South San Francisco, CA August 7, 2016
NOTE: See April 27, 2018 update below
Residents of South San Francisco continue to express their frustration and anger over the poor quality of the fields in our City. They point to both our public parks as well as the fields within our School District. These complaints have continued for years and although the City, and the School District, patch up here and there, a complete overhaul is what neighbors say is needed. While it would appear our City coffers are full, our School District is another matter.
In June a neighbor sent us photos of the bleachers at Orange Memorial Park citing potential injury to visitors, especially younger kids. Our City Parks Manager Samantha Haimovitch immediately responded to our inquiry about timing of repairs. While the patching of this bleacher was done quickly and resolved that immediate concern, folks still wanted to know about new bleachers. This was Samantha’s reply:
“We were approved funding in the current year’s Capital Improvement Program to replace the bleachers, which obviously really needs to get done. However, the bids for replacement came in much higher than our project budget, so we had to pause. We requested additional funding for next year’s budget, however the decision was made, given the increasing funding commitment, to take a step back and study what it would cost to fully renovate the softball and hardball fields, which would include replacing bleachers at both fields; we would not want to invest in the new bleachers, then find out that we might have wanted to move them, etc. We don’t have the result of the baseball improvement cost estimate yet, but I suspect that it will be so expensive to do that we will end up having to defer this to a future date. When the study does show all the costs, we will make a decision about whether to move forward with just the bleacher replacement. In the meantime, we will be doing repairs to the existing bleachers, using our in-house parks staff.”
We will continue to monitor the situation, neighbor comments, and the City plan in moving forward.
Frustration continues to be aimed at our School fields and there has been some conversations indicating a joint approach by both the City and the School District may be in the works. “The City is looking at ways they might be able to help with the fields, allowing the District to focus on their primary purpose; to educate our children” one inside source reported. If this were to happen, it cannot happen anytime too soon, parents say.
In 2013 a group of coaches meet regularly to determine which fields were utilized most and for what, which were in urgent need for repair, estimating long term projects, etc. After a few months of dedicated canvassing, costing out revisions, meeting with other community members, and hundreds of hours working on this issue, the group came before our City Council during a December 2013 public comment portion. They gave facts and background information from the coaches point of view. Parents spoke from their perspective. A recent high school graduate spoke of the anguish he and others felt for younger kids not having what was needed to keep them focused, playing sports, learning teamwork and responsibility for themselves – and beyond themselves. He outlined plans he felt could help his younger counterparts be successful. The groups intent was to prove to officials and staff the dedication of the community to work together to find results. At that meeting the group was told this issue would be put on the Council agenda for the beginning of the following year. However, our City departments experienced ‘the exodus of 2014’ as some called it, and the new employees would need time to ‘get on the right page’, was the response given when one coach inquired. Unfortunately this issue was never put on the agenda and the coaches jaded once again, faded back into the background of the City’s conscience and back into the forefront of working with our youth on distressed and inadequate fields.
The fact that these coaches are volunteers putting their own time, money, and energy into helping our communities youth, it is a lost opportunity to us all that the City, or the School District, doesn’t support their efforts by supplying the resources needed for them to do their job safely. “This is a huge embarrassment to us” said a coach echoing the sentiments of many others during the Council meeting “We value the prestige of being the ‘Birthplace of Biotechnology’, to see our City being showcased as a world renowned biotech hub, yet our athletic fields are a disgrace. It’s an embarrassment to us coaches, to our players, and to our City when visitors come out for games.”
Last July a neighbor sent us photos of Parkway Heights Middle School playing field stating it had been over a year since there was any attention paid to it. “This part of the school is not under construction and is a case of severe neglect and wrangling. School starts in a month and no improvements have been made. Looks like the field of an abandoned school. Residents have had look at this blight for over 2 years. Something must be done!” Before we could get this information to the public ESC received a few more complaints along with photos. Some were from community leaders or employees asking to remain anonymous with concerns of retaliation for publicly stating the obvious.
“Years ago, in a former life, Parkway was used for baseball practices by the local league, soccer practices, and with Park and Rec. When there was a flag football league between the three schools, the field was used daily. It is the largest, most unkept field resource in that neighborhood. I ask, why is that?” another neighbor adds
The SSFUSD Measure J Citizens Board Oversight Committee and members of the public did a walk through of Parkway Heights Middle School on July 21st and we found the fields had in fact been cut before hand. Yet is was disappointing that there was no attempt made to cut back the weeds or remove the broken tree(s) from the backstop.
A concerned mom in the area wrote us “Kids have not played on the Parkway fields (besides the school using it when given permission by whomever was in charge at the moment…on-site construction managers changed all the time) for over two years now. I have seen adults use it time to time to exercise their dogs off leash and chase gophers. Typically the school couldn’t use it as the weeds would grow so tall and the gophers dug such huge colonies, kids were always twisting ankles. We can’t bring a wheelchair all the way down, there is no ramp and the flat road area (only part actually used for construction equipment) is rough gravel.”
When asked if the field was closed off from the public she responded “There is a very small, old paper sign that states “park” closed. However, the large gates are left open and the pedestrian gate is not blocked off. To add, the sign states “park” not “field” confusion as the city own parks and schools typically have fields. Further, the sign is only in English. At the school, any communication must be in dual language, English and Spanish. There are dual signage areas around the district, just not at this site. So, a long winded answer, is the field closed? There is a small, but incorrect old sign posted when there was construction equipment there. No attempt to fully close off access to an unusable field if it was labeled as a closed ‘park.'”
There is anger over the misspent Measure J monies as taxpayers demand accountability. The bond was promoted to address the ‘brick and mortar’ aspects of our schools and there was outcry when our High Schools fields benefited from this fund, however the overwhelming support of ECHS & SSFHS fields won out. “Once upon a time, the Parkway was to have a 100% building makeover with the bond. To my knowledge, the field was never included with upgrading. Originally, the field was to remain closed during construction, although no construction was to take place on it, for general safety concerns.” Now there is no money to complete Parkway’s much needed ‘brick and mortar’ structures much less the field.
A 2015 report by the Measure J Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee called for further investigation of misappropriated funds. Taxpayers want to see accountability, rather all that is seen is rotation of administration and Trustees. “Where is the accountability?” they ask. ‘Bond Management has intentionally impeded the CBOC in the performance of our duties, by their refusal to provide pertinent information when requested. If this information was disclosed by management, the CBOC, the Board and the public would have been aware of the drastic shifts in project funds and questions or concerns could have been raised’ the report outlined.
“Parkway Heights Middle school is the only middle school on this side of town. It’s half finished conditions, now with no chance of new buildings to replace the remaining old ones (oldest middle school in the district folks), needs attention. Parkway is just as bad as Buri and needs a full shot of light shown on it. All of it. Attention to the gaping holes and trenches, chipped away blacktop surfaces left for a later date, pipes covered in duct tape for temp repair since the buildings were to be torn down. ADA safety issues, fences that fall down, plumbing that sort of works, weeds growing in the length that any homeowner would be fined.” South City resident Leo D Vinci wrote.
“A tour of the field conditions needs to be included. UNUSABLE and makes the school appeared to be abandoned. Perhaps it has been? Civil rights of students to receive equitable conditions throughout the district, one middle school to the next, are to be questioned. It’s worse now than when they started. This school was slated to have its renaissance but has yet to emerge from the Dark Age. Roughly 600 students this school serves, one-third of the population. Its current conditions are blasphemous. Concerned citizens need to speak up now or it’ll stay like this until a lawsuit happens. Seriously, the place looks abandoned.” D Vinci continued.
Buri Buri neighbors are outraged at what they say the District has dumped on them ” I am very concerned about the conditions at Buri Buri Elementary: The partially-draped chain link fences, giving us peeks of the disaster behind; The weeds; the mountains and ditches where children should have a play area; The classrooms that look like a juvenile detention center; The helter-skelter arrangement of buildings that could easily hide child molesters; The ugly paint job; The scraggly trees; On and on.” Peggy Deras pens “If I were only younger, I’d be organizing a cleanup. This is OUR NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL! How could we let this happen? How can we let this keep happening? Does this Citizens Board Oversight Committee have any authority to do anything?”
A recent inquiry into Buri Buri Elementary School resulted in learning there will be no playing fields on the school property. “Where are the kids suppose to play” Jim M. asked.
With Measure J monies now gone and the District using $11M of general funds to complete some of the work while other projects fall from the drawing board, community members realize their outspoken concerns for resolving the fields for our youth has lost even more ground. “You know we talk a big talk, about how important our kids are, but the proof is found in front of us: our schools and our parks. We should all be ashamed” Jim M. said shaking his head.
You have to ask yourself how is it our City is world renowned for our technology yet our kid’s schools ‘look like they are abandoned’? More important, what is the solution?
UPDATE – Comments posted ESC Facebook page on this write up:
Angel M Perez Horrible!!!! Its embarrassing when u have teams from other cities come and play here and laugh about how bad our fields are. I thought this was a good baseball town but our fields don’t reflect that!!!!where does all the cities’s money go?!!?
Patty Gomez Not in the parks and not in our youth. Go a few cities down… Not too far, millbrae, their fields are beautiful. ?
Beto Razo If the city is not going to make the school fields safe, they should build housing for teachers instead of leaving the fields like that. How much was spent on the ferry stop?
Susan C. Freeman to Beto Razo: The parks in this “article” are NOT the responsibility of the City; they are the responsibility of SSFUSD. The “article” is riddled with misinformation, a sign of an irresponsible “editor.”
Beto Razo to Susan C. Freeman; that’s why I stated that the city isn’t going to help with the school fields. The school district needs to figure out how to better utilize that land. We as residents don’t need this article to back up what we see with our own eyes. Go to all of the neighborhood green areas in south city and then go to the green areas in another town on the peninsula to make a proper assessment of how much our city cares about our families.
Tiffany Villeggiante ???
Sally Johnson Just horrible, ugy, and very embarrassing, All the city is interested in is building more homes, well if you build homes people who move in have kids, and where are these kids suppose to play on which fields?These fields are so dangerous some can really get hurt. These fields are a law suit waiting to happen.
Susan C. Freeman to Sally Johnson Again, these parks mentioned are NOT the City’s responsibility. They are the SSFUSD’s responsibility. The “editor” should have been more responsible. An editor is a journalist who is the person making the final decision about what is included in the newspaper, magazine or news bulletins. He or she is responsible for all the content and all the journalists. This “editor” is not concerned with sharing fact-based information. Don’t believe everything you read in ESC.
Sally Johnson to Susan, I’ve lived in this city 60+ yrs . I have seen it grow, I’m making a statement as to either the school fields or the park fields that are just horrible to play on. We also enjoy ESC. We give our opinions and look out for our neighbors. ESC is a great site to learn about what is or what is not going on in out community.
Laura Flynn Peradotto Was bad when my kids played. The City seems interested in just building and not keeping anything up. What about Spruce and El Camino and the flooding issues.
Courtney Greene Seems like there is only money for building new homes and the SSFUSD Superintendent receiving a fat raise and City Officials but our schools are neglected and our parks are neglected. As it goes, one finger always points to another. Instead, City Offic…See More **CORRECTION MADE BELOW Full comments were not included originally**
Patrick Coonrod I played baseball 3yrs ago and they were horrible, I take my daughter to the park now and they’re still the same. I guess it’s those million dollar settlements the city paid out for the SSFPD harassing and racial profiling
Patrick Coonrod *30 yrs ago
Gilberto De Anda There soo bad. I don’t even walk the fields for fear of twisting an ankle or falling in a gopher hole
Randy Quok SSFUSD needs new board members.
Melissa Ponelis Kohlmeister Soccer season is just about upon us, and, many teams practice at Orange Park. Every practice and game my kids have played there, I am concerned that someone is going to sprain an ankle by falling into a gopher hole. Last year, the games returned to Hillside which was way better, but still not great. Many friends have stopped playing for SSF sports teams and take them to either San Bruno or Millbrae. It’s unfortunate.
Susan C. Freeman I will share the FACTS here: Anyone with a high school (or maybe even middle school) education level in California knows that school districts are independent of cities and counties. Only school districts handle public education and the management of funds associated with any public school expenditures. Civics 101, folks.
Brian Keith to Susan Freeman Some other FACTS. You could have no doubt provided the same information without the air of superiority. Manners 101.
Susan C. Freeman to Brian Keith – not at all ill-mannered; simply operating from thinking quadrant not feeling quadrant. Not being snarky, being literal. You ACTUALLY learn this in school. This “article” by this “editor” is extremely lacking in journalistic standards and FACTS. Thanks, though!
Edwin Tomas Arriola to Susan Freeman Orange Park, Buri Buri, Alta Loma Baseball field, Westborough, Hillside Pitch… These are not under the jurisdiction of the school district.
Susan C. Freeman to Edwin Tomas Arriola – The sites you mention are NOT in the “article.” The “editor” irresponsibly blames the City for school sites that are NOT in the City’s jurisdiction. Facts matter. Buri Buri is in fact under the jurisdiction of the school district …See More **CORRECTION MADE BELOW Full comments were not included originally**
Susan C. Freeman to Brian Keith I wasn’t being rude. I was being literal. You ACTUALLY learn this in Civics in school in CA, which is NOT always the case in other states.
Sheila Folan Cronin to Susan Freeman You were being condescending by starting your comments with anyone with “a high school or middle school education,…” insinuating that people are stupid. You may not have intended to come across that way, but that is the way you came across.
Susan C. Freeman to Sheila Folan Cronin – No, I was not being condescending, as that is, in fact, where one would have learned this. I was not insinuating. I was actually stating a fact. I am fairly certain you are in no position to tell me what I was thinking, feeling, s…See More **CORRECTION MADE BELOW Full comments were not included originally**
Brian Keith So ashamed of my hometown. Back in the day, we played on all of those fields, and they were awesome. There is so much money in this area–there is NO excuse for this. And we wonder why kids get in trouble when we don’t provide safe places for them to play. The City Government AND SSFUSD should be ashamed.
Patty Gomez Welp although it’s appreciated that the city sponsors non profit groups to provide youth sports in our city, unfortunately not much is being put to making the fields better. I happened to take my boys to a millbrae park and wow, they have water to irrigate the fields. Their lawns are manicured and showed they cared. Older youth teams are having to make astronomical payments to rent high school fields here where they attend school. The problem now is that we have outside residents(soccer clubs from San Mateo, burlingame and San Bruno) renting el Camino and south city leaving our south city young ones with nothing to use. So if anyone has a solution for me id appreciate some help.
Edwin Tomas Arriola to I think you should run for the park n rec commission 🙂
Patty Gomez to Edwin Tomas Arriola I’ve been tempted lol
Andrew Serrata Its probably because Biotech is a world changing technological advancement.. Sports are the same old game
Abiel Christian Malepeai They are horrible. Parkway Heights Middle School’s facilities still look the same from when I attended school there. The schools are in desperate need of an upgrade.
Donna Spencer Why not approach biotech companies for help? Naming rights for fields is a common way major league cities help to pay for new stadiums. Why not for public parks and school fields?
Edwin Tomas Arriola I have attended a number of “State of the City” addresses and generally one hears local politicians boasting about the new housing developments going on. What I don’t hear is about what infrastructure is being put in place to support all of these new homes and families (i.e. Road improvements, water supply, parks and green areas). None of the SSF’s public sports fields are being properly maintained, nor have they received any improvements in years; now one might rationalize that this may be due to the drought but, as someone who has volunteered as a coach at the local level for over a decade, I know for a fact that out sports fields were a disgrace before there was ever any drought!
Brian Lopiccolo to Edwin Tomas Arriola I couldn’t agree more. I’ve coached youth baseball in this city for 10+ years and these fields are DANGEROUS
Leticia Gutierrez Lmao when people would go to the field after school.
Ellen Minucciani It is a shame that the city and school district would let the school grounds look like a totally neglected piece of land.
Margaret De La Cruz WHY is there no accountability for this!! Park and Rec!! Everything South City, what’s their response? This is UNACCEPTABLE!!! I want answers our kids should not be play under these conditions!! Should we call 7 on your side!!! ?
Everything South City to Margaret De La Cruz -the fields that appear in abandoned condition are on school property and the District is short on funds for building classrooms it doesn’t appear there would be $$ to fix the fields. That said, as reported in this write up, an inside source has mentioned there may be a partnership with the City helping the schools. We will update when we hear more and if you have other ideas – keep us in the loop. It is a sad reflection on our City for sure. Thanks Margaret De La Cruz
Sharon Celillo I’m sure it was mentioned somewhere but we know the school district oversees school property and the city oversees parks. In the article it mentions the two may try working together to help find a solution. The city uses school fields for various programs. In the meantime, probably not the best thing to rip into each other when it won’t help the students. Direct the anger and frustration towards a positive change. I’m guessing as this continues to evolve, community days at the schools will be happening. And, THAT day will be the day to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
Update message sent to ESC: ‘They mowed both fields today at Sunshine Gardens, so that’s a start. Thank you!!!’
Coach Ray message: I’ve been around a long time coaching kids of all ages at every field in this City and it’s about time our concerns are being discussed openly but I don’t know if that will do any good. The schools don’t have the money but they block volunteers from doing the work themselves so our kids are left to play on gopher infested weeded pits with decaying structures all around.
If you don’t have a kid that goes to the schools or plays on the fields you have no idea of the condition, driving by they might look like nice open fields. For kids they are injuries waiting to happen. I lost count of the number of teams that refuse to play here through the years and I understand why people put their kids in sport programs in other cities.
I look forward to out of town games down the peninsula and beyond because the fields are so much better taken care of and I never worry about inquires to our players like I do on our home fields. Grasses are trimmed and kept up, bleachers aren’t overgrown or rotting. Some are schools and some are city parks. Us residents got hit with a school bond and then the city added another sales tax. Through all these years I have taken money from my own pocket to pay for other kids, I’m not complaining, but as a coach I do what I can for the kids. Elected officials need to listen if they really want the best for our kids too. Someone said businesses might be interested in sponsoring fields but really it is hard enough to find them to sponsor a team.
I could go on and on with years of problems but like I said before – what good would it do? But it’s good that someone took these pictures because us coaches have been saying this for years but every year it is the same. Maybe someone smarter than us coaches has a solution, let me know.
Everything South City: Update message sent to ESC: ‘They mowed both fields today at Sunshine Gardens, so that’s a start. Thank you!!
Juan Bustos: lipstick on a pig
UPDATE AUGUST 13, 2016- Thank you to commenter gloriajames for alerting us some comments had been inadvertently cut off in our transfer from FB as above. Everything South City works to be sure all voices are heard and we apologize for this error/over sight.
Full comments by Courtney Greene have been added below.
In reviewing our FB page for corrections we found multiple comments by Susan C Freeman removed which appears were deleted by the author. A neighbor, RG had taken few screen shots of the ensuing online discussion. “Interesting thread, glad I got a few screen shots…..” RG writes.
Please note Everything South City does not delete information, rather corrections will be noted when they are made. Our FB does have profanity filters which may hide some comments from public view, and if any comments are deemed threatening, we will also hide those from public view. ESC is a community resource and is community driven, local neighbor to local neighbor. Thank you for your assistance when errors are made.
Courtney Greene:Seems like there is only money for building new homes and the SSFUSD Superintendent receiving a fat raise and City Officials but our schools are neglected and our parks are neglected. As it goes, one finger always points to another. Instead, City Officials, Parks and Rec. and the SSFUSD should all work together to find a solution. We are a growing city and an expensive one at that. As another commentator stated, if someone gets hurt, South City must have a lot a money to pay out from a lawsuit. All this should be a priority before housing. Then once all the parks and schools are fixed, then housing should start. Makes sense but Officials don’t see it like this sadly.
Susan C Freeman: Brian Keith I wasn’t being rude. I was being literal. You ACTUALLY learn this in Civics in school in CA, which is NOT always the case in other states.
Sheila Folan Cronin You were being condescending by starting your comments with anyone with “a high school or middle school education,…” insinuating that people are stupid. You may not have intended to come across that way, but that is the way you came across.
Susan C. Freeman to Sheila Folan Cronin- No, I was not being condescending, as that is, in fact, where one would have learned this. I was not insinuating. I was actually stating a fact. I am fairly certain you are in no position to tell me what I was thinking, feeling, saying, doing or even intending. I do not know if it is in high school or middle school where students take Civics here – but I learned it in 7th grade. When debating, negotiating via digital media one should operate from the thinking quadrant not feeling quadrant. That is precisely what I was doing. No one person can make another person feel stupid. Perhaps the focus should be on the misleading information presented as fact in an “article’ in a “news source” by an “editor”
Susan C. Freeman Edwin Tomas Arriola- The sites you mention are NOT in the “article’. The “editor” irresponsibly blames the City for school sites that area NOT in the City’s jurisdiction. Facts matter. Buri Buri is in fact under the jurisdiction of the school district and is shut down because of school construction. Last week the school system announced they will not refurbish the ball park at Buri Buri because they have run out of money. The others you named are join jurisdiction save for Orange Park which is under the City’s jurisdiction. You should sign up for the City emails that share in all the ribbon cuttings and upgrades to the parks you mention. I find many of those parks robust and quite pleasant—despite our being in a drought. Other than the fact we are in a drought, many of those parks either have been renovated already or are slated for such. There are sites the City operates and maintains that certainly need care but sites this ‘article mentions” FALSELTY accuse the City for disrepair. You might want to get informed with the facts via the City newsletter, a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and email alerts rather than reading a “publication” that simply serves as fodder for gossip and an outlet for the angry and ill-informed. The people who work for this….
UPDATE April 27, 2018