Over the last few weeks there have been rumors of a group of residents preparing to file a lawsuit against the City of San Carlos regarding the City Council’s recent decision to move forward with the installation of synthetic turf at Highlands Field. Today, those rumors are a reality. Please see below from the City of San Carlos:
“San Carlos, CA – May 14, 2009 – San Carlos City Attorney Greg Rubens has announced that the City of San Carlos and the San Carlos City Council have been sued by an organization calling itself Save San Carlos Parks that is represented by the legal firm of Kenyon and Yates in Sacramento, California. Jeff Cleland verified the complaint as a member of the organization whose remaining members are unnamed individuals.
The suit concerns the City Council’s decision in April to certify the Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the replacement of the playing surface of the Lower Highland Athletic Field with a Synthetic Playing Surface. San Carlos has retained the law firm of Cassidy, Shimko, Dawson & Kawakami in San Francisco to defend the City. The City Attorney estimates that the cost to defend the City against this lawsuit will be in the thousands of dollars.
The City Council’s decision to certify the Mitigated Negative Declaration and move ahead with the project came after 9 years of study and review. The process included a study of all of the City’s Athletic Playing Fields by Mark Mahaday & Associates in Fall 2000, a number of community meetings and hearings and the recommendation of a 28-member Citizens Fields Committee in 2005.
The Citizens Fields Committee recommended moving ahead with a Synthetic Field at Lower Highlands Field. This recommendation was endorsed by a unanimous vote of the City’s Athletic Sites Advisory Council (ASAC) earlier this year.
City Attorney Greg Rubens noted that similar projects have been approved by cities and schools throughout the Bay Area with a Negative Declaration or a Categorical Exemption under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when a playing field’s surface is changed from one surface type to another surface type. The City of San Carlos went further and prepared an extensive Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for this project. The MND included extensive reviews by air quality, noise and scientific experts that study, report and evaluate the environmental impacts of the proposed project.
Rubens also noted that neighbors of the Lower Highlands Playing Field stated at the April City Council hearing that they were ready to move on and work with the City rather than challenging the Council’s decision in this matter. He said that the City will discuss the lawsuit with the petitioners and plaintiffs, which may clarify what their goals are in pursuing the action.
As a result of the litigation, the community meetings set by the City for May 21, 2009 and May 27, 2009 to meet with the neighbors of the Lower Highlands Field area to discuss the athletic field conversion project have been postponed indefinitely.”