News

The community effort to 'Save Donlon Field'

Parents, neighbors balk at idea of housing on school property; district argues concept is in early stages, but site is too large to maintain

Sign at Val Vista Park across from Donlon Elementary promotes the neighborhood's desire to keep the school's large grass field intact while the school district has floated the idea of a portion of the land being repurposed for future residential development. (Photo courtesy Colleen Hake)

Donlon Elementary parents and neighborhood residents recently held a rally to appeal to the school district and raise awareness among the community about their desire to retain all of the large green space and play area at the campus that is being considered as an option for potential new housing.

The April 24 event at Val Vista Park, across the street from the backside of the campus, was organized by a group of concerned parents like Colleen Hake hoping to save the 8.3-acre Donlon field as green space for the elementary students to play and achieve optimal development in their youth, as well as for community use outside of school hours.

"There's scientific evidence that the benefits of green space for the mental, physical and emotional health of children is significant," Hake told the Weekly.

"I think that an important part of our event was just raising awareness that it is on the (city) Housing Element list," she added.

The Donlon Elementary field was among nearly two-dozen properties across Pleasanton included on the short list for environmental review in the city's Regional Housing Needs Allocation sites inventory list for potential residential development. The ultimate inventory list will be approved as part of the city's Housing Element update finalization process.

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Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the Pleasanton Unified School District, noted the concept of converting part of the Donlon field into housing is in the very early stages and could take years to materialize. The district would need to sell the land for any development to take place, and the proposal would need to go through public processes at the district and city levels.

The grass field at the back side of Donlon Elementary School spans more than 8 acres. (Photo by Jeremy Walsh)

The topic will be discussed as part of a special PUSD Board of Trustees meeting on the district's Facilities Master Plan scheduled for May 19.

"As always, we encourage families and community members to learn more by watching and participating in these meetings as all conversations around use of District property happen publicly to allow community engagement," Gannon said.

"Right now, we're more focused on providing Donlon students access to green space, which is what the parents and the Donlon community have asked us to do. So we are happy to be doing that for the Donlon students," he added, referring to adjustments being contemplated to the new fencing at the campus.

PUSD trustees Steve Maher and Kelly Mokashi, along with city Mayor Karla Brown, were among those in attendance at the April 24 event at Val Vista, and they each spent time and interacted with the crowd, according to Hake.

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"They talked to so many community members on (that) Sunday, and everyone really let them know their thoughts about what is going on in our part of Pleasanton," Hake said.

Scores of residents turn out to community rally event on April 24 to generate support for the "Save Donlon Field" movement. (Photo courtesy Colleen Hake)

The participation feedback was overwhelmingly positive, according to Hake, a mother of two and former NASA engineer and Air Force veteran.

Preparation for the community event started a few months ago with the distribution of fliers throughout the neighborhood, but even so, the organizing group of parents was surprised by the turnout of approximately 300 people, Hake said.

Including the awareness angle, the event featured games for kids where Robots supplied treats to children including raffles, according to Hake. Community members showed support by donating products for the event for the raffle prizes.

One concern of Donlon Elementary parents is that the kids will lose their play area and will be forced to play on black tops, which could cause more injuries in falls and pose overheating issues on hot days, compared to the grass field, according to Hake. They also expressed concerns about the accessibility of the field, for students and the community, in light of a new security fence installed by the district in the past year.

Gannon told the Weekly the district plans to relocate the fence that currently sits between the Donlon blacktop and field to create an accessible green space for the school community to utilize. This new, enclosed green space would provide at least 3 acres -- larger than two football fields -- that will be easier for the school to supervise students safely, he said.

"We're moving it, so a portion of the existing field would be fenced in as part of the school and connected to the blacktop," Gannon said. "It would be the area minus the 5.5 acres that is potentially being considered (for future residential use)."

A key issue with the 8.3-acre Donlon field "is that it is too large and the school can't reasonably provide adequate supervision to allow students to play on the field safely," according to Gannon, who noted that the result is the area would then sit there largely unused by the district.

The large ground would require supervision, and according to Gannon, the school's request for parent volunteers hasn't received enough response. (After publication of this story, Gannon clarified that the call put out to parents was part of recruitment for a paid noon supervisor position, not for volunteers.)

"So my question to the parents who want the entire field is, what are you doing to ensure (safety)? It doesn't seem that they're stepping up so their children can use the field during the day," Gannon said in his original interview.

Donlon Elementary School is tucked in the Val Vista neighborhood northwest of the intersection of West Las Positas Boulevard and Hopyard Road. The front of the school is on Dorman Road, but the portion under debate is the field on the backside of the campus along Denker Drive and Payne Road.

Editor's notes: This story has been updated after PUSD spokesman Patrick Gannon reached out to clarify that the school had encouraged parents to apply for the open noon supervisor position, "a role that supports students' ability to utilize the field. While students currently are provided regular access to the field, the school is still encouraging interested qualified individuals to apply for this position, and not volunteer as previously stated."

Additionally, a previous version of this story listed an incorrect branch for resident Colleen Hake's military service. She served in the U.S. Air Force. The Weekly regrets the error.

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The community effort to 'Save Donlon Field'

Parents, neighbors balk at idea of housing on school property; district argues concept is in early stages, but site is too large to maintain

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, May 6, 2022, 12:10 am
Updated: Tue, May 10, 2022, 8:46 pm

Donlon Elementary parents and neighborhood residents recently held a rally to appeal to the school district and raise awareness among the community about their desire to retain all of the large green space and play area at the campus that is being considered as an option for potential new housing.

The April 24 event at Val Vista Park, across the street from the backside of the campus, was organized by a group of concerned parents like Colleen Hake hoping to save the 8.3-acre Donlon field as green space for the elementary students to play and achieve optimal development in their youth, as well as for community use outside of school hours.

"There's scientific evidence that the benefits of green space for the mental, physical and emotional health of children is significant," Hake told the Weekly.

"I think that an important part of our event was just raising awareness that it is on the (city) Housing Element list," she added.

The Donlon Elementary field was among nearly two-dozen properties across Pleasanton included on the short list for environmental review in the city's Regional Housing Needs Allocation sites inventory list for potential residential development. The ultimate inventory list will be approved as part of the city's Housing Element update finalization process.

Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the Pleasanton Unified School District, noted the concept of converting part of the Donlon field into housing is in the very early stages and could take years to materialize. The district would need to sell the land for any development to take place, and the proposal would need to go through public processes at the district and city levels.

The topic will be discussed as part of a special PUSD Board of Trustees meeting on the district's Facilities Master Plan scheduled for May 19.

"As always, we encourage families and community members to learn more by watching and participating in these meetings as all conversations around use of District property happen publicly to allow community engagement," Gannon said.

"Right now, we're more focused on providing Donlon students access to green space, which is what the parents and the Donlon community have asked us to do. So we are happy to be doing that for the Donlon students," he added, referring to adjustments being contemplated to the new fencing at the campus.

PUSD trustees Steve Maher and Kelly Mokashi, along with city Mayor Karla Brown, were among those in attendance at the April 24 event at Val Vista, and they each spent time and interacted with the crowd, according to Hake.

"They talked to so many community members on (that) Sunday, and everyone really let them know their thoughts about what is going on in our part of Pleasanton," Hake said.

The participation feedback was overwhelmingly positive, according to Hake, a mother of two and former NASA engineer and Air Force veteran.

Preparation for the community event started a few months ago with the distribution of fliers throughout the neighborhood, but even so, the organizing group of parents was surprised by the turnout of approximately 300 people, Hake said.

Including the awareness angle, the event featured games for kids where Robots supplied treats to children including raffles, according to Hake. Community members showed support by donating products for the event for the raffle prizes.

One concern of Donlon Elementary parents is that the kids will lose their play area and will be forced to play on black tops, which could cause more injuries in falls and pose overheating issues on hot days, compared to the grass field, according to Hake. They also expressed concerns about the accessibility of the field, for students and the community, in light of a new security fence installed by the district in the past year.

Gannon told the Weekly the district plans to relocate the fence that currently sits between the Donlon blacktop and field to create an accessible green space for the school community to utilize. This new, enclosed green space would provide at least 3 acres -- larger than two football fields -- that will be easier for the school to supervise students safely, he said.

"We're moving it, so a portion of the existing field would be fenced in as part of the school and connected to the blacktop," Gannon said. "It would be the area minus the 5.5 acres that is potentially being considered (for future residential use)."

A key issue with the 8.3-acre Donlon field "is that it is too large and the school can't reasonably provide adequate supervision to allow students to play on the field safely," according to Gannon, who noted that the result is the area would then sit there largely unused by the district.

The large ground would require supervision, and according to Gannon, the school's request for parent volunteers hasn't received enough response. (After publication of this story, Gannon clarified that the call put out to parents was part of recruitment for a paid noon supervisor position, not for volunteers.)

"So my question to the parents who want the entire field is, what are you doing to ensure (safety)? It doesn't seem that they're stepping up so their children can use the field during the day," Gannon said in his original interview.

Donlon Elementary School is tucked in the Val Vista neighborhood northwest of the intersection of West Las Positas Boulevard and Hopyard Road. The front of the school is on Dorman Road, but the portion under debate is the field on the backside of the campus along Denker Drive and Payne Road.

Editor's notes: This story has been updated after PUSD spokesman Patrick Gannon reached out to clarify that the school had encouraged parents to apply for the open noon supervisor position, "a role that supports students' ability to utilize the field. While students currently are provided regular access to the field, the school is still encouraging interested qualified individuals to apply for this position, and not volunteer as previously stated."

Additionally, a previous version of this story listed an incorrect branch for resident Colleen Hake's military service. She served in the U.S. Air Force. The Weekly regrets the error.

Comments

Patriots
Registered user
Birdland
on May 6, 2022 at 10:47 am
Patriots, Birdland
Registered user
on May 6, 2022 at 10:47 am

When new housing is proposed, I always wonder where is the water coming from ? Now the field is at least getting recycled water to stay green. But new growth will end that.


john s
Registered user
Val Vista
on May 6, 2022 at 2:25 pm
john s, Val Vista
Registered user
on May 6, 2022 at 2:25 pm

Ironically, Jack Balch one of the city officials, said the field has not and cannot be watered with recycled (effluent, purple water ) because the system is already at 100 % capacity. Which is a byproduct of fresh water which Jack and other officials must believe we have plenty of to build more housing . Yes Its very confusing to try and understand his comment.Not enough recycled water but plenty of fresh water ?


Jarred
Registered user
Val Vista
on May 7, 2022 at 7:07 am
Jarred, Val Vista
Registered user
on May 7, 2022 at 7:07 am

It is not Donlon Elementary's responsibility to ensure safety of our children during the school day while on school grounds?
Do the 8 other PUSD elementary schools rely on parent volunteers in order for their children to play or do PE with staff supervision on their school ground's green space? Donlon students have not done a single PE class on grass in years. Why?
What parents have asked for the whole field? I thought the ask of the "Save Donlon Field" event was 4 acres secured within a fence line for the students so it would finally be safe for them to use, and the bordering 4 acres to be made into green space for the community (like Vintage Hills, Mohr, Walnut Grove, Valley View, Hearst and Fairlands Elementary schools). Val Vista park is mostly unusable green space for the community (3 soccer fields fenced and locked only for soccer teams, concrete skatepark/rink, fenced/locked garden, 2 water play areas that have been off for the majority of the past decade.
The petition to fence in 4 acres for the Donlon student's health and save 4 acres for the community's health has already reached 1,100 signatures:
Web Link


Liz
Registered user
Avila
on May 9, 2022 at 9:46 am
Liz, Avila
Registered user
on May 9, 2022 at 9:46 am

"So my question to the parents who want the entire field is, what are you doing to ensure (safety)? It doesn't seem that they're stepping up so their children can use the field during the day," Gannon said."
Hold up now. Is the SCHOOL district placing the responsibility of student safety on the parents during SCHOOL hours on SCHOOL grounds? This is a poor excuse to not expand the field.
The Donlon community is NOT asking for the entire field. We are asking for 4 acres for the students and 4 acres for Parks and Rec - space that can be enjoyed by the entire community. Gannon is trying to create a distraction and portray parents as greedy and uninvolved.


KathleenRuegsegger
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on May 9, 2022 at 11:55 am
KathleenRuegsegger, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on May 9, 2022 at 11:55 am

To be fair, Gannon is the mouthpiece for the the district leadership. These are the plans of leadership (putting Donlon’s “excess” space on the selling block is one of several). The school board needs to ask tougher questions, and they should be listening to the community, not just leadership.


Michael Austin
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on May 9, 2022 at 7:01 pm
Michael Austin , Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on May 9, 2022 at 7:01 pm

PUSD conducted a survey about four weeks ago. Those results should be available in about ten days. That survey asked questions for approval or disapproval of teachers, and staff. Asked about upgrade of existing structures, and a new small high school. Again, the survey asked for approval or disapproval for another bond measure. PUSD will be conducting another survey before end of May.


Jarred
Registered user
Val Vista
on May 9, 2022 at 9:01 pm
Jarred, Val Vista
Registered user
on May 9, 2022 at 9:01 pm

The City should be watching PUSD and this issue closely too.

With elections and school bonds on the ballot come November, it is really bad timing not to listen to over 1,100 people.

Specifically, the City should take over the maintenance of any green space outside of the field fenced in for the Donlon Students, if the 5.5 Acres on the Environmental Impact Review does not go through the vote towards the end of the year.

The Val Vista and Donlon Communities have the numbers to affect voting results. And the community is fired up about Donlon Field and lies PUSD is telling.

If PUSD and the City fix the mistakes made about Donlon Field, they will have an easier time for their "asks" in the Fall.


Ashwin
Registered user
Val Vista
on May 10, 2022 at 7:48 pm
Ashwin, Val Vista
Registered user
on May 10, 2022 at 7:48 pm

Hold up PUSD! Why is it parents' responsibility to "volunteer" to be a campus supervisor? Aren't those paid positions? And why is it the onus of the parents to ensure that their kids can play on a school field during school hours?

All the parents and residents have asked for is to give the children half the field (approx 4 acres) since it is the largest, most impacted elementary school in PUSD. They do not want housing encroaching their kids' privacy and so they're asking that the rest of the field remain green space maintained by the City. How did this reasonable demand turn into parents' dereliction of duty?


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