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City cuts turf talk short
March 20, 2008, 12:00 AM By Michelle Durand

The city of San Carlos officially scrapped plans to revamp the Heather School athletic field — with or without controversial artificial turf — after failing to reach an agreement with the San Carlos Elementary School District to renew a long-term use agreement.

Instead of heading back to the negotiating table with district officials, San Carlos City Manager Mark Weiss announced Wednesday afternoon the city opts to head in another direction with plans to renovate school fields. Weiss said city staff will consider athletic field options at city parks and non-school sites but did not elaborate on what those may be.

The main priority, according to Mayor Brad Lewis, is moving forward to "have a viable plan in place as soon as possible.”

The decision was publicized while schools were on break and officials declined to issue a response. City officials, however, said it was unfortunate the two sides could not reach a compromise on the use and maintenance of the fields.

The main points of disagreement, according to the city, were "the term of the lease, the authority to broker field use during the lease term and  site restoration if an early lease termination occured. 

Since taking over as mayor, Lewis has made no bones about reaching a decision about Heather School or cutting the city’s losses. The two sides had been working about Heather School specifically since last March, a period filled with meetings, protests, votes and debate over both the location and the proposed use of artificial turf.

After approximately eight years of effort, the City Council agreed to push artificial turf at Heather School but couldn’t act until working out the details of a proposed 30-year field use agreement. Without the agreement, the city was not moving forward with environmental impact reports or other studies of potential safety concerns.

Although a deal was far from done, parents continued lodging complaints about the possibility of synthetic turf with protests and letters.

The  decision maintains the status quo at Heather School but sends the city back to the drawing board. The matter will come back to the City Council although a specific agenda date has yet to be chosen, said Assistant City Manager Brian Moura.

The decision puts a crimp in plans for athletic fields but doesn’t halt them, Moura said.

The city has $1 million from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and money from the capital fund.

The city picked Heather School for its initial round of renovations based on its conditions. The field, at 2757 Melendy Drive, is approximately 1.5 acres and 30 years old. The land also suffers from a combination of problems, such as drainage, irrigation, invasive weeds and rampant gopher problems.

The battle over turf in San Carlos has stretched out since December 2004 when a 28-person Citizens Advisory Committee formed and recommended artificial turf at Highlands and Heather parks. The council later voted for natural sod at Heather School but a second vote two weeks later gave consultants the option of analyzing both ideas.

With Heather now off the table, Moura believes Highlands will be next up. The park field is multi-use and lit.

Michelle Durand can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. 

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