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New gym: You made this decision ... how?

Original post made on Jul 14, 2009

When Palo Alto billionaire John Arrillaga offered to help Menlo Park fund and build a new public gymnasium in the spring of 2008, the city moved quickly to put the plan in motion.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (14)

Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 14, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Read the entire cover article. It's shameful that no one knows why the proposed gym's location was chosen. Rojas has been blaming all the decisions on the donor, but the reporter makes it clear that the donor has not been calling the shots. Is Rojas the evil genius who is masterminding this, and why does he care?

I hope the council looks at the planning commission minutes and realizes how many problems need to be addressed now, before the concrete has hardened.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 15, 2009 at 12:01 am

Funny that Andy is the only council member that claims he didn't know of the location or did not get a chance to say it. Obviously Cline disagrees. What about the other three?

Posted by Sean Howell
Almanac staff writer
on Jul 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Sean Howell is a registered user.


Both Heyward Robinson and John Boyle told us they think the process was appropriate. Rich Cline said he and Henry Riggs (Planning Commission chair) were very involved in those meetings. Cline felt that putting the gym at a separate location was the clear consensus of the Parks and Rec steering committee. But he was puzzled when he couldn't find a record of that, and said that he feels Cohen's concern is valid.

I have a call in to Kelly Fergusson, I'll let you know when I hear from her.


Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Parks and Recs allegedly did not get a chance to look at the design. I have heard that they are not happy about being overlooked! I went to most of the public meetings and do not recall the Alma location being mentioned until after the donor emerged, at which point we were told that the donor insisted on that location. During the ten years that the new gym has been in the works, the assumption was that it would remain on or near the current site.

I agree with Andy Cohen that a single building solution with underground parking makes the most sense. The new East Palo Alto Y and the Arrillaga rec building at Stanford are examples of buildings that combine basketball courts with other recreational amenities.

We have had this discussion on other threads and I doubt much is going to change, but it's pretty clear that the process is seriously flawed. If we get a satisfactory gym out of this, we will be very fortunate.

Posted by Peter
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Can they also make them proper size for volleyball with enough room for service? (maybe with enough room for 3 courts and screens between for tournaments??) That would be great money earner for the gym!

Wonderful that we live in the neighborhood with Mr. Arfillaga! If this offer is somehow turned down then it matches the mistake made at Menlo-Atherton High School's new pool with the offer that was made to help with proper seating and a wall.

Stop everything. Think about this very carefully! Having volleyball courts without equal service space space on both sides is just wrong. Not looking around at what could be done with just a bit more money.... also bad. Look at the gym that was built at Watsonville Hight School. Just use their design. Done. 3 wonderful volleyball courts. 3 basketball OR... six cute little courts... Don't let an architect determine the design. FUNCTION over FORM.

This building has to serve us for the next 50 years.

Posted by Peter
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 15, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Forgot to mention the business aspect..
If the new gym can handle a volleyball tournament, the local restaurants and stores would see a nice 2 day bump from teams coming in to play. Given that we're watching restaurants close (Chilli's and Round Table??), someone had better stop and really think! Do this right!

Hold a special meeting if you need to... don't wait. They are totally missing the boat if the new gym doesn't have 3 good volleyball courts. The city staff needs to think hard about income and business impact and being able to run their volleyball league as efficiently as possible. Kids might end up with time to do homework if they make the changes, but we won't be able to go the Chilli's afterwards.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 15, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Thanks, Sean.

I have not heard or read that a single parks and rec commissioner has said anything about being kept out of the process. I think that is a fabrication.

Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 16, 2009 at 11:17 am

Parks and Rec discussed it...when? I know that the gym has been on their agenda many times over the years, but have they discussed this Arrillaga gym? If so, when? And if they haven't had a chance to review the plans in a meeting, then I would say they've been overlooked.

Peter, it would be lovely to have a competitive facility that could raise money for the city, but this location, which has poor vehicular access and existing traffic issues, would not be the appropriate site. Maybe the new Bohannon project could include such a facility?

Posted by Dick Givens
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 16, 2009 at 1:04 pm

" has failed to think holistically about the future of the campus."

What does the above mean?

Posted by Sean Howell
Almanac staff writer
on Jul 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Sean Howell is a registered user.

Mr. Givens:

Andy Cohen's complaint is that the city hasn't done a thorough evaluation of the Civic Center complex as a whole. Instead, the city is approaching the various projects it's planning piecemeal, he argues. He is asking the city to conduct a "program-level" environmental impact review for the Measure T bond program, which will help pay for the gym, and other recreation facilities.

City management disputes Mr. Cohen's claim, saying the city has thought about the many recent and upcoming projects in the complex as a whole (field renovations, new swimming pools, new gym and gymnastics center, renovated child care center, library remodel, etc.) Lisa Ekers, the city's engineering services manager, told me that there have been many different planning processes and guiding documents intended to guide long-term use of the campus. We didn't get into the details of what those processes/documents are. She also noted that the environmental impact report for the gym also took into account the gymnastics center, and the additional traffic/parking issues that the city expects will be created by its construction.

Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm

There are documents from a few years ago (shortly post-Measure T) that detail the future of the campus using a holistic approach, and the then-Parks & Rec recommendation was to have the architects design the entire campus at the same time even if actual development was not going to occur for years. Of course that recommendation was ignored!

Instead, decisions have been made on the fly. When the theater was torn down, a lot of people assumed that the new gym would be constructed there. Makes sense, no? Instead, we got another parking lot.

We all knew that the trailers for the child care center were temporary. But instead of putting the skate park in that area (behind the rec, the proposed site for the Arrillaga gym), the skate park was constructed in a corner of the field, making it impossible to lay out a full-sized soccer field (although a full-sized field was in the plans and it's never been made clear why the contractor apparently ignored the plans.)

The proposed gym backs up to a decaying rec center that Measure T assured us would be replaced. But staff can't be bothered to incorporate a future rec into the current plans, even though it's obvious to all of us that the rec is not going to last another 20 years.

So we stumble along, project by project, without any vision of what we will have when we are finished, a well-laid out campus with good pedestrian flow and adequate accommodations for parking/cars, or a hodge-podge. Most of us want the former, but staff seems to want to foist the latter on us.

Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm

This is confusing.

There were meetings to discuss multiple facility options according to the Almanac. These meetings included planning commission and council but excluded the parks commission? Is that what you are saying? Because I have it differently. I have it that parks and rec was there with planning and council and some members of public.

I also have it that the rec center is a part of the third phase of the bond money and that direction was from the parks commission.

Posted by coach
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 16, 2009 at 10:12 pm

The rec center cannot be built now, and I agree with the Parks and Rec's decision to move ahead with the gym for phase 2. There are two separate issues:

* Whether the commission had anything to do with the current design. (Not clear, but possibly irrelevant, as the planning commission's concerns from last winter were ignored anyway).

* Whether someone should be planning for the civic center campus of 2025. At one of the pre-Arrillaga meetings I attended, the consultants discussed a design that would combine the functionality of the rec center (used now for dance, offices, and a few classes now that the child care program has its own facility) with the basketball/volleyball gym. I really liked that idea. So what is going to happen with the rec center when we finally get around to building it? I fully expect that in 5 years (or whenever the money comes through for the rec) we'll be wondering why we didn't do a better job planning ahead.

Posted by Gail Slocum
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 16, 2009 at 11:36 pm

THough I am just tuning into this, I thought it made some sense that there could be a huge traffic bottleneck if there were a huge gym on the Laurel street side. It's already bad there when gymnastics drop offs and meets are at peak. Perhaps having the second gym on the Alma side relieves some of that traffic concern. BUt if there is a parking issue, why not STILL make there be underground parking for the new gym as well as the existing parking.

As a co-chair of Measure T, I want to see the new gym happen and feel we are very lucky that we have enough funding to do it right with this donation. We can work out the rest, I am sure. Hopefully relatively quickly -- we passed Measure T just after 9/11/01!


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