Coming soon: baseball on Bernal
First phase of new community park under way on Bernal property
Looking east from Interstate 680 near the Bernal Avenue exit, you can see the former hay fields beginning to take a new shape. While the land is brown now, it will soon be home to another green Pleasanton community park. The first phase of a three-phase project to create Bernal Community Park began in late February and is starting to show.
"They've moved a lot of dirt out there," said Jim Wolfe, director of Parks and Community Services.
When the dust has settled, phase one will entail the creation of three baseball fields along with a variety of other amenities. Two fields will be lighted and the third will be a grass field suitable for baseball, as well as other activities such as kite flying. There also will be benches, a central area between the fields, barbeques, storage facilities, public restrooms, parking for about 100 cars and an analemmatic sundial, which gives the date as well as time.
The baseball diamonds will help to accommodate a growing need in Pleasanton. According to Wolfe, scheduling has presented a problem in recent years with the growing popularity of PONY baseball.
"The little leagues were first in line," Wolfe said. "Then PONY baseball came in and we didn't have enough room."
Wolfe said that when the park is finished, the baseball programs will get together and redistribute use in order to find the best solution for everyone. Scheduling on the fields will still be handled by Parks and Community Services.
According to Wolfe, construction crews have been able to stay on pace this season without many rain delays. As such, most of the grading and most of the underground construction (such as storm drainage, sanitary sewer, water and electrical lines) has been completed.
"So far everything is running smoothly," said Mike Fulford, city landscape architect. "It's running beautifully."
If the project stays on schedule, it should take a total of 18 months for construction and maintenance to be completed. Current projections show the park will be available for public use in August or September 2009.
According to Fulford, the people working on all aspects of this park have important professional, and Pleasanton, experience. For example, construction manager Jim Gotcher just finished the restoration of the Veterans' Memorial Building downtown.
"He has some pretty special credentials and has a history of getting projects done on time and under budget," Fulford said.
Also, this phase of the park is being built by ValleyCrest Landscape Development. While the company builds across the country and even globally, its Northern California branch is located in Pleasanton. ValleyCrest has built a number of projects in Pleasanton over the years, including a similar project completed almost 20 years ago.
"They built the last phase of the Pleasanton Sports [and Recreation] Park in 1989 and now they are building the first stage of this one," Fulford said. "We have a great relationship with them."
The Sports Park, located on Hopyard Road and Parkside Drive, is twice the size of the future 50-acre sports complex in Bernal Community Park and features mostly multi-use fields, while Bernal will have single-use fields.
Phase one will include 13 acres of the overall sports park and only includes baseball fields, but the finished park will cater to other sports as well. According to the Bernal Community Park Master Plan, there will eventually be three lighted baseball diamonds and one informal baseball field, one lighted football/lacrosse field and three lighted soccer fields, including a small stadium.
According to Fulford, the single-use fields will help maintenance crews to better care for the fields.
"Our maintenance crew really likes them because the fields will rest between heavy uses," Fulford said. "The crew can go in and aerate and fertilize. That's something we have real trouble doing at the Sports Park."
Fulford said that this is difficult at the Sports Park because heavy use during soccer season is followed by heavy use during baseball season. Because the baseball fields and soccer fields will be completely separate in the new Bernal Park, this will not be an issue.
Unlike most park projects which have received partial or total funding from developers as homes are built nearby, the new sports fields, roadways, parking lots and water and sewer lines are the city's responsibility.
"Normally when I build a park there is infrastructure available," he said. "Roads, sewers, power lines. But that's not the case here. We are starting with a blank canvas."
As this is the first of three phases, the crew is installing the utilities to support the entire build-out of the project. According to Fulford, this makes the roughly $8-million project more expensive than future phases are likely to be.
A new road being built into the baseball park is actually Pleasanton Avenue extended. That street now ends at Bernal Avenue and won't be fully built out to connect there until the rest of the new sports park is completed. Until then, access to the 100-car parking lot will be from the new section of Pleasanton Avenue that will open off Valley Avenue.
The baseball fields under construction are the first development on the Bernal property, a 318-acre site that was given to the city free of charge by Greenbriar Homes in 2000. It was part of the 510-acre Bernal property that Greenbriar and associates purchased eight years ago for $126 million from the property's longtime owner, the city of San Francisco.
As part of the same agreement that Pleasanton approved, the developers were allowed to build 581 homes and apartments on the Bernal site on both sides of I-680. The city also approved was a 37-acre, eight-building, four-story office park along 680 which the owner, South Bay Construction, is now planning to develop with only seven office structures but would add a new Safeway "Lifestyle" supermarket at the corner of Valley and Bernal.
In the last eight years, city task forces, commissions and the City Council have spent hundreds of hours and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees to plan the park, which will be Pleasanton's largest and most expensive.
Among the amenities considered for Bernal, besides the 50-acre sports park, are a cultural arts center, 4-H club demonstration farm, a Grand Meadow that will harbor native plants and trees, miles of hiking trails and small lakes and meandering streams. Those were listed as future uses in a so-called Illustrative Plan that voters approved in 2006.
Although approved, voters will have to wait before much else gets built. So far, the council has found funds only to start the sports park, although the council is now earmarking funds each year toward completing the rest of Bernal.
One amenity that won't go on Bernal: more houses or apartments. Measure V, approved overwhelmingly in 2002, prohibits any more living units on the property, including senior housing that was initially proposed.
As part of developing Bernal, Fulford said the city is committed to meeting a variety of needs, as well as creating a park that is also a good neighbor.
A planned open forested area, for example, will be next to the 50 acres of athletic fields. It has been designed to feature a variety of native California plants and trees that will also serve as an 800-foot buffer between the athletic fields and nearby housing to prevent light spillover and sound issues.
To address other sensitive land uses, the master plan includes a commitment to environmental sustainability. According to Fulford, the city of Pleasanton already uses green building practices, and will continue to do so with the new park.
"Even before it became fashionable, the city's parks maintenance division was already well ahead of industry and other municipalities when it came to the creation and maintenance of its landscapes," Fulford said. "The city recently adopted the Alameda County Stop Waste Bay Friendly Landscape Guidelines, a guide to sustainable green landscape practices."
According to Fulford, it has not been difficult to conform to the guidelines because the city already meets most of them. For example, the city pays for water use, so water efficiency makes business sense in addition to environmental sense. Also, the city recycles green waste and uses it as mulch to insulate the ground surface, reducing irrigation needs and weed growth.
The second phase is also getting under way as the city gets ready to select consultants for the coming project. According to Fulford, the San Francisco-based firm that designed phase one, M.D. Fotheringham Landscape Architects, Inc., will be strongly considered, but no decisions have been made yet. The plan should be ready for bidding early next year.
"There is a concept plan so the second phase will be fairly easy to design," Fulford said. "Selection is happening next month."