Cool Planet

Davey Glen and the need for community engagement

Option 1 – The Complete Park

Oh, what a difference a year can make…

JUNE 2011

In June of last year, the Davey Glen Ad Hoc committee had finally arrived on a design that would satisfy the needs and interests of diverse groups of community members. The Belmont City Council enthusiastically supported the new design at their June 14 Council meeting, and encouraged the Parks & Recreation staff to pursue funding to enable the entire park to be built, or at least Option 2. (See my last post for details.)

Option 2 – Compromise Recommended in June 2011

Hope was in the air… the Parks & Rec department had just submitted an application for Proposition 84 funds from the State of California. Staff was cautiously optimistic about receiving a grant since the area surrounding the proposed park site is so severely “underparked.”

JUNE 2012

Unfortunately, we didn’t receive that grant. We heard that requests for Prop 84 grant funds totaled $1.3 billion and they had less than $200 million to give out. But perhaps even more unfortunate was the fact that it took 10 months to receive a response. Over the course of the last year, the momentum gained for building Option 2 has evaporated.

Option 3 — Photoshopped Park (within budget)

In early November 2011, about 20 people came to a meeting at the park site to talk about the project. But six months later when Davey Glen was on the May 2012 Parks & Rec Commission agenda so we could strategize about next steps without Prop 84 funds, only one community member attended to speak in favor of the park; he advocated trimming the scope back to Option 3 and plowing forward. The Commission expressed a strong sense of urgency to do just that.

The two of us who had previously served on the Davey Glen Ad Hoc committee knew that a bit more thought was required if we want to proceed with Option 3. Speaking to the fact that Option 3 was created on the fly by Photoshopping the design schematic, Commissioner Kevin Sullivan said, “It’s not a design, it was a budget decision.” The Commission agreed to let the Ad Hoc committee take one more look at what would be possible within budget, but didn’t want to spend more than 30 days. So Davey Glen is back on the Parks & Rec Commission agenda for Wednesday, June 6.


Natural Play Equipment Example – Giant Climbing Rocks

I’m glad that the Ad Hoc committee met at the park site rather than in a conference room. Walking around the beautiful location on that sunny afternoon in May, creative ideas flowed. It was clear that we needed to be practical and limit our core recommendations to Area B — the big oval area that is relatively flat. Even with that constraint, we could see opportunities to incorporate play in ways that would take advantage of the unique character of the site.

Rather than go with one one big traditional play structure like the kind typically found at other parks, we leaned toward the idea of including a collection of “natural play” equipment. We also talked about potentially adding boulders and grasses to the gently sloping hillside in Area C, and making a dry river bed “flow” from the park’s entrance to obscure the drainage grate in the center of Area B. On my way home from the meeting, I was optimistic about the park.  An Option 3 park would certainly be much smaller than it could have been, but if it gets neighbors — kids and adults alike — outside to enjoy such a beautiful setting, that’s a good thing.


If you read the staff report, you’ll see that Parks & Rec Director Jonathan Gervais is actually recommending that we wait to move forward until the complete park can be funded. No specific plan for fundraising is specified. Director Gervais has pointed out in the past, though, that if you have a project designed and on a shelf ready to go, eventually the economic situation will change and/or grant funding will come available, and suddenly the project will be able to move forward. It may take a few years, but in the end, you have a well-designed project that was worth the wait. That’s what happened with the Belmont Bike Bridge. It took about 10 years, but it’s beautiful.

On the other hand, there’s the idea that it might be better to get something built now while there’s at least some designated funding, even if it’s smaller than everyone would like. If there’s support for Option 3, it’s possible that we would break ground on the park as early as next summer.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past few years of public service, it’s that it’s really important to hear from the community at every point along the way. Community members need to keep advocating for what they want…over and over and over. Otherwise, attention, staff time, and funding start to turn to what another vocal group is advocating for. (Case in point: Supporters of McDougal Park will be at the June 6 Parks & Rec Commission meeting to advocate for funding to improve their park.)

What do you want for Davey Glen Park? Do you want to move forward with a smaller park? If so, what style of play equipment would you like to see? Or would you like to wait until we can build the whole thing? Whatever your views, the Commission really needs to hear from you!

The Parks & Rec Commission meeting starts at 7:00 pm in City Hall, One Twin Pines Lane, in the City Council Chambers on the 2nd floor. If you’d like a chance to speak (three minutes per person), just fill out a sheet when you come in the door.  If you can’t make it to the meeting but would like to give your input to the Commission, send email to


Community fundraising for Davey Glen Park

We’re at a bit of a crossroads with Belmont’s Davey Glen Park. It’s the classic intersection of quality vs. budget vs. time. At the June 14 City Council meeting,Council members will weigh these factors when determining next steps for the park.


Option 1 - The Complete Park

In Belmont’s Park and Open Space Master Plan, the target acreage for parks is 5 acres per 1,000 residents. Unfortunately, this area of the Central Neighborhood currently has only .3 acres (represented by Patricia Wharton Park). Once Davey Glen Park is built, it will be a lasting community asset that will certainly increase local property values and provide a community gathering spot the way the newly built Semeria Park is already doing for the Cipriani Neighborhood.

The Ad Hoc Committee met 16 times over the course of the past year, working extensively with Parks & Rec Director Jonathan Gervais and Landscape Architect Brent Cotong to integrate the needs and desires of a range of community stakeholders. The new conceptual plan has spaces for quiet contemplation of nature as well as areas for active play (Option 1).


Once the Ad Hoc Committee arrived at the design solution, we got a preliminary estimate. Unfortunately, it didn’t come close to fitting within the $450,000 budget the City arbitrarily assigned for construction back in 2000 at the time the land was acquired.

Option 2 - The Recommended Compromise

The preliminary estimate we arrived at for Option 1 is $806,000—$356,000 over the designated funds. Because of the site’s difficult topography, the first $200,000 of that budget is eaten up just getting visitors from Davey Glen Road down into the park. (Extensive grading and a ramp system are needed to allow people with mobility challenges to freely access the park.)

Recognizing the need to make some hard choices, the Ad Hoc Committee agreed that Option 1’s Area D, a fully accessible walking trail leading to a view of the Bay, could be eliminated. We recommended moving forward with Option 2.

Although Option 2 still has a shortfall of about $185,000, Director Gervais estimates that in-kind services could help defray the costs of preparing the site for construction, and the park would be a good candidate for a Prop 84 grant. In addition, with help from a team of interested community members, a fundraising campaign could cover the balance needed.


Option 3 — Truncated Park

A few Parks & Rec Commissioners would prefer to simply cut the size of the park back even further so time doesn’t need to be spent exploring alternative funding sources. Option 3 could be built for just $35,000 over budget by moving the play structure to the spot where the large lawn would have been, reducing the overall size of the park.

I’m concerned about Option 3 for two reasons:

  1. Because it’s such a hilly neighborhood, few children live in homes with flat, grassy places to play — not to mention the children who live in the apartments across the street. A large lawn would provide all ages a place to play, or simply relax and have a picnic.
  2. The lawn would provide a buffer between the quieter areas near the entrance and the active play area at the back of the park. If the lawn were eliminated, the playground would become the centerpiece of the park—less appealing to those who prefer a more “passive” park.

You can find an explanation of all three options and their associated costs in the staff report.

There’s no doubt that fundraising would take time and effort. Although it would be wonderful if two or three individuals or organizations could write really big checks (!), the reality is that we will need to develop a fundraising campaign. It’s going to take a series of conversations and presentations, coupled with some community fundraising events, to reach our goal. Will it take time? Of course. But will it be worth it? Definitely. Semeria Park is a great example of how a well-done park can transform a neighborhood. Let’s do the same at Davey Glen.

Are you interested in helping with fundraising? Please let the City Council know at their meeting on Tuesday, June 14, 2011. If you can’t make it to the meeting but would like to give your input to the City Council, send email to
The meeting starts at 7:30 pm in City Hall, One Twin Pines Lane, in the City Council Chambers on the 2nd floor. This issue is later in the meeting, so you can always watch for awhile on Channel 27 before coming. If you’d like a chance to speak (three minutes per person), just fill out a sheet when you come in the door.  

New design for Davey Glen Park

It’s here! A new design for Davey Glen Park will be presented at Belmont’s Parks & Rec Commission meeting on Wednesday, March 2.

After our Ad Hoc Committee presented the preliminary conceptual design to the Commission in December (a meeting that took place by flashlight after the power went out!), we finished refining the details of what we thought should be included in the park. The challenge has been a difficult one, but we feel really satisfied with the outcome. The new park allows for both quiet contemplation of the forest setting as well as places for kids to ride bikes, throw balls, and play. And amazingly, the way the park is designed, those activities will be able to coexist harmoniously.

The design has been organized into four areas.

Once we figured out all the elements, we asked Brent Cottong, the landscape architect, to provide us cost estimates. As we suspected, the cost of having the whole thing built according to our plans would exceed the project budget of $450,000.  That said, as we sat around the table and strategized, a plan began to gel. Parks & Rec Director Jonathan Gervais noted that several items listed in the budget could be handled by Parks & Rec staff and/or should logically be paid through other budgets. Some items (features incorporated to satisfy ADA requirements, for instance) could be eligible for partial funding through grants. And other elements, such as park benches, interpretive signs, and even the play structure itself, could potentially be funded through donations and/or community fundraising efforts. (Check out the staff report on for more details.)


We’d love to get your feedback — both on the design as well as on potential fundraising strategies. This is a community park, and we’ll definitely need to work together to get it built!

Belmont’s Parks & Recreation Commission will meet on Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 7:00 pm in City Hall, One Twin Pines Lane, in the City Council Chambers on the 2nd floor. If you’d like a chance to speak (three minutes per person), just fill out a sheet when you come in the door. If you can’t make it to the meeting but would like to give your input to the Commission, send email to PRComm at belmont dot gov.

Progress on Semeria Park – Photos
December 10, 2010, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Parks and Rec, Semeria Park, Uncategorized

Every week or so, my morning walk takes me by Semeria Park. Here are photos of the work in progress, taken as I walked around the perimeter of the park from south to north…

December 7

Hydroseeded hillside on the east side of the park

The Parks & Rec Commission voted Dec. 2 to leave the animal tracks in the cement!

Conversation table along the pathway

Granite boulders will be fun to climb on

Cement path will go from the sidewalk to the center of the park

A tree will be planted inside the circular seat wall

Benches ring the area where the swings will be

Update on Belmont park projects
November 25, 2010, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Davey Glen Park, Green Advisory Committee, Parks and Rec, Semeria Park

Here’s a run-down of some of Belmont’s current parks projects…

Davey Glen
Over the past few months, our Ad Hoc Committee has met many times to further develop the design for the new park at Davey Glen. Working with the landscape architect (Brent Cottong), playground designer (Barbara Butler), and staff (Jonathan Gervais), our discussions have focused primarily on concepts for the entrance, play structure, and pathways within the park that will meet code requirements and fulfill residents’ desires for the park. At the study session on December 9, the Ad Hoc Committee will bring the full commission up to speed about the work to date, and get feedback about the plans. We’d like to get your input too, so please plan to attend if you’re interested.
The next meeting of the Parks & Rec Commission will be held on Wednesday, December 1 at 6pm in the Lodge.

#48 on the map: Bayview to Lyon

“Paper Trails”
Many trails in Belmont’s public right-of-way have been delineated on maps, but have never been improved for use. (They’re called “paper trails” because they only exist on paper.) The Parks & Rec Commission, Parks & Rec Department, and Green Advisory Committee are interested in moving forward to improve ones that would increase walkability within the city—especially those that connect walkers to schools and shopping areas. If you take a look at the city map, you’ll see all of the possible trails. Here is the Public Works department’s “top 10” list:

  1. Mezes to Hillman Ave. (#49 on the map)
  2. Hillman Ave to Winding Way (#50B)
  3. Monserat Ave. to Cipriani Elementary (#25B)
  4. Marsten Avenue (#1A)
  5. San Juan Blvd. to Monserat Ave. (#25A)
  6. Ponce Ave. to Coronet Blvd. (#37)
  7. Coronet Blvd. to Pullman Ave. (#38)
  8. Winding Way to Ridge Rd. (#51)
  9. Paloma to O’Neill Ave. (#63)
  10. Molitor Rd. to Sunnyslope Ave. (#64)

Map of paper trails

Do you agree with this assessment? Which trails would you like to see completed first? Once we identify one or two trails that are especially good candidates, some scout troops and/or local community organizations may be interested in taking them on as community projects. Please let me know if you’re a member of a group that would like to work on one. Incidentally, the City has received a $5,000 grant from San Mateo County for the planning of these trails.

For more details, see the staff report from the October Commission meeting.

Concrete walls have been poured, the hillside has been hydroseeded

Semeria Park
According to Parks Manager Daniel Ourtiague on November 13: “The project is going extremely well. The contractor has been on site every day since they started. The grading is complete including the slope work. It was hydroseeded just prior to the rains and the native mixture of seed is already germinating. They have poured the concrete for the walls this past week. They have graded the play areas, sidewalk and parking area. They will form and pour concrete on those surfaces maybe this week or soon after weather permitting. The site furniture is due in any day and will be installed as planned. All in all, things are going very well so far. The work that was sensitive to rain has already been completed so we are in a good position to complete the installation of play equipment and landscaping by the end of the year.”

Proposed improvements to Cipriani Dog Park

Cipriani Dog Park
The dog park is going to get a facelift! The proposed design by Landscape Architect Nicole Fox includes replacing the park’s surface area, increasing the height of the fence, and adding amenities such as a shade structure, benches, and a doggie water fountain. The Parks & Rec Commission provided feedback about the plans at our November meeting and recommended that the City Council approve it at a future meeting.


For more details, check out the staff report from the November Commission meeting.

If you have any questions about any of these projects or would like to provide feedback, please leave a comment here or email me at swright at belmont dot gov.

Davey Glen Park: New ideas from the ad hoc committee

Conceptual drawing

Over the past four months, the Davey Glen Park Ad Hoc Committee has tromped around the park site multiple times, enlisted the help of a playground designer and ADA playground specialist, debated, researched, photographed, and sketched. Throughout the process, we kept the two primary uses of the park — active play and quiet contemplation of nature — equally in thought. Using landscape architect Brent Cottong‘s drawings as a starting point, we improvised, considering new ways to turn the site’s distinctive topography (a steep hillside Eucalyptus forest) into an asset rather than a liability.

I’m very excited about the resulting conceptual plan. At the July 7 Parks & Recreation Commission meeting, we will discuss our draft ideas with the full Commission and get feedback from the public. To see the complete staff report, download “Update on Davey Glen Park Project Design” from the agenda page on the Belmont website. Here are some key features, starting with active play elements and moving to quiet areas:


Treehouse play structure

Play structure. Last summer, one of the Semeria Park neighbors turned me on to Barbara Butler, a designer who specializes in creative, site-specific play structures. When I described Davey Glen Park’s challenges and opportunities over the phone, she was excited. At the site, she loved standing at the top of the hill and looking out into the beautiful Eucalyptus forest below. In her sketch, kids access the “tree house” by running from the top level of the park across a “clatter bridge.” They travel to the park’s lower level through a series of stairs and slides.

With the idea for the main play structure figured out, everything else started to fall into place…

Toddler play house

Toddler play house. At Sunnybrae Park and Concar Park in San Mateo, I’ve noticed that toddlers love to play in and on little play houses. The ad hoc committee would suggest having Barbara Butler design one in the same style as the tree house. The house would be open enough to provide easy visibility into it from a distance, and would be close enough to the larger play structure to allow care givers to watch an older and younger child at the same time.

Big slide. The ad hoc committee feels that the steep slope calls out for a big slide! We would leave the exact style and configuration to the experts, but think it could be similar to the ones at Stulsaft Park in Redwood City. An adjacent stairway would allow kids a quick return to the top.

Spiral stumps

Stump play area. There’s a fairly big, somewhat flat open area in the lower level of the park. It’s tucked between the hillside above and the trees below. One idea for this area is a series of tree stumps, arranged in circles, lines, or swirls so that kids can jump or walk from one to the next. (This idea came from the Palo Alto Junior Museum.) The great thing is, we could use tree stumps that are already on site… When a fire abatement crew cleared out some underbrush recently, they also cut a fallen log into multiple sections. Those pieces would be perfect for this play area!



Amphitheatre/labyrinth. In the open area at the southern end of the park, Brent Cottong suggested carving seating out of the gentle slope to make a small amphitheatre. Building on that concept, Commissioner Kevin Sullivan suggested incorporating a small labyrinth in the relatively flat area in the center of the amphitheatre area. (The picture at right is one he saw on the grounds of a hospital.) With its singular, but constantly turning path toward the center, a labyrinth is designed to offer the walker multiple viewpoints for quiet contemplation.

Nature paths and benches. In general, the ad hoc committee liked the idea of maintaining a rustic, natural feel throughout the park. Instead of entering via a “Grand Staircase,” we envisioned descending from the sidewalk into the park on a winding nature trail or a wider, composed granite path. While a wider path would circle the large lawn and main play area, a series of nature trails would draw visitors to the far corners of the park. Benches would be situated throughout the park, including one quite near the entrance (with a view of the spring/stream below), and one at the most eastern border (with a view of the bay).

What do you think of these ideas? Based on feedback from the public and the Commission, we will revise the ideas, then re-engage the landscape architect to incorporate them into the park’s design.

Belmont’s Parks & Recreation Commission will meet on Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 7:00 pm in City Hall, One Twin Pines Lane, in the City Council Chambers on the 2nd floor. If you’d like a chance to speak (three minutes per person), just fill out a sheet when you come in the door. If you can’t make it to the meeting but would like to give your input to the Commission, send email to PRComm at belmont dot gov.

City Council to consider final Semeria Park design

Final design (this illustration shows Option 1 play equipment)

Semeria Park is moving into a new chapter! At our April 7 meeting, the Parks & Rec Commission unanimously approved the final design of the park and recommended that it be considered by the City Council.

Option 3 includes two play structures and two swings

The last detail our Commission discussed was the choice of play structures. We agreed on Option 3 (see picture at right) because we felt it would work for the broadest range of ages and the most children at one time. Although everyone wished we could have had room for four swings, Parks Manager Daniel Ourtiague pointed out that it would actually be possible to switch between strap swings and bucket swings over time. When it opens, the park will have two strap swings, but if the neighbors come to consensus that they would like to switch to two bucket swings at a later date, the change can be made. (Safety regulations don’t allow for one of each, however.)

The City Council plans to review the final design for Semeria Park at their Tuesday, April 27 meeting. Assuming they give it a thumbs up, here are the next steps:
• By the end of June, the landscape architect, will prepare the construction plans and specifications.
• Simultaneously, the park plans will be submitted and reviewed by city departments for approval and the issuance of necessary permits and entitlements. Since the park site is currently zoned R-1 (Single Family Residential), the Planning Commission will be need to review and approve this project for a Conditional Use Permit. They will also approve the Initial Study/Environmental Assessment for the project.
• In July, city staff will prepare the plans and advertise for sealed bids for the construction of the park.
• In August, the contract will be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.
• In September, construction should begin. It is estimated to take up to three months to complete.

If all goes according to plan, Semeria Park will be finished by the end of the year!

Belmont’s City Council will meet on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 7:30 pm in City Hall, One Twin Pines Lane, in the City Council Chambers on the 2nd floor. If you’d like a chance to speak (three minutes per person), just fill out a sheet when you come in the door. If you can’t make it to the meeting but would like to give your input to the Council, send email to CityCouncil at belmont dot gov.