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From Patch Readers: Scaled-Down Baseball Proposal Still Needs Environmental Review

One San Rafael Patch reader urges the city to require an environmental review for the Albert Field professional baseball proposal.

Many San Rafael residents remain unconvinced that the plan for minor league baseball at Albert Park will bring enough benefit to San Rafael to outweigh significant potential negative impacts.

They are not opposed to baseball, indeed many are baseball fans. The fact is that there are many Marin County adult and youth baseball teams at the park which will be displaced, such as Speed Baseball Collegiate Summer Teams whose high school and local college players will no longer have a home field.  Residents of four communities surrounding the park: Gerstle Park, Bret Hart, Southern Heights and Picnic Valley have come together as “Communities for Albert Park” (CAP) to ensure that the city does not compromise either the quality of life in these neighborhoods or the community character of what is, after all, a public park.

Centerfield Partners , one year, version of its original plan.  This one will only minimally increase seating, stop playing amplified music at 9 p.m. and locate concession stands inside the ball park, instead of adjacent open space.

The improvements offered to the park will be less than those in the original proposal as well, while still requiring the city to pay for field maintenance from lease payments. 

However, at 45 games a season, averaging three times a week that the field will be used for private commercial, instead of public recreational, use. That is still high impact use that leaves many concerns unanswered.

Here are a few:

Noise:  Minor league ball will attract more fans, only 20 percent of whom will come from San Rafael, according to Centerfield’s own projections.  Currently, the stands are rarely full. With the sale of food and alcohol, and the added noise from amplified music, the surrounding neighborhoods, especially those uphill from the park, will be regularly impacted.
   
Safety: Professionally hit balls are more likely than to leave the ball park unless fences are raised significantly.  Already, balls often hit the doors and walls of the apartment building across the street. In addition, Centerfield Partners has offered pay for neighborhood security patrols, which suggests to residents that parking will occur in their neighborhoods and activity that could merit protection. It vastly changes the character of a neighborhood to need security patrols.

Economic viability:  Centerfield has said they need the 1,500 seats originally proposed to break even. CAP questions how this new scaled down plan will be economically viable for them, unless they plan to come back after the first year for a longer lease for increased use.

Benefit to community: Because Centerfield Partners will sell food and drink inside the park, it's unlikely fans, arriving early to get a seat, will patronize local restaurants. And the company does not plan on using local restaurateurs as vendors.

CAP urges the city to require the CEQA process to go forward, even with this scaled down plan, because of the likelihood of significant impacts to the community, and because this is just the first step in a long-term plan for a full scale professional baseball project. Centerfield’s spokesman Mike Shapiro told reporters that “the community and opposition in the neighborhood will see that these are very, very beneficial events.” This makes the intention to remain at Albert Park clear and should trigger the CEQA process.

CAP also believes that Centerfield should pay a significant bond, to indemnify the city for any injuries that result from balls leaving the park.  There is currently nothing in place to protect the city in the event this enterprise fails, as so many minor league teams have in recent years, and the city is left holding the bag.

--MaryAnn

Ken Conroy September 09, 2011 at 06:00 AM
MaryAnn – your post serves to prove two things. 1) You oppose baseball being played at this baseball field under any circumstances, and no amount of mitigation will change your inflexible, selfish position. 2) Your argument is extremely factually challenged which might explain why you do not sign your last name. I believe your real name is Dottie, the attorney hired by CAP and your familiar content strongly suggests I am correct. Your claim Marin teams are being displaced is not true. The team you referenced this time “Top Speed” Baseball has a roster of 27 players – zero reside in Marin. Coach Stan Switala runs an outstanding program and has filled his roster with players from throughout northern California, but I believe none reside in Marin, or played high school ball in Marin. “Top Speed” played 63 games this summer, and only 14 were at Albert Park. They play at fields throughout California and Nevada. The Centerfield Partners (CP) independent minor league pro team will play approximately 12 games per month; “home” for two weeks, and “away” for two weeks. This leaves ample opportunity for teams like “Top Speed” to rent the field on the other dates as they do now. (to be continued)
Ken Conroy September 09, 2011 at 06:02 AM
Mary Ann writes that Albert Park “will be used for private commercial, instead of public recreational use” makes no sense. CP proposes to do the same thing as everyone else that uses Albert Park for baseball – they rent the field. Twin Cities Little League, Top Speed Baseball, the Novato Knicks, MCAL high school baseball, and the Bay Area Warriors all pay hourly rent money to use Albert Park – just like that proposed by Centerfield Partners, except that the city will collect significantly more money from CP. There is no open public use – Albert Park remains locked when not rented. Community softball players also pay to have the privilege of playing at Albert Park. Yes, the city will continue to mow and water the grass, just as they have done for about fifty years. It is amusing that when you do write something truthful, it supports the argument in favor of the CP baseball proposal.
Ken Conroy September 09, 2011 at 06:03 AM
MaryAnn’s diatribe is full of errors. CP never said they need 1500 fans to break even. In fact the original proposal says they hope to average 1000-1200 fans. Her suggestion that fences will need to be raised has no merit – Albert Park dimensions and current fence height is appropriate for this level of baseball. Neighborhood security patrols are NOT needed, but offered by CP to appease the delusional neighbors that argue the sky is going to fall if independent minor league baseball is played at Albert Park. There never was a reason for an environmental study and forcing CP into study was an abuse of the process. Now with the scaled down plan, the notion of a study is even more absurd. This was simply an attempt to stall and to raise the cost of doing business for CP. I understand why she is furious with this new proposal because there is no hope that your strategy of forcing the study will work now. Yes the proposal to bring independent league minor league baseball is a huge benefit to the community and exactly why I support this proposal. I live in central San Rafael and am one of the hundreds in our community who look forward to attending games with our families. There is huge support among the community and hit pieces like the one made here by MaryAnn (or is it Dottie?) just serve to awaken the overwhelming majority that supports baseball in San Rafael. Play ball.
Tom Jaspering September 09, 2011 at 07:35 PM
MaryAnn, your argument regarding the lack of community benefit makes no sense. Seems to me that AT&T Park has numerous excellent food vendors within its confines, yet somehow, inexplicably, the businest days of the year for the bars and restaurants nearby directly coincide with game days at the park.
Julie Beach September 09, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Thanks so much for your excellent piece MaryAnn. The only thing I'd like to add to the concerns is TRAFFIC. With 80% of attendees coming in from other Marin towns and from the East Bay, Vallejo and Sonoma, traffic in already jam packed central SR will be a disaster! Both the central SR exits off 101 and the surface streets getting to the baseball games will make what traffic we have now seem like an easy country drive.
Julie Beach September 09, 2011 at 11:40 PM
ridiculous to personally attack someone i.e. "selfish" etc.
Ken Conroy September 10, 2011 at 12:35 AM
Julie – traffic will not be a mess. How do I know? Because this is an existing baseball park and games have been played there to full houses (1000+ including standing room) every year for as long as I remember. For example - there were 6 high school games played at Albert Park on May 17th, 18th, and 19th of this year, 3 baseball and 3 softball playoff games. Softball starts at 4PM and baseball at 7:30 PM. I think Softball drew a few hundred fans for each game and there were as much as 1100 fans packed in for the baseball games. This has happened every year for as long as I can remember and there has been minimal disruption to the neighborhood. In fact many of the neighbors that I have spoken to were not even aware that these games occurred in front of full crowds. I work in SF and live in central San Rafael. I love baseball but I won’t be attending every game. If traffic were to be mess, I would be impacted too. They will play about 12 games per month with about half of them on weekday evenings and I doubt you will notice the difference on a Tuesday night with a game, and a Tuesday night when there is no game (with everything else equal).
Tom Jaspering September 10, 2011 at 01:14 AM
By that logic, you should be wanting to shutdown farmers markets on Thursdays and just about any other even that shuts down 4th street (and there are several). Those are REAL traffic issues. Most people won't even realize these games are happeneing because they're a little off the beaten path, so to speak.
Frank Muscat September 12, 2011 at 12:30 AM
It amazes me that opponents of this proposal can claim that the scaled back approach won't provide enough in attendance for the project to be viable but at the same time overload San Rafael with attendees from every city and county in the Bay Area. "Too many people!" "Not enough people!" "The people that attend will be thugs and crime will rise!" "They will be loud and smell funny!" Let's face it, opponents of this proposal are not interested in the broader benefit of our community and will say anything. They do not let facts get in the way of a good story.
Mark Machado September 14, 2011 at 03:00 PM
What really amazes me is that no matter how well laid the plans, no matter how positive the proposition.... someone will have an issue with it . And as I read through the submissions on this site, those discussing the GOOD in bringing pro baseball to San Rafael were the only ones that did not show any signs of selfishness. Those of us in favor of bring pro ball to Marin are nothing more than fans of the game. We can make the 30 plus minute drive to Oakland or San Francisco to see pro ball, but this plan brings more than just baseball to San Rafael. It provides a local event for residents to attend right in their neighborhood. It will bring business to local bars and restaurants before and after the games (see south of market area in SF as and example). Those against this are only worried about their personal space, and not what's best for their community as a whole. As with folks who live near a school and complain about the sound of kids playing, I have an issue with people who live near a ball park and complain about the crack of a bat and a cheer from the crowd. Personally, I'd pay extra for that. Mark Machado

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