Pleasanton Weekly

Column - May 14, 2010

Longest-serving Parks & Rec commissioner steps down

by Jeb Bing


hen the City Council greets new members of its advisory and standing committees and commissions Tuesday night and thanks those who are stepping down, there'll be a long-time familiar face saying goodbye. Jim Dibiase, whose final term has just expired on the Parks and Recreation Commission, is the longest serving member of that group, starting as an alternate on the commission in April 1999. Now, with many new parks, a golf course and other city amenities behind him, he'll join Sandi, his wife, also a long-time city volunteer, for more evenings at home without reams of planning documents and land use proposals to research on pending city projects.

Dibiase was a research engineer who developed flying radiation instrumentation during 22 years in the Air Force, where he held the rank of lieutenant colonel when he retired in 1980. For the next 18 years, he was an aerospace engineer at Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale. The instruments he developed tested radiation in space and were used on the early Gemini and Apollo spacecrafts, showing NASA and those who flew on those early flights the specifics of the unknown environments they were encountering.

His volunteer work with the Parks and Recreation Commission was more down to earth with his primary assignments focusing on parkland, waterways, restorations and preservations. Faced with scores of public officials, city staff and even more from the public suggesting what and how municipal amenities should be added, Dibiase often found himself more steeped in public relations than research over how golf courses, baseball fields and creeks should be developed.

Dibiase got his start in helping to shape Pleasanton in 1983, just three years after moving here, when he volunteered to serve on what was called an Industrial General Plan Review Committee. That eventually became the committee that reviewed and updated the city's General Plan in 1986. Later, he was asked back to start the review process for what became the 1996 General Plan update. Once you raise your hand as a Pleasanton volunteer, he mused, you're hooked. After being named to Park and Rec in 1999, he stayed long enough to work with three Parks and Community Development directors - Dolores Bengtson, Jim Wolfe and now Susan Andrade-Wax - as well as with 12 different commissioners. He was chairman of the commission twice during his 11 years of service.

For Dibiase, those 11 years were incredibly productive with millions of dollars of capital improvements being proposed for Pleasanton that required Park and Rec involvement. Early on, the commission considered a proposal for a 27-hole golf course on the Bernal property, including a skinny nine-hole segment nestled against the west bank of I-680. When the city annexed acreage in the southwest hills, design work on the new Callippe Preserve golf course took hold. Thanks to Dibiase's work, we ended up with a much better product.

Dibiase also was instrumental in the $1.3-million restoration of Kottinger Creek, a project with an original price tag of $27,000. As a commissioner, he also worked on design plans to remodel and restore the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street and to restore and then significantly expand the Alviso Adobe into a community park.

More parks, including Val Vista, were built during Dibiase's service, giving Pleasanton the largest number of parks for any city its size in the country.

Dibiase also takes pride in being on the commission when it first started developing Bernal Community Park, an undeveloped 318-acre field that was given to Pleasanton. In researching the needs of sports teams, he determined that baseball needed lighted fields, and persuaded the commission to build the new diamonds on Bernal first, which were dedicated this spring.

Just as in his aerospace engineering days, Dibiase found Pleasanton's pace of planning and development methodical, long and thorough. The end product has always been rewarding, though, with the public gaining long-term benefits. With the commission's review of the proposed four-rink ice arena on Staples Ranch now completed, Dibiase will be able to take credit for his work in approving that project if the San Jose Sharks proceed with that plan in the next few years. His only regret is that during the 11 years on the commission, he and his associates weren't able to add at least another dog park in Pleasanton, an amenity dog lovers have been clamoring for as neighbors of parks that could accommodate one have been successfully resisting.


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