Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Sad Day for Newport Hills

This is going to be a very long post with no photos and some planning jargon. If you only read the next three paragraphs or so you'll get the gist without having to chew the grist, if you know what I mean. But the grist is important because it contains the basic facts gleaned from various plans and documents on public record that lay down for all to see the direction that Newport Hills residents have said they want to take in the coming years. First, the bad news:

On the City's Parks Department website listing meetings and agendas for the Parks Board it shows that they haven't met since June 10. In July they cancelled due to a lack of quorum and in August they simply cancelled. This month's meeting, it has just been announced, will be held Thursday of this week instead of tonight.

It appears that the astroturf installation at Newport Hills park will go on regardless.

The following documents, however, show that:
1. The City is actually in the business of acquiring new property, contrary to what they said at the June meeting, and there is a historic policy of partnering with the School District, also contrary to what was stated at the meeting.
2. In addition the Newport Hills commercial center (Red Apple) would be the obvious place to site expansion of programming, e.g.
• day care;
• teen and senior activities;
• indoor and outdoor recreation facilities;
• classroom, performance, and meeting space;
• a community information kiosk;
• a mini-library; and
• a small cafe.
3. Newport Hills Park is a neighborhood park, not a community park, by the City's own definition. Furthermore,
4. Newport Hills is already below the Level of Standard established by the Parks Department for our neighborhood, and finally,
5. The fact that there has been little to no response to the neighborhood's concerns about the installation of astroturf in our one small park, according to the City, brings into question the appearance of a fair public process.

The last is why, in a very large nutshell, we're talking astroturf and not all the other possibilities outlined and codified by the residents of Newport Hills for the past 15 years. It's unfortunate, but I have to say that this wouldn't be happening if more people showed up at meetings. I know they're boring, but they're important if you want a say in how this community's future is shaped. Lessons learned. Bygones, as they used to say on Ally McBeal. Let's move on.
If you follow this link at
Bellevue Parks

you will now find the following info:

"A synthetic-turf sports field will be installed at Newport Hills Park, replacing a grass field that has been unavailable during the wet months, from December to June. Installing synthetic turf, which can be used year-round, has been a high-priority park project for many years and is identified in the 2003 Parks and Open Space System Plan.

Newport Hills is also one of two synthetic sports field projects included in the 2008parks levy approved by Bellevue voters. The project will satisfy an identified need for more high-quality soccer fields, is located in an area especially lacking in quality fields, makes use of existing lighting to maximize program capacity and is located in a park with existing infrastructure such as parking and restroom facilities.

Scope of Work
The project scope includes converting the existing grass soccer field to synthetic turf and upgrading to a state-of-the-art lighting system. The new lighting system will improve the lighting quality for the teams and reduce spill light and glare for the neighbors. As budget allows, other improvements will be considered, including a pedestrian walkway connection along the east edge of the park, new ballfield fencing and backstop, restroom upgrades, baseball infield conversion to synthetic turf, and infield relocation to the east side of the park to help with traffic and pedestrian flow.

The project is currently in the design and cost-estimating phase. Staff expect to submit for environmental review and apply for permits in August. Depending on permit review and weather conditions, construction could begin late this fall or winter 2010and be ready for use for the fall 2010 season."

They recap the public process involved in getting to this point:

"A community meeting was held on April 29, 2009 at Newport Hills Swim and Tennis Club. Meeting invitations were mailed to over 2,000 nearby residents, and the meeting was advertised on the city’s website. Approximately 12 park neighbors and three local sports representatives attended. This meeting served as a general introduction of the project and to field questions and concerns.

On May 12, a petition signed by 28 nearby residents was presented to the Park Board highlighting the concerns raised at the initial community meeting, and urging the city to partner with the Bellevue School District to improve an area school sports field instead of Newport Hills Park.

On June 17, Parks staff held a second community meeting at Newport Hills Swim and Tennis Club. Over 3,000 invitations were mailed to nearby residence, and the meeting was advertised on the city’s website. Approximately 18 neighbors attended. Parks staff presented the proposed Newport Hills field plan. Comments and concerns received from the community were similar to those heard at first community meeting.

Following are the basic facts of the case contained within background documents.


Although the Parks representatives dismissed this as being outdated (1994 or thereabouts) I was on the Citizens Advisory Committee that came up with the policies you see below. Not only was the plan dismissed but the representatives specifically said that "Bellevue was not in the business of acquiring property for parks."

If you follow this link you'll find the
Newport Hills Subarea Plan:

on page 208 it states:

Much of the Newport Hills Subarea was developed with insufficient
provisions for public parks and open space, according to current standards. The Newport Hills Community Park at S.E. 60th Street and 120th Avenue S.E. is the only public park in the Subarea. It is heavily used and should be expanded, with adequate facilities and connections to neighborhoods.
New neighborhood-scale parks and miniparks should be acquired and developed throughout the Subarea, especially in association with new subdivisions.

and on page 217:
A high priority is to acquire and develop small parcels of land throughout the Subarea for mini-parks and neighborhood parks. These parks would provide recreation opportunities close to where people live and should be linked with the local parks system and with the system of pedestrian and bicycle transportation.
The City of Bellevue is working with the Bellevue School District to coordinate services and facilities. Schools sites are generally available for public use after school hours but some facilities may need to be upgraded to better serve the community as a whole. City/School District partnerships reduce the need for separate facilities to accommodate Parks and Community Services programs.

Because it is the social and economic center of the community, a location in the Newport Hills commercial district should be evaluated if the City of Bellevue considers developing a community center to meet the needs of the larger community south of I-90. The same location should be considered for a neighborhood center which would meet community needs.

I especially liked this, in light of the Newport Hills' ailing commercial center:

These needs for the Newport Hills Subarea as identified by the Newport Hills CAC
include such features as:
• day care;
• teen and senior activities;
• indoor and outdoor recreation facilities;
• classroom, performance, and meeting space;
• a community information kiosk;
• a mini-library; and
• a small cafe.

POLICY S-NH-36. Acquire land for park purposes, especially adjacent to existing parks, public facilities, and trailheads.

Although the CITY PARKS AND OPEN SPACE SYSTEM PLAN of 2003, mentioned above:

did call for the installation of synthetic turf at Newport Hills Park it specifically states that the park is a neighborhood, or mini-park, as opposed to a community park, which is how the Parks representatives at our neighborhood meeting this summer continuously referred to it. BIG difference, in fact. Community parks serve the REGION. Read on.

Click here to view
Parks & Open Space System Plan 2003
The policies key to Newport Hills are as follows:

Neighborhood sites are designed to meet active and passive recreation
needs of their immediate neighborhood. These sites are identified as
either mini-parks or neighborhood parks. Both are important in the
overall park system. Mini-parks are characterized by their focus on a
limited number of activities in a small neighborhood space. They are
generally less than two acres in size and serve an area within about
one-quarter mile radius. Neighborhood parks are larger and have multiple
recreational facilities, both active and passive. They can range up
to 15 acres in size and serve roughly a one-half mile radius.
and mini-parks are intended mainly as walk-to or bike-to facilities;
therefore, they either have no or very limited off-street parking facilities.
These neighborhood parks should not create parking or traffic impacts
to the neighborhoods in which they are located.

In some instances, neighborhood sites may be acquired, developed,
or maintained in partnership with a school district, a community
association, or business. In other instances, it is appropriate to require
neighborhood sites or facilities in conjunction with private development,
such as a subdivision or planned unit development.

Since being identified in the 1993 Park Plan as the community’s highest
priority, the City has concentrated significant efforts on offsetting
the identified deficits of neighborhood and mini-parks in virtually all of
Bellevue’s subareas. Substantial progress has been made. Sixteen neighborhood
and mini-parks have been completed since 1993, including
Lattawood, Lakemont Highlands, Ivanhoe, and Robinsglen. The City
has also developed or improved playgrounds and sportsfields at most of
Bellevue’s 16 elementary schools.
Unfortunately, no changes or noticeable improvements have been made in the Newport Hills neighborhood, while many acres of pastureland and green spaces have been displaced by new developments in the last ten years. None of the new developments have provided public open space

The document continues,

Work still remains, as evidenced by the 2001 Park Plan phone survey
that rated acquisition and development of neighborhood sites as the
community’s second highest park priority. The 2002 phone surveys done for the park bond also reflect the community’s high level of interest in neighborhood sites. Survey respondents with children placed neighborhood parks as their highest priority, reflecting the fact that children most frequently use neighborhood and mini-parks. Therefore, this Plan continues to emphasize the need to acquire and
develop neighborhood facilities. However, because of the past emphasis on neighborhood facilities, the City can now target its efforts on selected subareas
that continue to reflect level of service deficits in neighborhood sites.

Each subarea was evaluated to determine current and future park needs
based on the established level of service standards, which includes acreage
as well as service area standards.

Based on this analysis, six of the 14 subareas continue to show deficits in neighborhood level of service standards.

The Crossroads, Downtown, Factoria, Newport Hills and Wilburton
Subareas have deficits in acres of neighborhood facilities. The
Factoria, North Bellevue and Newport Hills Subareas show deficiencies
in meeting neighborhood park service area standards, meaning that
large portions of these subareas are geographically isolated and not well
served with neighborhood facilities.

Deficits in the North Bellevue and Wilburton Subareas can be offset by developing existing sites. The remaining subareas will require the acquisition and development of strategically located neighborhood sites to serve the neighborhoods. The City must aggressively seek opportunities to provide additional neighborhood sites and facilities in these subareas.

Partnerships and Schools
Partnerships are seen as an increasingly important approach to providing
these neighborhood facilities in the community. Partnership opportunities
with the Bellevue School District, community associations, other jurisdictions,
and private businesses should be encouraged wherever possible. These
partnerships could help defray the expense of mini and neighborhood park
acquisition, development, maintenance, and/or site security.

(And elsewhere in the document)
As noted in the Park and Recreation Facility Standards, public school
sites and facilities have traditionally been an integral part of Bellevue’s
park system. The City’s long-standing partnership with the Bellevue
School District should be continued, and if possible, strengthened.

Strong consideration should be given to acquiring surplus school sites
for park-related purposes. These sites can often offset park or facility
deficits. Priority should be given to sites that meet the following criteria:
• Distribution: Priority is given to sites in areas showing deficits in
available parks or open space, or if deficits would be created if these
public properties were sold.
• Adjacency: Priority is given to sites that are adjacent to existing
parks, because they represent opportunities to expand or increase
available recreational space.

In addition, the development review process should address the needs for
new mini and neighborhood parks in residential and urban areas. This will
allow for site dedication and development planning early in the process in
locations where growth is creating additional demands for park-related facilities.
In some cases, the inclusion of private recreational facilities within a
development may help offset the need for nearby public facilities.

Because the community places a high priority on neighborhood facilities,
continued acquisition and development of these amenities should
occur based on level of service standards and geographic need. Major
neighborhood facility initiatives include:
• Acquire and develop neighborhood sites in the geographically underserved
areas of Crossroads, Factoria, Newport Hills, Bridle Trails
and Downtown Subareas.
Develop existing neighborhood sites in North Bellevue (Chapin
Property), Wilburton (Highland-Glendale property), Downtown
(Ashwood), Factoria (Meadow Wood), and Eastgate/Newcastle
• Acquire surplus school sites consistent with the acquisition criteria.
• Redevelop Enatai Neighborhood Park
• Continue an active partnership with the Bellevue School District to
improve neighborhood facilities at elementary school sites.


Lora said...

the guy's head says "Irish Pride"

(I don't have your email to get back to you directly!)

RobinB said...