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July 01, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, July 01, 2005

Council OKs Cultural Center, sports fields Council OKs Cultural Center, sports fields (July 01, 2005)

First three lighted ball fields set for 2007

by Jeb Bing

The Pleasanton City Council, as expected, has voted unanimously to cluster new sports fields, a Cultural Arts theater and two youth centers together on a 50-acre site at the eastern edge of its new Bernal public park.

The move leaves the rest of the 318-acre public parcel available for future development, most likely as open space, meadows, trails and possibly for tennis courts and other similar uses.

The eastern acreage will allow for more uses than initially planned by city commissions, although there was a groundswell of public petitions urging that the theater be placed at the northeast corner of the sports park, where it will be closer to downtown. Two other sites also had been considered: placing the theater along Bernal Avenue closer to the new fire station or in a western location near I-680.

As part of the overall Bernal Park plan, Valley Avenue, which now ends just south of Bernal Avenue, will be extended through the Bernal site and under the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, where it will connect with Junipero Street at Case Avenue. Once completed in 2006, the roadway will offer motorists using Sunol Boulevard a second direct access to Bernal Corporate Park and the Fairgrounds.

Shortly after the council's action, the city Planning Commission approved final plans to start construction on the first three of 10 lighted sports fields planned for the new sports park. If the council ratifies the commission's action later this month, work on the new fields could begin next spring with play possible as early as 2007.

The Bernal Park development also calls for extending Pleasanton Avenue from its intersection with Bernal Avenue at the Fairgrounds in a southwesterly direction alongside the new Cultural Arts Center and sports fields. It would then connect to the new Valley avenue, when it's extended, at Laguna Creek Lane, a street already built that goes under I-680 to homes and additional Bernal parkland west of the freeway.
The Plan

Called Phase I, the plan approved by the council marks a major step forward in completing the first phase of development of the Bernal site, which the city received free of charge for public uses when the then-vacant 510-acre Bernal site was purchased from the city of San Francisco, which had owned it for nearly 70 years. Upon its purchase, the City Council agreed to build more sports fields and to place high priorities on a Cultural Arts Center and youth centers. It also entered into an agreement with Greenbriar Homes to allow 581 homes and apartments on the site in exchange for the 381 public acres.

Besides the new Cultural Arts Center, which will include a high-rise section behind the theater stage that could rise as high as nine stories, the council also approved building a two-story teen and youth center between the Civic Center and the sports fields.

Councilman Matt Sullivan, although approving the preliminary plan, said he was concerned that too many sports fields and facilities were being clustered together in a 50 acre site.

"I served on the Planning Commission for a number of years and came to realize that when structures are actually built, they look a lot different than the spacious-looking architect's concepts that first showed them," Sullivan said. "I'm concerned that we may be trying to put too many things on this site."

Although construction is likely to start on the first three ball fields early next year, Planning Consultant Wayne Rasmussen and Land Use Architect Michael Fotheringham assured the council that there will be more opportunities for public comment and changes before the final plans for the 50-acre site are ready for approval.

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