City OKs turf plan, but needs funding strategy

Now that the city has established a plan for its athletic fields, it has to figure out how to pay for it.

Putting new grass at Highlands Park and Heather School and installing synthetic turf at two fields at Tierra Linda Middle School and one at Central Middle School, as the City Council voted to do Monday night, will cost an estimated $3.9 million, according to Parks and Recreation Director Barry Weiss. So far, the only secure funding the city has for park improvements comes from a parcel tax that will raise a total of $1.4 million over the next few years — and it probably can't be used at schools such as Tierra Linda and Central.

Because the city already maintains Heather's fields in exchange for public access, however, its fields may qualify for that money. “With other school sites, it'd be a bigger reach,” Councilmember Bob Grassilli said.

A 28-member citizens advisory committee had recommended selling two open-space parcels, one on Chilton Drive and another on Crestview Drive — a concept unpopular with the city's open-space advocates. During Monday's vote, the City Council took Chilton off the table but held on to Crestview — estimated to be worth $8 million — for later consideration.

San Carlos this year approved plans to launch a nonprofit foundation to raise money for city parks, but that organization has not gotten under way, Weiss said. Another possibility is a parcel tax or assessment, which could prove popular, given how many hundreds of residents participated in the process of establishing a fields plan.

“If people want to have more fields, we have to raise more revenue,” Grassilli said. “The logical explanation is a parcel tax or assessment of some sort.”

In the meantime, city officials must launch an environmental study of installing synthetic fields. It must also work with the San Carlos School District to develop land-sharing plans for Tierra Linda and Central.

Both schools' fields are in poor shape now, and the district doesn't have money to replace them, according to San Carlos School Board Member Mark Olbert.

“If the city is willing to invest some money in exchange for use of the fields, that'd be a good thing for everybody,” Olbert said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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