Plans by San Mateo County to renovate Flood Park, a 24-acre expanse nestled in Menlo Park's residential Suburban Park, Lorelei Manor and Flood Triangle neighborhoods, are slowly moving forward.
The proposed changes include creating a soccer and lacrosse field; renovating an existing baseball field; adding multiple play areas to accommodate all abilities; and installing 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.
About a year after residents near the park raised concerns with the county's proposal to add sports fields and other amenities to the park -- which could add noise, increase traffic and require otherwise unnecessary tree removals -- the county has released a revised draft environmental impact report that studied a couple of alternatives to its original plan and evaluated other environmental factors.
In addition, county parks department spokesperson Carla Schoof said, some residents were concerned that the cumulative noise and parking impacts of multiple events happening at the park simultaneously -- such as a sports game and a picnic, for example -- hadn't been thoroughly evaluated.
After hearing public concerns with the proposal, said Sam Herzberg, senior planner with the county parks department, the county decided to tighten up and re-evaluate its environmental reviews, as well as adopt some new analyses required by changes to CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act, in areas such as energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and wildfire risks.
The new analyses looked at the environmental impacts of alternatives to the proposed plans, including prohibiting people from using the proposed athletic fields on weekdays during the peak traffic hours of 4 to 6 p.m., designating the existing baseball field as a multiuse sports field, and eliminating the proposed soccer and lacrosse field.
The findings: While banning use of the sports fields during peak commute hours would ease traffic in some conditions, the traffic would still be unmitigatedly congested. And combining all sports on one field wouldn't achieve the objective of providing much-needed ball fields for the surrounding communities, Herzberg noted.
With the new analyses completed, staff is recommending adoption of the original proposal.
Part of the traffic problem is the natural bottleneck of the Bay Road and Ringwood Avenue intersection. There have been some encroachments into the public right-of-way, he said. To widen the road by installing a northbound left-turn lane at that intersection, for example, could ease the traffic problems significantly, but there are "physical constraints" that "could make implementation of such a measure infeasible," the report states.
At the same time, there's a great community demand for ballfields, Herzberg said. Several local schools, such as Summit and Everest in Redwood City, don't have fields at all, and would be able to use these facilities. There's also demand generated from the communities of North Fair Oaks and East Palo Alto in addition to Menlo Park and Atherton.
The next step for the project will be to complete the environmental review process. There is a 45-day window during which people can comment on the environmental impact review. The deadline is 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23.
People should submit written comments by email to email@example.com or by mail to: Samuel Herzberg, AICP, Senior Planner; County of San Mateo Parks Department; 455 County Center, 4th Floor; Redwood City, CA 94063.
There will also be a public meeting during which people can comment on the revised EIR from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the Fair Oaks Community Center at 2600 Middlefield Road in Redwood City.
After that, the project will go to the county Board of Supervisors. If it is approved, the county would initiate a design plan for the project, which would come with new rounds of public outreach.