An already-announced outdoor ice skating rink at downtown's Delucchi Park for the coming Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season may not be a sure thing after all.
The City Council last night informally agreed to look into complaints from three nearby homeowners asking that another site be considered to keep traffic, noise and nighttime congestion out of their First Street, Second Street and Old Town areas.
"It appears that this decision was made without any input from us," said Chris Bourg, whose home on Second Street is only a block away from Delucchi Park. "This (ice rink) would be open seven days a week. Our neighborhood is already impacted by Farmers Market, Friday's concerts in the park, First Wednesday (street parties), the convalescent hospital, Thursday night Movies in the Park and, eventually, the unknown impact of the new Firehouse Arts Center."
Homeowners Neil Nostrand and Jack Bras also objected, saying they were surprised to learn a decision had been made to put the holiday ice rink at Delucchi. They urged the council to schedule a public hearing to evaluate the concerns of their neighborhood.
The ice rink, to be installed and operated by San Jose Arena Management (SJAM), a subsidiary of the San Jose Sharks, would be placed on top of the Delucchi turf and open from mid-November to mid-January. The city would provide additional electrical and other infrastructure improvements, but SJAM would assume all other costs, including all liability. SJAM also will provide staff needed to manage and operate the rink and was given the right to seek sponsors for the temporary seasonal facility as well as individual skating events.
Councilman Matt Sullivan, who has opposed contracting with SJAM for the outdoor rink because of the Shark's pending bid to build a permanent ice arena in the new Staples Ranch development on the city's northeast side, said he recalled that when the council considered the proposal, the site was going to be portions of the Pleasanton public library and Civic Center parking lots along Old Bernal Avenue.
City staff later changed that plan because Delucchi Park is closer to the heart of downtown, adjacent to restrooms and has ample public parking available in the old railroad corridor the city now owns.
Nostrand said he and his wife have lived in their Second Street home for 40 years and have seen a lot of changes.
"But it seems in the last three years we have been overwhelmed and run over by special events, all for the downtown, and everyone of them has had a negative impact on our neighborhood," he said. "There's been an increase in noise, congestion and parking on our streets and it's been very frustrating. Our Old Town neighborhood is unique to anything else in the city and a major asset for Pleasanton."
"Those of us who live here have an extremely high level of ownership pride," he added, "but in the last couple of years there seems to have been a disconnect between our neighborhood and the city. The dialogue has all been with the downtown association, with the view that if it's good for the downtown, it must be good for everyone. I think there needs to be a better balance."
Nostrand suggested that the ice rink be placed somewhere most distant from homes and in a safer location for skaters, such as on the Bernal property, Sports Park or on other open space.
Jack Bras, a retired architect, said he didn't know about the ice rink until the deal with SJAM was announced.
"We were all quite surprised by this," Bras told the council. "There was no discussion with the neighbors. We urge you to rethink this proposal, and, after all the citizens have been given a chance to speak their minds, to come back and make your decision. Please don't shove this ice rink down our throats."
City Manager Nelson Fialho said he and others on the city staff will meet with the neighborhood to determine if operational changes could be made to the proposed ice rink at Delucchi that they would accept. He also said that a public hearing on the proposal could be added to the council's meeting agenda scheduled for Sept. 1.