Election Section

Commentary: Derby Field Will Cost $4.5 Million By JOHN SELAWSKY

Friday October 14, 2005

Some points in Matthew Artz’s generally accurate Oct. 7 article on Derby Street/East Campus need explanation and clarification. It is not so much that any information in the article is inaccurate, it is that some of it is incomplete. 

The first, and probably most significant point, is that Artz’s stated “additional $1.4 million needed to build a regulation baseball diamond…” is not the actual cost of a closed-Derby project. One of my questions to our staff was the additional costs of soft costs (planning, schematics, architectural, engineering, geo and hydrology reports, etc.) and contingency/inflation costs; the response from BUSD staff is that these are typically about 40 percent above construction costs. These soft and contingency costs were not included in the $2.7 million “bare bones” closed-Derby project. Also not included in that “bare bones” estimate were fencing, buffer zones, landscaping, or any other amenities. Any traffic calming/diversion/mitigation from a future environmental impact report are also additional. In other words, that $2.7 million estimate covers merely the cost of a baseball field, nothing else. It is, to me, an entirely unrealistic estimate, but even this unrealistic estimate is about $1.5 million more than BUSD has budgeted for the project. Our own staff estimate for a reasonably complete closed-Derby project is about $4.5 million. 

I have to also comment on a quote from Doug Fielding (Association of Sports Fields Users), who is quoted thus: “I think they’re going to come to an agreement [over money] by deciding we don’t need to do this stuff.” “This stuff” that Fielding refers to are such neighborhood necessities as storm drains, recurbing, utility upgrades, and a traffic signal on Carleton (there is currently a traffic signal on Derby and MLK, which would be removed if Derby were closed). Lest anyone believe a traffic signal is not necessary, the Fire Station on Shattuck and Derby needs uninterrupted access across MLK for emergency response. Derby, by the way, is currently designated one of the city’s emergency evacuation routes. With comments such as Mr. Fielding’s, it’s no wonder the neighbors are very very concerned about this project. 

As a member of the School Board, I have to deal in the realm of reality. It is nice to wish for a baseball field, it is even legitimate to discuss its possibility, but the reality of shoe-horning a regulation-size baseball field in a tight residential neighborhood, and the subsequent costs involved, are much more than BUSD can bear. The Tuesday Farmers’ Market on Derby and Milvia/MLK has been in existence since 1986, and would be adversely impacted by a “bare bones” closed-Derby project. The full impacts on the Farmers’ Market and the neighborhood by a complete closed-Derby project are not yet fully known, and will not be until a full EIR is performed. In a time of scarce resources, with limited property available, and so many competing needs for BUSD properties, pursuing an expensive and complicated closed-Derby project is not in the best interests of our residents and our city. We could build playing fields on Derby right now; only the desire for a “big-league” ballfield is stalling that possibility.  


John Selawsky is member of the School Board.