EPA sports field approved amid heated debate

Emotional exchanges spark Planning Commission hearing on Rich May sports complex plans

Despite residents' concerns about traffic impacts, the East Palo Alto Planning Commission approved a $3 million playing field for East Palo Alto's youth Monday night -- a memorial sports complex to be named for slain police Officer Richard May.

Commissioners approved the field 4 to 1 during an acrimonious and emotional hearing.

The soccer and rugby field, which would replace a dirt and weed-strewn lot behind St. Francis of Assisi Church on Bay Road, has been four years in planning by May's family and friends through the Rich May Foundation.

The family wanted to establish the field as a way to help keep youth in the city engaged and out of gangs, foundation member Frank Merrill, May's stepfather, has said in previous interviews. May was shot and killed in 2006 by Alberto Alvarez, an East Palo Alto gang member who has been sentenced to death for the killing.

Planning commissioners have been hesitant to allow the playing field, with some citing traffic congestion.

Tami McMillan, May's sister, said the traffic issue is being mitigated by a 500-foot setback for the passenger drop-off area. During the meeting, an emotional exchange erupted between McMillan and commission Chairwoman Renee Glover Chantler.

McMillan said a small group of people within the city were supporting the status quo.

"The status quo killed my brother," she said.

McMillan said the issue was scheduled for the end of the meeting, when kids and other supporters would not be able to stay because of the late hour. A few people in the community were letting small political issues get in the way of helping the kids, she said.

She said she believes opponents will appeal the decision.

Sharifa Wilson, president of the Ravenswood City School District, said the project should have an environmental impact report to address impacts on the surrounding neighborhood. She could not be reached Tuesday (Nov. 23) for comment regarding whether she plans to appeal the commission's decision.

Commissioners required a traffic study to be done by the project architect within one year.

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Like this comment
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

If you would like to watch last night's important and groundbreaking meeting, it will be replayed on the Media Center's Comcast Channel 29 and streamed over the Media Center's Website ( at the following times:
Friday, Nov. 26, 7 pm
Saturday, Nov. 27 11 pm
Sunday, Nov. 28 7 pm

Like this comment
Posted by Jeanine Borland Mann
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

What a shame a soccer field which will enable youth to have a positive outlet has to be postponed by a few. Let there be some traffic congestion if it helps our youth!

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I am sure the May family is still deeply hurt by their loss. Gangs exist in part because people don't care enough to stop them, beginning w/their own families. Ditto crime in the community. People get scared, sure, but people are also too busy, resigned or simply don't care enough to make good changes in the community. Why point the finger at people trying to accomplish good change instead of acknowledging the status quo? Sheesh, I've had more than my share of status quo garbage to deal with here & so have many others. It's time for change, the kind of change that builds the character of the community.

Like this comment
Posted by A defender of Officer May's fammily
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I'm not sure how Officer May's family can be considered cocky, when they are trying to give BACK to the EPA community that Officer May worked and participated in while attempting to change the kids' lives for the better. They are taking a unused lot and, through fundraising efforts, are providing money and faciities back into the community, so that Officer May's legacy of helping the EPA kids continues. Being passionate about the need for the park in his honor is certainly not "cocky."

Like this comment
Posted by Reality Tickles.
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Mr. Ironic
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2010 at 9:24 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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