Save Donlon Elementary Field from being sold for Housing and Fence it in for the Students

Save Donlon Elementary Field from being sold for Housing and Fence it in for the Students

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C H started this petition to Donlon Elementary Families and Residents and

It has come to the attention of Donlon Elementary families and the Val Vista neighborhood that the Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) has asked City Council to zone the field next to Donlon Elementary for housing in order to sell.  

PUSD has chosen to recently limit the green space access of the students based on the acreage they want zoned for housing, which has not gone through the Environmental Impact Review (EIR) phase yet, nor voted upon after the EIR by City Council. Many families and neighbors agree this is unacceptable. Yet, Donlon's Elementary field is the only PUSD Elementary field (out of 9 elementary schools) that the PUSD Board of Trustees have chosen as school land to be investigated for potential sale for housing (duplexes not meant for teachers per the city council meetings) at a time that the City is being forced to zone for more population (Councilmember said in Pleasanton Weekly news).

There is a lack of equity, when other PUSD Elementary schools have their fields fenced in, regularly maintained, and are backed by beautiful parks/green space as a buffer between them and the neighborhoods they are in. Elementary schools with green space and/or city maintained parks directly bordering their fields are Vintage Hills, Mohr, Walnut Grove, Valley View, Hearst and Fairlands. Schools without fences between their blacktop and field are Vintage Hills, Hearst, Walnut Grove, and Fairlands for example. The Donlon Cub students have had zero PE on their field in years, which is not the case for their Pleasanton peers.

Donlon has the highest number of elementary school students in the district, so if Hearst Elementary (the most recently built PUSD Elementary school) has a 3.5 acre field, and Alisal Elementary has a 3.24 acre field, both schools with fewer students than Donlon, it should be expected that Donlon Elementary would receive more than 3 acres for their use, and not lose over 5.5 acres of field/green space they have had on the other side of a fence for 20 years. They should especially have more than 3 acres fenced in due to the fact they will be losing even more play area in the upcoming years due to the building of 6 TK classrooms and parking/additional build outs into their current blacktop play area.

Donlon field has been historically unmaintained despite the funds to do so. An article from Pleasanton Weekly in 2004 suggests that Donlon field was to be renovated for community use, but then was let completely deteriorate to the point Donlon did not allow the students to use it at all (except as a commodity or seen as a liability- tax payer money gone to waste). https://www.pleasantonweekly.com/morgue/2004/2004_12_17.ddonlon17.shtml

PUSD has made improvements recently virtually on all their school campuses except Donlon Elementary. Donlon has not even been painted. No extra funds went to Donlon because PUSD Board of Trustees scrapped the E-10 approved plans for a new separate school on Donlon Field. Then PUSD made plans to take away the only major field the community of Val Vista has open access to. The three soccer fields at Val Vista park are fenced and locked, except for use by the soccer teams that maintain them. The skatepark and roller rink is all concrete, the garden is fenced and locked, and a part of the park near the high way is not walkable at all. All concrete water play areas of Val Vista Park for children to have relief during the heat have been non functioning for years. Taking the Donlon Field area away from Donlon students and Val Vista is a big mistake not supported by the community.

The Donlon Community and the neighborhood of Val Vista has a nearly 100% positive feedback response to saving the Donlon field land (that is not fenced in for the students) for a Cricket Pitch or Parks managed by Parks and Recreation. Cricket Pitches are in high demand all across the Bay Area (in the news), and the City of Pleasanton needs to find locations for more Cricket Pitches like the City of Fremont has done, to serve its residents. Feedback is that a Cricket Pitch logistically does not work without taking green space within the fence line from the students specifically for it, and adding higher/more restrictive fences. If that is the case, then the community asks for a 4 acre accessible Park bordering the field like other PUSD Elementary schools have.

Pleasanton City Council was urged by over 90 families and Pleasanton Residents to take Donlon Elementary's field off the list for zoned housing in February 2022, that is now going into the Environmental Impact Review phase. The vote was 2 councilmembers for taking Donlon's entire field off the list (Councilmember Testa and Vice Mayor Arkin), and 3 councilmembers voted to keep Donlon on the list. 

For PUSD to sell off land that could be put to much better use within the neighborhood school system is wrong. The way PUSD presented the information to the Board of Trustees omitted many important truths.

Only in PUSD Board of Trustee agendas was it revealed that they were switching the their approved plans for Donlon field from building a new school that was to be finished this year ("The E10 school is one of PUSD's landmark projects, funded by the $270 million Measure I1 bond" -Pleasanton Weekly), to now zoning the field for housing in order to make a profit off the land. The general public does not look at PUSD agenda meeting items to learn what is happening.

The field is 8.3 acres (confirmed in news article as well) and PUSD wants to have 5.5 acres of it zoned for housing in order to sell. This leaves only 2.8 (or 3 according to PUSD) acres for the students, which would be the smallest CUMULATIVE green space out of all the 9 PUSD Elementary schools (for the school with the most elementary students). On 3/17, PUSD presented to the Donlon community that they would fence in only 3 acres for the Donlon students, which came across as though they could keep 5.5 acres on the Pleasanton Housing Element list. This decision was not even reflected on the master facility feedback form sent to Donlon after the presentation, that was due during Spring Break, indicating PUSD had not planned to give Donlon any green space until this petition and efforts were started by concerned parents and community members.

Donlon Elementary school deserves access to 4 acres of green space as they have the most elementary students, and have been kept off the field for years until recently due to our efforts. The remaining acreage should go to a Cricket pitch or park, as the demographics of Val Vista support that it would be cherished and well utilized there. The neighborhood has already voiced that any traffic generated from Cricket or a park on the Donlon field would be welcome as it would benefit the children (like Rage soccer did when they paid PUSD to use the Donlon field, but left in 2019 due to the mismanagement of the field).

The Donlon field was not opened most days this year according to the younger Donlon Cubs students that were asked. Donlon does not even have enough staff to watch the children play on the field. The Donlon Cubs need a return to normalcy and the outdoor activities for their mental, physical and emotional health that require a proper field, like FIELD DAY, the FUN RUN, playing soccer and kick ball on the grass at breaks, throwing footballs, and holiday parades. It is a step in the right direction to ensure the students have a properly fenced in field with 4 acres of green space to play on (not separated from the black top) like their PUSD peers.

Our "Save Donlon Field' Earth Day event at Val Vista Park from 3 to 5 pm on April 24th has the following goals in mind to protect what we love, which is Donlon Elementary and the Val Vista neighborhood:

1.  Fence in 4 acres for Donlon Elementary Students to account for 6 new TK classroom additions, new parking taking basketball play area, and more lost play area in PUSD Master Facility Plan. Donlon has the highest number of Elementary Students in the district and constantly in danger of overcrowding.

2. Convert remaining 4.5 Acres from maintained PUSD land to City Park maintained land bordering the students for their mental health and for community use, like many of their Pleasanton peers. Cumulative green space is scientifically linked to benefit the mental, social, emotional, and physical health of children.

3. No Housing on Donlon Field ever!  The inequity in Val Vista and Donlon has gone on far enough. We must protect Donlon Elementary from overcrowding and Val Vista from losing green space that the community has always had and fought for. Our neighborhood school system is an asset and needs to be treated as such, not as “less than” the other 8 PUSD Elementary Schools or neighborhoods in Pleasanton.

In the picture shown at the top, the Donlon fence (which is locked with a gate) separates the blacktop from the entire field, which is not maintained regularly. The field has been getting underutilized even more so with it being fenced off and blocked from the community this year after PUSD paid to have it fenced off from the neighborhood and fixed irrigation (without any input from the neighborhood, especially after the E-10 school construction was called off). Many thought this would enable the students to use the field more, but that has not been the case. The Donlon Elementary school itself is less than 9 acres without the field on the other side of their fence, and within those primarily used acreage, there is not sufficient green space for essential student activities like play during breaks, PE or return to normalcy activities like the Fun Run and Field Day. The space per student during the pandemic without access to the field was very small, which is bad for student health.

There are other options than building anything on this field. The other PUSD Elementary schools with parks and additional green space bordering their fields/schools is an equity example. PUSD has sold land to Parks and Recreation in the past. Should PUSD want to build a school on the Donlon field in the future, it is imperative that they look at the cumulative green space that would remain for the students of Donlon Elementary (as well as any additional school built upon the land), as it would be the very least of all the PUSD Elementary schools per student. The data and research shows that a whole additional school with 700 more students on the Donlon field property in the future would be an incredibly tight space per student, which impacts their mental, physical and emotional health in comparison to their peers with more space. A tenth Elementary school is much better located on a different site than the Donlon field, for the size that PUSD may be looking at in the future.

This entire field in the picture above is shown on a map used by the City Council as land to be zoned for housing in the near future. On the City Council map that has all the borders of the 8.3 acre Donlon Elementary field shaded in (site #3), PUSD owns it all and wants to have it zoned for housing in order to sell. What you can also see, is that only a small portion of unused PUSD land called the "Neal/Vineyard property" is on the housing element list because according to PUSD, the City Council wants to preserve this land for parks nearer the Downtown area. This information can be seen at the following links for the Pleasanton City website that discusses the future housing element for Pleasanton: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/60774c0969df227a3b4ab0a6/t/61b38b8e132bea69c1db42ce/1639156623136/Site+Map120821.pdf

https://www.pleasantonhousingelement.com/initial-sites-inventory?fbclid=IwAR28iWiDiHqyv4xfrNdEo5S_NnZT3PiA3ZAIC7AjPrWcG-6MYBniehjxLS0

These are the six Pleasanton Board of Trustees who are behind the decision and vote to keep Donlon Elementary's Field on the list for zoned housing, due to PUSD staff presenting to them only the information that suited their objectives that did not consider the Donlon students. Their choice to keep Donlon Field on the Environmental Impact Review has affected the decisions PUSD is making right now about the access the Donlon students get to their field:

Mark Miller: mark_miller@pleasantonusd.net
Steve Maher (representative for Donlon on the Board of Trustees-was a principal at Donlon):
Steve_Maher@pleasantonusd.net
Mary Jo Carreon:
mary_jo_carreon@pleasantonusd.net
Joan Larsen:
jlaursen@pleasantonusd.net
Kelly Mokashi:
kmokashi@pleasantonusd.net
Saachi Bhayani (a student rep on the board):
studentboardtrustee@pleasantonusd.net

To raise awareness about the incredible support for a Cricket Pitch or PARK to be placed at the Donlon Field, please e-mail your City Council members:

Mayor Karla Brown: kbrown@cityofpleasantonca.gov

Vice Mayor Valerie Arkin: varkin@cityofpleasantonca.gov

Council member Jack Balch: jbalch@cityofpleasantonca.gov

Council member Kathy Nuram: knarum@cityofpleasantonca.gov

Council member Julie Testa: jtesta@cityofpleasantonca.gov

Living and learning in greenspaces like fields can improve the overall health of all children. Scientific evidence demonstrates that the benefits of access to green space for children should guide policy and urban planning. Poor access to urban green space at schools is associated with behavioral problems most consistent with hyperactivity and inattention.  Access to green space improves student’s mental wellbeing, overall health, and cognitive development.  It promotes attention restoration, memory, supportive social groups, self-discipline, it moderates stress (which is at an all-time high because of a pandemic), improves behaviors and is associated with higher test scores. Selling Donlon's field for housing will have a grave health consequence to its students.

Recently published scientific research essentially confirms what we've always known: Playing outdoors is good for kids' overall happiness and development. But what the recent study also shows is having more "cumulative green space" while growing up is associated with a "lower risk of a wide spectrum of psychiatric disorders later in life."  The cumulative green space matters for the Donlon Cub students!

Thank you for your time and consideration.

For Clarification: This petition does not require any money! Change.org who hosts the petition may ask for a donation for their website after you sign to save the field for the Donlon students, but it will not go towards this petition specifically. Thank you in advance.

 

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At 1,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get picked up by local news!