Work Stalls on Piedmont's Controversial Blair Park Soccer Field

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Is no news good news? For opponents of Piedmont's planned new soccer field at Blair Park, it's hard to say. Progress has all but halted since early January, when citizen group Friends of Moraga Canyon filed a lawsuit against Piedmont alleging flaws in the project's environmental impact report and insufficient public review of changes made to the plan. Likewise, in December, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to sue Piedmont over the project's environmental impacts.

But other than a letter from the Sierra Club supporting Oakland's lawsuit, nothing has happened on either side in the intervening months. A Feb. 13 Planning Commission hearing on the park was postponed, then on March 6 the Friends of Moraga Canyon suit was put on hold for sixty days. During this period, which extends until May 7, project proponents Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization cannot seek any new permits or approvals, nor can Piedmont carry out any administrative work on the project.

Shortly after announcing its intent to sue, Oakland entered into a tolling agreement with Piedmont designed to allow time to settle its concerns without resorting to a lawsuit. That tolling agreement was recently extended to May 18, without any evident progress having been made. Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, who has attended and spoken at numerous Piedmont City Council meetings addressing the issue, said she is aware of only one meeting between the cities having been held since December, which she attended.

"I can tell you that we immediately tried to arrange a follow-up meeting, did not get a response, and then were told that the City of Piedmont wanted to extend the tolling agreement," Schaaf said. "At this time there's nothing to indicate that it's a stalling tactic. … It seems that they're literally taking a time out. There's no evidence of any progress being made."

Deputy City Attorney Kevin Siegel could not be reached for comment on any upcoming meetings between Oakland and Piedmont. Schaaf, meanwhile, remains concerned about the project and its impacts on Oakland residents. "I'm going to fight for the rights of Oakland citizens and for the environment," she said. Come mid-May, perhaps we'll know if that means a lawsuit.

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