Plans for major changes in Flood Park worry neighbors

Proposals will go before county Parks and Recreation Commission on Thursday

Some Menlo Park residents who live near Flood Park are concerned about a number of major changes to Flood Park proposed by the San Mateo County Parks Department. The neighbors expressed their displeasure during a recent walk that county parks officials held at the park.

The proposed changes, which grew out of a series of public "Reimagine Flood Park" meetings, would be implemented in phases over five years and cost $14 million by preliminary estimates, according to Carla Schoof, a community program specialist for the county parks department.

Among the proposals are adding a soccer and lacrosse field, a baseball field, multiple play areas to accommodate all abilities, a shaded structure for an outdoor market, an amphitheater, picnic spaces, trails, a pump track (for sports bike riders), a sand volleyball pit, and tennis, bocce and basketball courts.

These proposals will go before the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Commission on Thursday, April 7. The meeting starts at 4 p.m. at the county supervisors' chamber at 400 County Center in Redwood City.

The March 19 walk, attended by nearly 40 people, was intended for nearby residents to visualize the park plans and for county officials to answer questions. The attendees peppered county officials with questions and concerns.

The biggest concern appeared to be the location of a proposed full-size soccer and lacrosse field, which would run along Del Norte Avenue.

Residents of Del Norte said the field would be within 30 feet of their property lines, and would likely result in whistles being blown periodically throughout much of the day on weekends and likely on weekday afternoons during sports practices.

"Whistles carry a long, long way," said 10-year Menlo Park resident Sarah Phillips.

Having a noisy soccer field so close to their homes could negatively affect their property values, others said.

Nettie Wijsman, who canvassed residents of her street, Del Norte Avenue, and adjoining streets, said she gathered 37 signatures from neighbors who said they wanted to see changes to the plans.

Earlier plans had a youth soccer field, while current plans have a full-size field. Despite their protests over the past several months, nothing has changed, she said. She also said she'd like to see the baseball field converted to a multi-use field, instead of building another new field.

In addition, she expressed concern that the proposed pump track (a continuous loop of dirt berms and mounds used by off-road sports bicyclists) could "bring in different kinds of kids than live in our neighborhood."

Several attendees were concerned that potential offers of private funding from groups such as youth sports leagues could pressure the county to prioritize sports fields construction over other features. Building a full-size soccer field, they said, could result in felling some nearby trees.

"It's clear there's funding for soccer and baseball, (but) who's funding the trees?" said Joan Hilse, who has lived in Menlo Park since 1976.

Others, including Doug Bui, a former Menlo Park planning commissioner, are worried about seeing more street parking due to increased use of the park. The park's entry fee already drives visitors to park in and around their neighborhood. Adding more features without more parking would exacerbate the problem, he said.

Linda McBain, a 45-year Menlo Park resident, said she wants the park left alone, praising the aesthetics of its savannah-like swaths of grass mixed with trees. "I think it's fine the way it is," she said.

Flood Park, once part of the Flood family estate, was a project of the Work Progress Administration in the 1930s. Since then, Ms. Schoof said, its layout and amenity offerings have become "rather dated."

Several years ago, she said, the park closed because the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission had to do work on the Hetch Hetchy right-of-way underneath the park's baseball field. There's no longer construction going on there, but the turf became unkempt and now is not usable as a baseball field.

The park was almost a casualty of county budget cuts, but in 2011 the community rallied around a "Save Flood Park" campaign.

Over the past several months, Ms. Schoof said, the county parks department has hosted community meetings to see which amenities are most desired, and came up with its current plan. She said funding can't be raised until a final plan is approved by the county Board of Supervisors.

While Ms. Wejsman said the process is moving forward too quickly, without sufficient concessions made for the requests of the park's neighbors, there's one aspect that appears to be quite choked in red tape.

When one resident asked if he'd ever be allowed to walk his dog in the park, Marlene Finley, county parks director, said she was optimistic "we can do it in your lifetime." The process, she said, would involve working with a committee to determine criteria to establish, within certain limits, where and when on-leash dog walking could be permitted.

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26 people like this
Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 6, 2016 at 11:16 am

Dear Ms Phillips, you moved across the street from a park that had been there well before you. Kids and adults playing sports are common in parks. deal with it. Your comment about "other kids" than live in our neighborhood is repugnant. 1) it is a county park open to all. 2) Maybe some kids in your neighborhood might actually use a dirt bike track.

This is so typical of MP NIMBYS, my god we are talking about a PARK not a FACTORY. Parks actually improve home values, not the other way around.

9 people like this
Posted by MenloP
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm

The issue of whistles, noise, and parking is valid. The park was never intended to be a sports complex. Other than baseball and swimming, it was intended to be a picnic area.

The residents who purchased homes near the park operated on the assumption it would remain relatively quiet.

There's nothing wrong with developing the park, but it does not have include soccer fields in the middle of a neighborhood. If local clubs are seeking sports fields, the city should lease its school fields during those times the fields are not is use.

3 people like this
Posted by Fields R Just
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 6, 2016 at 1:31 pm

"The residents who purchased homes near the park operated on the assumption it would remain relatively quiet."

Oh, puhleeeeeeeeze....

I'll also resist Al Franken's line on 'assume' (for Uma's sake...)

Also: all the school fields ARE used. And we went through all the NIMBY fights for field use at those schools: Menlo, MA, SHP, etc.. Don't pull an Atherton.

10 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 6, 2016 at 2:34 pm

It is incredibly disturbing that a small group of selfish residents are able to weigh in so heavily on projects that are so important to a young, vibrant community. The improvements sound wonderful and would turn a park that looks old, tired and useless into a real draw for kids and families. Menlo Park needs to move forward on this important resource.

7 people like this
Posted by Peninsula Boy
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 7, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Peninsula Boy is a registered user.

The comments related to the "other types of kids" and soccer fields is disgusting and is not a core belief of those who have been here for decades. Those people should be ashamed of themselves. Complaining about whistles, while living right behind one of the Bay's busiest freeways shows the OP's true colors. Continually, the short-sidedness of my MP community is the reason Menlo Park has lost its beautiful nature. Locals have fought expansion efforts, like that of Willow St., and as a direct result, now we live in a giant parking lot. We need to stop giving the boisterous minority the power to prevent necessary change or we are all doomed.

Like this comment
Posted by Alice Newton
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 21, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Alice Newton is a registered user.

I have lived adjacent to Flood Park for 29 years. We love this park. Many of the new ideas in the the Preferred Plan presented last December are very nice, but the full-size lacrosse/soccer field in the northeast part of the park was a very recent addition and a surprise. Most of the people living adjacent to the east side of the park are not opposed to having a soccer field in the park, but Flood Park is very big with space to have the field farther inside the park than 30 ft. from back yards. The soccer field will be (should be) used almost daily. There will be shouting and ref's whistles are designed to be heard the 300ft. length of the field. Most local ballparks do not have houses right alongside the fields. Again, we do not oppose having a soccer field, but we request that it be located farther within the park. . .Regarding the quoted negative comment about the pump track and kids who would use it, that is NOT the opinion of our family nor of many (probably most) of my neighbors.

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