Outcry from parents, kids for cricket fields in Pleasanton leads public comments in council priorities workshop | News

From adding affordable housing to master planning a community garden, nearly 100 Pleasanton residents weighed in and asked the Pleasanton City Council to prioritize a variety of projects listed in the city’s draft work plan during a special meeting and workshop on Wednesday that lasted six hours.

Councilmembers and staff spent time that evening going over their shared priorities for the next two years and receiving public comment on what to include in the 27-page work plan, which also outlines project descriptions, and cost estimates and status, if applicable.

Amid highly visible initiatives such as the city’s COVID-19 response, East Pleasanton Specific Plan and Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone, the sport of cricket had a sizable local lobby — with about half of the callers during the meeting’s three-hour public hearing urging the council to prioritize developing a cricket field and facilities in Pleasanton.

A large contingent of parents and youths as young as 10 told the council that many of them dream about playing cricket professionally, and are “hoping for this new cricket field so that all of us can have fun and spend time together.” Highly popular in the South Asian community in the Tri-Valley, some said cricket is not just a sport but also an extension of their culture.

There are some local fields including a small area at Alisal Elementary that is used for practice, but another at Pleasanton Middle School needs to be completely renovated due to gopher holes, according to staff. The lack of facilities often requires players to commute to other Bay Area cities like San Jose for practices or competitions.

One father said he’s “spending around eight hours just commuting and driving my son for practices” every week, while a student said the few facilities that are closeby, such as in Dublin, can still require practicing before 7 a.m. because of high demand later in the day.

The cricket fields were originally listed a “C-level” priority status — meaning they wouldn’t have been started in the next two years — but Mayor Karla Brown said, “We heard from almost 50 residents today saying can we move this forward faster than a C level,” then asked her colleagues to “consider raising this up to an A, at very least a B to get cricket pitch started in Pleasanton.”

Councilmember Kathy Narum concurred: “I think it’s time to make this a priority just as much as making the skateboard park a main priority. We need to meet the needs of the entire community and I think we’ve heard that pretty loud and clear, so I’m 100% behind making this an ‘A’.”

Councilmember Valerie Arkin also “wholeheartedly” agreed and said “it’s the popularity and the community wanting it sooner rather than later,” as did Vice Mayor Julie Testa, while Councilmember Jack Balch said he “definitely can support it being an A,” and noted the cricket facilities had even gained support from speakers on unrelated items that evening.

City Manager Nelson Fialho said, “I think the heavy lifting here really in the next year is finding the right location — Patelco, Staples Ranch. There may be some joint funding with (Pleasanton Unified School District) to renovate one of their fields and solve it that way. That’s the policy discussion that I think we need to have in year one.”

Another group of residents were also very vocal that evening about a staff proposal to pave over a large portion of the open green space at Bicentennial Park. Plans to renovate and increase use of the historic Century House on Santa Rita Road also call for adding parking on approximately a third of the space behind the building.

Neighbors said the master plan “should not come at the expense of children who use Bicentennial Park” and that “transient use should not outweigh residential amenities.”

Nolan Wheeler called the park “a rare and welcome green space in our neighborhood. I even say it’s a perfect place for some people to come play some pick-up games of cricket.”

“The residents of this community would very much like to work with the Parks and Recreation Commission on a plan that works for everyone,” Wheeler said. “They have not so far taken the time to meet with us as a community, to go through this and have a meaningful workshop, and we’d like to be part of the process.”

Arkin said that “in light of what the residents have said around this area, and just my personal feelings, I think we do need to have additional options instead of decimating a neighborhood park.”

Brown welcomed meeting with Parks and Rec to discuss alternative locations for parking besides Bicentennial Park, and called it “unconscionable” that the city has been “watching a valuable asset in our community just rot in decay.”

“We have this valuable old home that we’re watching rot and nobody’s using, so it is an asset that we either take care of or we find another way,” Brown said.

Brown added, “We really need to step up and use it, look at options like phasing it or look into options like biting off the full $3.4 million and making it a usable asset that we can actually deem income from, but we need to figure out the parking.”

Following six hours of discussion last Wednesday, the council opted to pause the workshop and continue the matter as part of the council’s next regular meeting, on Tuesday (May 4) starting at 7 p.m.