Piedmonters Share The Floor

Well we expected civility in the hills, and that’s what happened when Montclarions showed up at Piedmont City Hall this week.  Remember the kerfuffle about turning Blair Park into a temporary school zone?  The sensitive issues have now been formally discussed in the open.

There were 50 audience members at Piedmont’s City Council meeting, on Monday evening.  Council members reviewed all their plans for Blair Park, which included 24 modular classroom to be replaced by soccer fields in two years.  Plans called for a pedestrian overpass on Moraga Ave, as well as large retaining walls (blue lines, below).

Blair Retaining Walls

Then some 25 citizens, including 10 Montclarions, addressed the Council.  They were all well-behaved and followed these prescribed rules of order:  don’t repeat what was already said in e-mails to council members;  don’t repeat what the previous speaker said; limit comments to the temporary school placement; and speak for two minutes or less.

Montclarions rejected the Blair Park plans because of major traffic problems that Piedmonters had not considered in their earlier assessments.  The size and scope of the plans seemed inappropriate given the Moraga Canyon location, with 24,000 sq. ft. of classrooms placed in the park.

Another wrinkle emerged at the meeting, namely the retaining walls needed to shore up unstable park land.  It turns out that BART construction debris was piled there in the 1970s.  Thus construction engineers recommended two walls to shore up the nearby cliffs, and Piedmonters are giving the walls a second thought:

You wouldn’t let me build a four-story home in Piedmont.  Why should you build  a four-story wall?

A 40-foot wall will be ugly and will ruin the beauty of this entrance to Piedmont, which was recently written up as one of the most beautiful small towns in America.

What’s next?  Piedmont’s School Board will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 14th to explore alternatives beyond Blair Park.  These include putting portables at Wildwood and Beach schools, placing portables at Wildwood and Vista Park’s tennis courts, or using an unoccupied Emeryville school.  Montclarions are welcome to attend and be heard.

The School Board members will cast their votes on Tuesday, Jan. 27th.  If the recommended option involves Piedmont-owned property, then they return to the Council for approval.  Now is the time to speak up, and both Piedmonters and Montclarions should contact/email members of the School Board and City Council with their concerns.

Let’s applaud the grass-roots and participatory democracy underway – as we negotiate rather than declare war in what CBS5 Eye on Blogs called the Battle of the Not-Oakland Cities.

Update:  Read later takes by The Montclarion and Piedmont Neighborhood News.

Pied-Clair Should Coordinate Plans

Piedmont and Montclair residents share plenty of things in common, including this 94611 zip code for starters.  We live in nice, quiet hillside locations and are proud of our local schools.

We are in a kerfuffle right now about potential traffic problems on Moraga Ave.  Piedmont is trying to address some school overcrowding and wants to accommodate students at a local park.  This is an opportunity to play nice and coordinate plans.

Piedmont City Council Meeting

What’s happened?  Piedmonters have started planning improvements, including classrooms and fields, at Blair Park.  That should be well and good, as the park is within Piedmont’s jurisdiction.  However Montclarions living near Moraga Ave know and feel otherwise.

If kids are going to be dropped off and picked up at Blair Park, there would be clogged streets nearby.  If you live on Harbord, then it’s possible to experience morning rushes as Piedmonters turn around and head back home.

According to Montclarion Sandra Pohutsky, “Piedmont officials have been bombarded by email from Piedmont residents insisting that the temporary school not be placed in their neighborhoods, or objecting to having their child go to Emeryville to attend a temporary Piedmont school there.”

Last Friday, several Montclarions met with Piedmont councilwoman Margaret Fujioka and asked for guidance about communicating concerns.  She advised attending the upcoming meetings of the City Council (Jan 5th) and School Board (Jan 14th) – and time will be allotted for Montclarions then.

Reasonable discourse is possible!  Our first opportunity is tonight, when Piedmont is holding its City Council meeting (map).  These modular classrooms are on the agenda, and it would be lovely if concerned Montclarions appeared and addressed the Council.  Otherwise, expect this expansion to become a done-deal for the 2010 school year.

More info:   Read tonight’s City Council Agenda as well as the City Administrator Report about the entire Blair Park project.  Reach Geoffrey Grote, Piedmont City Administrator at ggrote@ci.piedmont.ca.us with your views, as well as City Councilmembers and Board of Education members.