The Natives Were Restless Last Night
When I used this image on my entry yesterday discussing the Parks and Recreation Commission discussion of the proposed entryway improvements at the southern end of Fairview Park at their meeting last night I was kind of kidding. However, it proved to be accurate, as an engaged - and often hostile - crowd attended the meeting to express their concerns about the conceptual plans, HERE.
THE SECOND TIME AROUND
SAME SONG, SECOND STANZA
MANY SPEAKERS, MANY COMPLAINTS
More than 20 speakers stepped up to address the commission with a variety of concerns, from inadequate noticing of this project to increased traffic on Pacific (a frequent refrain), to the lack of toilet facilities near the proposed tot lot, to illegal night-time use of the park, to the proximity of the amenities to a "failing bluff face", and on and on. I'm not making light of the complaints - each person who spoke was very serious about the impact of these "improvements" would have on them, personally, and to the users of the park as a whole. Several speakers were concerned about lights, even though de Arakal made it very clear early on that lights were not part of this particular discussion.
SAME FOOTPRINT, FEWER PARKING SLOTS
Immediately it was evident that the "new" solution offered for the Pacific Avenue entrance was simply the same old footprint with fewer parking spaces. Again, technical professionals opined that the footprint used was necessary to provide turnaround space for emergency vehicles. No representative from the Fire Department was present to affirm that opinion. At least this time the consultant who drew up the plans did not tell us that the larger space was prepared for "anticipated future uses in the park". That's code for "playing fields". That would have REALLY set last night's crowd off. Nobody spoke in favor of the options offered.
And, as the discussion moved along, many members of the audience had difficulty hearing Parks Project Manager Bart Mejia and commissioners Don Harper and Dean Abernathy as they spoke. All three men are soft-spoken and, in their defense, it's very unusual to find more than a handful of people in the audience for these meetings. But, de Arakal managed to poke the audience in the eye with a sharp stick when, in response to several members calling out for speakers to speak louder, he told them to just move forward. Bad tactic, which evoked the rancor of the crowd and proved to be a precursor of things to come.
COOLING THEM DOWN
After all the speakers had presented their views and the discussion among the commissioners was moving along, it became pretty clear that the majority was going to vote for one of the staff recommendations. The crowd became more vocal and agitated, to the point that the chairman was forced to take a 5 minute break to allow things to calm down.
When they resumed just before 9:00 p.m. the vote was taken and the commission recommended that the staff proceed with Plan B on a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Bob Graham voted NO. As is occasionally the case, Graham can be swayed by a loud, vocal opposition to an issue, regardless of the merits of the arguments. The crowd might have reacted better - maybe not - if their major complaints had been addressed when possible before the vote. Even though Chairman de Arakal indicated he had been listening and taking notes, specific issues were not addressed, leaving the speakers feeling that the only reason it was approved was because it was in the Master Plan.
AN APPEAL IS PROBABLE
As the crowd cleared the room, leaving only staffers and a couple audience members who were interested in tree removal requests, several called out that they would appeal the decision. On the porch councilwoman Sandra Genis - who had attended the meeting, but had not spoken - suggested that she would appeal the decision to the City Council. If that does happen, I expect another loud, vocal group to attend that meeting, too.
ZERO TOLERANCE OF MISBEHAVIOR
However, they need to be forewarned - council meetings are a whole different breed of cat. With several officers typically in attendance, NO outbursts like the one we saw last night will be tolerated - not for an instant. The crowd will lose any sympathy council members might have for their position if they behave that way before them.
THAT DG TRAIL!
Early in the meeting, during the Oral Communications segment, Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee Chairman Dr. Richard Mehren spoke to the commission about the illegal decomposed granite trail that runs along the fence next to the Waldorf School that, as it turns out, encroaches significantly on Vernal Pool #6. He advised the commission and audience that the Federal Department of Fish and Wildlife is now involved in helping us "solve that problem" - government speak for giving us a whack across the knuckles that might take any number of forms, from simple scolding to severe sanctions for not fulfilling our custodial obligations in the park relative to protecting the vernal pools. That was part of a decades-old agreement between the City and the Federal Government. We had the impression that the Feds were not happy campers. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and if anyone takes responsibility for this serious infraction. We hear rumors of some fairly prominent names in the community being associated with this transgression.. we'll see.
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