Plans for a new skate park in Pleasanton reached the next stage after the City Council unanimously agreed to begin the design process at its meeting Tuesday night.
The new park will be located at Ken Mercer Sports Park, where the existing one at Hopyard Road will either be replaced or undergo repairs, and a "next level" skate park would be placed adjacent to it.
According to the city's 2014 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, Pleasanton was found to be "short on skate park facilities by 1/2 acre and that an additional 1-acre skate park would be necessary once the city reached a population of 78,000, the projected build out of the city at the time."
Shortly before voting Tuesday, Councilmember Julie Testa said, "I remember when that first skate park was being advocated for and built. And it's definitely, our community has outgrown it; it's time for another one."
Last year, the Parks and Recreation Commission designated a new skate park as its No. 2 priority for the council's two-year work plan for 2019-21, and last month, commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with building an additional skate park.
The skate park was also adopted as "priority B" for the City Council's work plan this year, with $400,000 of funding for the design process planned for the next three years.
Staff visited several skate parks in Fremont, Newark and Milpitas for insight, according to city assistant director Michele Crose. After comparing local parks, staff decided Ken Mercer Sports Park was the best location for the new skate park.
"The site already has most of the necessary infrastructure, which would mean shorter design and construction process," Crose said. "It's less expensive to construct, thereby noise and light impacts would be minimal because already there are existing lights and some noise from the other activities occurring in the park."
Staff also suggested some features and amenities such as lighting to make the park accessible for a cross-section of visitors.
"Skateboarding is across generations, and in order to kind of allow space for everyone to be able to skate, having lights allows older individuals to come so that they can stay out of the way of the younger beginning learners in the morning times," Crose said.
The park would also have some greenery to "break up that monotony" of a large cement area "and make it a little bit more visibly pleasing."
Some constraints mentioned were limited parking and "high use and potential user conflicts" due to some small contract classes that are currently hosted at Sports Park and would need to be relocated to another area of the park or an entirely different site.
More than a dozen residents phoned in during the public hearing Tuesday evening and said the park should be at least an acre to help avoid collisions between skaters, and wanted lights on until 11 p.m. or later. They also requested a mix of street elements and flow elements to accommodate different experience levels.
Joellen Lambert, widow of former parks and recreation commissioner David Lambert, expressed her support for the park and urged the council to name the park in honor of her late husband, as did several other speakers.
"I'm honored to hear so many people want to name it after David," Lambert said. "Not only did David give a lot to the city and was on numerous commissions... but he was a quadrilateral amputee."
"He inspired so many people, and the fact that even though he had lost his arms and legs, he still functioned, he could be on skis, he rode a bike, he drove a car," Lambert added, holding back tears as she spoke. "He was an inspiration to not only the kids in the city, but also to the adults as well. To name something after him because of that inspiration is just really a real cool thing to do."
Councilmember Jerry Pentin called the concept "a great opportunity to expand and bring some more modern facilities for skateboarders in Pleasanton," but said he "wanted to have it come at a time, as a priority that can be met with some of the plans and projects we already have in the city."
"Have we considered, instead of starting a whole new park, using repair and replacement funding and just expanding the current skate park Ken Mercer?" Pentin asked.
"I'm concerned about the cost of $400,000 at this time during COVID, that we're going to earmark this for a new skate park," he added.
Just before the council voted, Vice Mayor Kathy Narum echoed Pentin's remarks and said she "supported the park master plan back in 2014" but also had "some concern given economic uncertainties due to COVID."
"I question whether it wouldn't be better to wait until the next fiscal year and understand the COVID impacts on our budget," Narum said. "I also agree with Councilmember Pentin; we do have a lot of different projects that are teed up in various phases ... I almost feel like we're trying to take too much on."
Narum added, "But given, I think, what's been said, I do support the idea of a bigger park and the idea that not every child, young adult is going to run around in a soccer uniform or baseball uniform or whatever. I am going to go ahead and support this with, I have to admit, a little bit of reservation."
Councilmember Karla Brown, who will be sworn in as Pleasanton's new mayor later this month, said she was "extremely impressed with the young individuals who have been advocating for this skate park."
"This is something that our youth has been waiting for," Brown said. "When it does come forward, hopefully COVID won't be a problem anymore but it is an individual (activity), something people can do solo without touching each other."
Some residents during the public hearing also complained about waiting for the park to materialize more than six years after being proposed. City Manager Nelson Fialho said the project would likely take "16 months to two years to fully complete" and that the city would "treat this as a priority."
"We'll be really intentional and thoughtful and be as fast as we possibly can within the timeline I mentioned," Fialho said.