", the park is almost 400,000 square feet. The proposed project will take an area 10 x 30 feet away from public use..or 300 square feet.......a minimal intrusion by any standard.

As far as "depletion" of the aquifer, I was unaware that any studies had been conducted on this issue. I you have them, please share them. In reality, carefull management of the aquifer can solve more than one problem.

"If the club wants to spend less money in water they can get artificial grass as many of us are planning to do."

No thanks, replacing the grass at these three parks and school with artificial grass is not my idea of progress.

It should be obvious that this proposed project leaves many questions to be answered, but simply rejecting it out of hand would be a big mistake.

Kudo's to the City of Menlo Park for looking to the future.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 26, 2011 at 3:26 pm

The question for me has to do with how we allocate resource which by all accounts is going to become more valuable and less plentiful over time. What is the most equitable, environmentally sound use of this resource now and how do we plan now to ensure that future generations will not be hurt by current decisions? The United Nations has declared that water is a universal human right. (The U.S. abstained).

If a private golf course were to serve an extraordinary public purpose then perhaps such an arrangement would indeed be in the best interest of the "commons." Public parks are open to all; private golf courses are usually not and often restricted to those with the financial means to afford membership and greens fees.

It is up to our citizens and elected officials to determine if this is an example of an elite portion of the population benefiting at the expense of those with less means, or if it represents an equitable opportunity for all parties.


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Posted by curious
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 29, 2011 at 8:57 am

So who would be responsible for the pipes, road repairs and other costs associated with transporting water up to the club? Much of these costs are at the beginning but probably there would be on-going maintenance.

No one seems to know the status of the groundwater supply. What provisions would there be to limit the availability for the club if there were a prolonged drought that could deplete the supply. Would this jeopardize the future supply for emergencies?

Questions like these need to be answered before this proceeds.


Like this comment
Posted by 30yr_resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

I'm curious why the golf course can't construct the well on their own property. Why take very scarce recreational resources away from the city? Whether it's a dog park, a new fence, a new building, there has been a trend over the past 10 years of removing green areas in our parks and putting in hardscape. We don't have enough land for kids to run around in for any more to be placed off limits.

Also, has a geologist determined whether the amount they are proposing to take will lead to subsidence? In our neighborhood we have had significant damage to houses from ground settling due to private wells.


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

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