Marin Voice: Albert Park lawsuit about more than baseball in San Rafael
• Contrary to the claims that neighbors don't want to see baseball at Albert Park, the neighbors have peacefully coexisted with baseball nearly every day and evening of the week since Jacob Albert donated the land for public use in 1937.
• Baseball is played there regularly now, only recreational, not commercial ball. The differences are major league. Recreational ball is just that — local youth, amateur adult and semi-pro teams use the field for fun, not for profit. Many of these teams are slated to be displaced by the new use. According to the agreement between the city and Centerfield, semi-pro and collegiate teams may use the field no more than six nightsa season, altogether, without permission from the minor-league team's owners.
This is a major change in use that is bound to have impact. No other use generates anywhere near the traffic contemplated by Centerfield.
• Even the popular collegiate team the San Francisco Seals averaged only 300 fans during its run from the mid-1990s through 2002. Most teams now using the field not only have far fewer spectators, they seldom use amplification or sell concessions.
• Every other use of the land left by Jacob Albert is either city-managed or run by a nonprofit entity for the public's use and benefit — including the day care center, bocce ball courts, tennis courts and community center.
The deed of the land was explicitly for public recreational use, with commercial uses allowed for not more than one week at a time.
• The city's own attorney has already conceded that this use is a "project" under CEQA. And as recently as Aug. 9, Centerfield Partners had agreed to do the necessary environmental studies. It pulled its promise in favor of a "downsized project." This does not change the need for environmental review.
• Even though it has been "downsized," there is no way a commercial venture that has to hire players, purchase equipment, attract investors and promote a fan base will be satisfied with a single-year lease. The Albert Park Neighborhood Alliance feels that such investments can only lead to more leases, more changes in the park's configuration and increased impacts, all without environmental review — amounting to "piecemealing" a larger project, in violation of California's environmental laws.
• The agreement signed by the city allows changes in practically every aspect of the lease, at the whim of the parties, without community input or review.
The Albert Park Neighborhood Alliance is merely asking that they follow the same rules any other project with potential environmental impact has to follow.
The question this paper should be asking is, "What is Centerfield afraid a proper environmental review will show?"