The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

Council decision to fund sports field is irresponsible

On July 11 the Encinitas City Council voted to fund construction of their tournament sports fields on the Hall site. 

This decision may be heralded as a positive event but is seriously flawed. It is fiscally irresponsible and endangers generations of children using the park by ignoring serious health concerns.

Funding the sports fields removes $7 million from more important public works projects, such as fire protection, street maintenance, storm drain repair, flood control, open space acquisition, and others, by raiding budgets set aside for 17 ongoing projects. Is this prudent?

Another $8 million plus will have to be financed by lease revenue bonds, which circumvent voter approval, but require the project to produce revenues from leasing the facilities financed, in order to pay for interest and capital repayments to bond holders. The fields will not produce a revenue stream, however, but will incur huge maintenance costs, leaving such illegal financing open to lawsuits. This new public debt, added to lease revenue bonds currently being paid off for the land purchase, will encumber taxpayers with $2 million per year for twenty more years. Is this right, considering that the sports facilities are primarily dedicated to free use by private sports leagues?

Our council has been deceiving the public by planning a competitive sports complex for regional tournaments from day one, while telling citizens that they can create a “Community Park” serving the needs of all citizens, not just the ten percent who are engaged in organized sports. The EIR approved by the Council in 2007 stated clearly that the 44-acre sports park does not fit the definition of a Community Park and should be called a “Special Use Park.”

The Rotary Club, which is represented on the council by active members, wants free use of at least five dedicated fields in one location for their regional soccer tourneys. As proclaimed by former mayor Holz in 2002, tournaments could be held every week on the Hall site.

Three public surveys, including the City sponsored “2000 Godbe” survey, showed that the general public is not willing to be taxed for more sports fields. Encinitas already has 15 sites containing 28 fields suitable for soccer/softball practice and matches. However, school districts that operate many of these fields don’t want sports leagues ruining the fields without paying their fair share for maintenance.

Council obtained the Coastal Development permit for the “park” by hiring a lobbyist at a cost of $25,000 to persuade the Coastal Commissioners that the fields occupy only 20 percent of the park, implying that the rest would be for passive use. Looking at the park plans, however, no one can find the supposedly 80 percent passive use areas. Are they in the space between fields reserved for spectators? Are they along the Interstate 5 freeway? Are they on the parking lots and service roads, the rest rooms? Are they in the buffer zone averaging not much more than 10 feet wide? Are they in the skate park, tiny tot lot or dog park?

Besides imprudent financing, deception of the public, traffic congestion during tournaments drawing 300 teams and thousands of spectators parking on residential streets, there is the risk of asthma and cancer to our children who are dangerously exposed to diesel exhaust from the freeway and to soil contaminated with lethal toxins, which “eclipse California standards” according to the DEH. These dangers have been brought before the council by concerned scientific experts, only to be brushed off and violently opposed.

50,000 cubic yards of dangerously contaminated soil are planned to be buried at the south end of the site. This is criminally irresponsible, because the contaminants will be concentrated closer to Rossini Creek, leaching into the groundwater and the riparian wetlands downstream.

Water samples taken directly downstream of the Hall site showed abnormally high levels of toxic metals and petroleum residues. Arsenic, a deadly poison and carcinogen tested at a concentration 2370 times higher than the US/EPA standard of 10 ppb. Pesticide residues in the ground water table are also suspected to greatly exceed EPA standards, based on soil tests.

Residents expect a safe Community Park for all, not five tournament fields for private leagues at high public cost.

Dietmar Rothe, Ph.D. is a Cardiff resident.



Julie Graboi July 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I share Dr. Rothe’s concerns about the safety, the financial soundness, and the suitability of the proposed Encinitas Community Park plan. At the July 11 Special Council Meeting, Councilwoman Barth had brought up a possible staged approach to Park development, which could prioritize the Dog Park and the Skate Park in the first phase of construction.

The dog walkers and the skateboarders are local Encinitas residents, and they will not create the same noise and traffic impacts that league sports teams and their spectators will create, when hundreds of out-of-area people and their cars are focused in 1 area. Many dog owners will walk to the park, and skateboarders will roll into the park and use it for short periods of time throughout the day.

In contrast, team sports leagues and their spectator will be drawn from many surrounding communities, and they will converge on the park at the same time—presumably in the evenings and on weekends. The quality of life for Cardiff residents could be forever changed with the sudden addition of 5 proposed league sports fields.

Besides having fewer environmental consequences than the proposed sports fields, a dog park and a skate park are also less expensive to build and maintain. While I love team sports, it is not clear to me that our financial health is such that we can afford so many sports fields, considering that we will have to borrow money and drain other funds to pay for them. Wouldn’t a more prudent financial approach be to reduce the number of fields at this point, so that we can have a greater diversity of options, while serving the broadest cross-section of Encinitas residents? A staged approach could provide the flexibility to plan for the future, and also would not lock us into the ongoing expense of maintaining so many fields.

Given the precarious financial plan that they have presented, I fear that one way or another, this WILL be a staged development, if the City’s record on other projects is taken into account. Considering the overruns on the Updated General Plan, and the fact that we are borrowing money and draining other designated funds, why should we assume that this much larger project will come in on time and on budget?

Finally, Dr, Rothe is correct that the City must take every reasonable precaution to ensure that those who live near the Park and those who will eventually use the park be protected from harm. More specifics are needed on how they will mitigate the impact of this contaminated site before they take any other action.

Who's the duck? July 20, 2012 at 10:42 am

Five very dedicated, wise, and informed public servants voted for the plan. The council vote was 5-0.

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