Little League ball park wins in survey
Publication Date: Friday Nov 22, 1996

ATHERTON: Little League ball park wins in survey

Study shows residents favor proposal by small margin, but council remains unsure

Atherton residents appear to favor allowing a Little League baseball field to be built in Holbrook-Palmer Park--but not by much.

The results of an independent survey of Atherton residents showed residents favor allowing sports in Holbrook-Palmer Park by a slight margin--567 votes to 544.

Thirty residents were undecided on the issue, and 12 left the question blank.

Residents were then asked whether, if the park were opened to sports, it should be used specifically for private baseball. The results were more positive: 611 yes to 401 no. Thirty-seven of those surveyed were undecided on this questions and 105 left the question blank.

The survey results were made public at the Atherton City Council meeting Wednesday.

But the council members noted that the results of the survey were so close as to be inconclusive, and they postponed making a decision on the future of organized sports at Holbrook-Palmer Park. The City Council said it wanted to wait until more information about the environmental impact of the plan is known.

"I thought that the vote would be far more clear one way or another," said Councilwoman Nan Chapman. She said she wanted more time to read the 560 comments that were submitted to the council along with the survey results.

But several local residents went to bat for Little League Wednesday night, saying the numbers spoke for themselves. Jeff Morris, an Atherton resident since 1955 and father of six, said the results were "very, very clear. The town has spoken. They want a baseball field in Holbrook-Palmer Park."

Dan Alberti, a Little League board member, said baseball advocates were not going to back down. "We are committed. We aren't going to be chased away or buffaloed or bamboozled," he said.

Of 2,500 surveys mailed to Atherton residents, 1,154 were completed and returned. The survey, conducted by Accurate Mailings Inc., allotted one ballot to each household. The survey results were recounted on Nov. 15.

The council has scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the baseball proposal. Town Planner Neal Martin is scheduled to present an Environmental Impact Report Checklist, a document that will be used to determine whether an EIR is needed, depending on whether the concerns raised by the checklist could potentially be mitigated.

If an EIR is required, Little League supporters may be asked to foot the bill, which could run as high as $40,000. Martin stressed that if an EIR is needed, the council, under California law, will not be able to vote on the proposal until it is completed.

The Menlo-Atherton Little League has offered to pay for construction of a baseball diamond in Holbrook-Palmer Park, saying that it needs more room. The league holds games at Menlo Park and Atherton elementary schools and at Burgess Park in Menlo Park.

About 600 children played in the league this summer, and about half of them lived in Atherton.

Councilman William Conwell said Atherton should search for alternative ways to accommodate the needs of young athletes. "I am in favor of continuing the park as it has been," he said. The current policy allows sports on a permit-only basis.

Councilman Bob Huber agreed with Conwell. "Organized sports will change the nature of the park," he said. "It will affect the peace and quiet of the neighborhood."

Opponents of the plan, many of whom live near the park, raised concerns about noise, traffic and a loss of revenue if there were a drop in wedding bookings for the venue because of Saturday baseball.

Lorin Letendre, an Atherton resident, told the council the addition of a regular baseball schedule "is going to change radically the nature of the park."

"The word is going to get out that this is not the kind of place you want to have a wedding," he said. "Once you let them in, it's really hard to change your mind and go back," he warned.

--Elisabeth Traugott

What do you think?

To register your opinion on this or any other story in today's Weekly, call our ReaderWire line at 326-8291 (then press 1), send e-mail to readerwire@paweekly.com or fax us at 326-3928. "The town has spoken. They want a baseball field in Holbrook-Palmer Park." @id:--Jeff Morris, Atherton resident



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