“Are you mature enough to handle that?”
The City Council, sitting as the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority, spent nearly 90-minutes of Wednesday night locked in a battle royale over approval of a three-year field lease for the Piedmont Soccer Club out at Alameda Point.
Apparently, a certain vice mayor was none too happy that the word “Alameda” is not included in the club’s name. Still, one of the Alameda Soccer Club’s leaders appeared to say the local soccer club and even other local sports clubs are in favor of the lease, as did the leader of the league the two clubs belong to (an Alameda resident whose kids play in the Alameda club).
The discussion drilled deep into the mechanics of youth soccer in this little corner of the world. We’re talking “Everything You Ever (Really Didn’t) Want to Know About Youth Soccer” territory, a place that even some of the council members said they didn’t want to go.
“This is an intramural squabble between soccer clubs. We don’t get into that. We just get into the terms of the lease,” Councilman Frank Matarrese said.
Here’s the not-so-quick and dirty:
Apparently, there has been a bit of a to-do about the availability of local fields for local players in the Alameda Soccer Club, which is part of the Jack London Youth Soccer League, a group of six clubs across Alameda, Oakland and Piedmont that share fields, costs, etc. The consternation has led to questions about the Piedmont club’s lease of the Point field, which they get rent-free in exchange for performing maintenance that their field director said costs them about $40,000 a year.
Vice Mayor Doug deHaan, for one, wanted to know why the lease isn’t held by the Alameda Soccer Club, instead of a club from off the Island. And he said he’d heard that local teams were having a tough time scheduling fields for their roughly 1,400 players.
Even Councilwoman Marie Gilmore jumped on this point, saying she’d heard that the Point field had at times sat empty as Alameda players doubled up on other fields (as a result, the lease was amended to allow Rec and Parks to schedule uses when the field is available).
“When the fields are empty, Alameda soccer clubs had to double up, and use other fields. True?” Gilmore asked Gabe Longoria, Alameda Soccer Club’s field coordinator.
“Yes,” Longoria replied.
“I’m sorry, the answer was?” Gilmore repeated.
“The answer is yes,” Longoria replied.
The leadership of the soccer clubs and the league said they think the lease is in the best interests of Alameda and our local soccer players. They said Piedmont pays the bill for maintaining the field, and our kids have the opportunity to play or practice on it. If they didn’t take the lease in the first place, the field would instead be a big, fat patch of weeds, they said.
They said drought-driven watering restrictions did have some impact on field availability, but that Alameda actually has an abundance of fields for soccer and that the Alameda club hasn’t suffered from a lack of field availability this year. They said the issues is that a lot of folks don’t want to make the half-hour drive from, say, Fernside Boulevard to the Point to practice or play. One former member of the Alameda Soccer board said that in the five years Piedmont Soccer held its most current lease on the field, Alameda Soccer teams have only requested it twice.
And they said that Alameda Soccer had been offered the lease in the past but that it didn’t feel it had the resources to cover the terms, which now include field maintenance and a water bill. But deHaan wondered if the Alameda club couldn’t take it up now.
“Are you mature enough to handle that?” he asked Longoria.
An exasperated Mayor (and soccer mom) Beverly Johnson said she thinks the arrangement has been good for Alameda and that people need to quit their griping and help out more.
“It’s been a very positive thing for sports in Alameda,” Johnson said of the arrangement. “We’ve had accusations, we’ve had allegations, not just from Vice Mayor deHaan, but the people here. What I would suggest is, get out there and volunteer, instead of making allegations about people.”
Oh, and if you’re still reading: The board voted 5-0 to okay the lease.
Now, on to the reason I was actually watching this meeting in the first place: Looks like the city is going to have to dump another half million dollars into cleaning up after the fire that gutted an abandoned military records building on the FISC (aka Future Alameda Landing) property back in March.
Apparently the parts of the building that are still standing aren’t stable enough for the cleanup crews to get in there to pull out all the asbestos-covered stuff inside, which has to be separated and sent to a special dump. So the city needs more money to finish the work.
The additional funds will bring the cleanup cost to $2 million, which will come from lease revenues out at the Point. Economic Development Director Leslie Little said the money will come from a cash balance held in the budget of the city’s redevelopment arm. Little said the city may also get a $200,000 cleanup grant from the state Department of Toxic Substance Control, which could help cut costs.
She said city staff are still talking to Catellus, which was supposed to be developing the former FISC property into Alameda Landing, about how much they’ll pay for the building’s demolition and cleanup – something they were planning to do in the first phase of construction.
Little said city staff are hoping that first phase, albeit smaller than originally planned, will move forward sometime in the next few months.