Millbrae fields to get much-needed green

Ed Musa and his two boys have become accustomed to twisting ankles and tripping on gopher holes while trying to play at Millbrae’s Spring Valley Elementary School fields.

Musa and other parents said they often choose to play sports elsewhere because the fields are in such “horrendous” shape. Fields at Millbrae’s Spring Valley, Lomita Park and Meadows elementary schools are “unplayable,” city officials said. Kids at the schools have been forced to spend physical education and recess time on the blacktop instead of on the fields.

“The grass is uncut, the holes are covered so when you’re running by you don’t know what’s level and what’s a hole. It’s just totally unsafe,” Musa said.

Fortunately for families like the Musas, months of negotiations between the city and its schooldistrict have led to $3.5 million in fixes to the three fields that will likely take place during the next two years. A new 15-year city-school district agreement would also provide for upgrades to Taylor Middle and Green Hills Elementary schools, which are “dramatically overused,” Community Development Director Ralph Petty said.

The agreement will be voted on by the school district board on April 14 and the City Council Tuesday. With the district overseeing Mills High School raising fees to use Millbrae’s largest field, many leagues are hoping to use the city’s other five fields for significantly less money.

“Fixing those fields up is going to create a lot more practice time and probably will allow all of our organizations to expand and we may be able to take new organizations in,” city Recreation Services manager Howard Kaplan said.

The district has cut $1.8 million and counting in the last five years and is asking voters to approve a $78-per-parcel tax on June 3. The district’s share of about $1.75 million will not come out of its general budget, however, Petty said. Instead, the city’s redevelopment agency will provide the district with $180,000 annually from its redevelopment agency, which the district will use to pay back loans from a private investor, he said.

For its half of the upgrades, the city will then use fees that developers pay in lieu of providing parks or open space to accompany new projects.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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