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Michael Lang - September 2022

 

Hello Everyone!

Before I dive into other updates, I want to promote our Monterey Bay Pickleball Survey. More on this later, but, please take a few minutes to complete the survey so we can get a better understanding of pickleball play in our area. This survey is open to anyone, so, spread the word!


For those of you that don't already know, Mark Thomas has decided to step down as the President of the MBPC Board due to changes in his work schedule. I have agreed to fill his very large shoes as President ... figuratively, not literally :)

Mark will continue to participate on the board as both Past President and a USAPA Ambassador. We currently have one opening on the Board. If you are interested in joining use to help advance play on the peninsula, please contact me at: MichaelALang@comcast.net


One of my primary objectives is to see the development of a new public pickleball facility with at least 6 permanent, dedicated courts. I've visited many other small communities with dedicated pickleball courts including: Santa Cruz, San Jaun Bautista, Cambria, Santa Barbara, and Ashland OR. If they can find a way to build real courts, why can't we?


But first ... some history.


What's Up with Via Paraiso?

As you probably know, our club has not been active for the last two years. We stopped play in 2020 as a result of court closures due to Covid-19. When the courts reopened, we remained inactive because of neighbor complaints surrounding our host venue: Via Paraiso. The neighbor concerns had been brewing for several years and reached a head during the Covid shut down. As a result, the City of Monterey called for mediation between the neighbors and the pickleball community. Those representing the the pickleball community were all residents of the Monte Vista neighborhood where Via Paraiso is located. The club was not directly involved in the mediation proceedings, however, the Board was given an opportunity to provide some feedback.

The outcome of mediation was a recommendation to implement a pilot program reducing the number of courts at Via Paraiso from 4 to 2. The pilot program ran from May through July. Following the completion of the program, the city decided to make the recommendation permanent.


So, there are currently two pickleball courts available for play at Via Paraiso. These are the two pickleball courts nearest the restrooms. Eventually, these pickleball courts will be restriped for pickleball only, and hopefully, permanents pickleball nets will be installed. This effort to convert one tennis court to two dedicated pickleball courts is currently pending Monterey Neighborhood and Community Improvement Program (NCIP) funding.


Obtaining NCIP funding from the City of Monterey requires some lobbying work. If you are a Monterey resident and interesting in helping with this effort, please contact me. For now, we can continue to use the two rolling nets. The other tennis court will remain tennis only.


New Facilities

With only two courts, Via Paraiso can not support significant play. Knowing this was a likely outcome from mediation, we began looking for additional facilities to replace the lost courts. The courts at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) are available for use by the community when they are not being used for school classes or activates. These are shared tennis/pickleball courts. They are not dedicated for pickleball only. However, they offer the advantage of no nearby neighbors, 6 courts with abundant spacing, and ample parking (although there is a nominal fee for parking on weekdays). Unfortunately, MPC does not provide nets for public use.


So, we have installed a blue storage box at MPC and stocked it with 6 nets and some balls. The combination to the storage box is available to all paid club members here. To avoid theft and vandalism of the nets, we are proceeding on the 'Honor System' and ask that members keep the combination to themselves. Instructions for assembling and disassembling the nets are detailed on a card in the storage box.


As a reminder, club membership is available to anyone. The cost is $20 annually which helps pay for the nets, the web site, new facility development, etc. Feel free to play at MPC and send us your feedback!


Future of the Club

Over the last two years, pickleball has continued to grow rapidly throughout our area without any club organized play. So, the MBPC Board has been struggling with the future direction of the Club. One thing remains clear, we need more facilities. So, the pursuit of a dedicated public pickleball facility remains one of our key objectives.

Aside from that and supplying nets for individual play at MPC, it's not clear if Club organized play is something MBPC members would like to resume -- and, if so, what form should that take. So, we have prepared a survey:


https://www.montereypickleball.com/survey


The survey focuses on your current pickleball play routine and what you would like to see going forward. If you have frustrations about long wait times or trouble arranging matches with people you want to play with, we want to know.


Even if you are not a club member and not interested in playing with the club, we still value your input. Please also encourage all players you know to fill out the survey. Simply knowing how many players are out there and how often they play helps us lobby local municipalities for additional courts. Understanding the desires and frustrations surrounding the current pickleball environment will also help provide direction to the club.


See you on the courts!!







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Several people have asked about the 9/8 Monterey PRC meeting, so, here is a summary.


The meeting began with the City staff providing a history of pickleball play at Via Paraiso. It was a thorough overview of the past several years. I found it interesting that they mentioned the approval, from about 2 years ago, for restriping the VP courts from 4 PB courts to 6 courts -- and they also mentioned that, to date, this work has not been completed. As to be expected, the overview focused on chronological facts and did not mention the contentious issues. Those issuers were left for the public comment section which followed.


The public comment session began with comments from those attending in-person followed by those on Zoom. The MVNA representatives presented the issues from their side first. These largely focused on noise levels, parking, and picklball players from outside of the community. Members of the pickleball community spoke next followed by intermingled comments from both sides. Approximately 10 pickleball players were in the Council chambers to speak in favor of pickleball and several others commented from Zoom. I found all of the 3-minute speeches from pickleball supporters to be excellent. There were some terrific stories detailing how pickleball has improved their lives. I thought people from both sides were passionate but respectful. Thanks again to everyone that took time out of their busy schedules to attend this meeting.


The commissioners also mentioned that they received 32 letters on the topic, but, did not indicate the break down. I was CC'd on about 10 letters so I'm sure that more than half of the letters were in support of pickleball. Like the in-person speeches, some of the letters I read were excellent. Thanks again for taking the time to write those letters.


After the public comment section, the commissioners held discussions amongst themselves. There was not much back-and-forth about the issues. None of them indicated if they supported the residents or the players. In my opinion, it was pretty clear that all the commissioners were well versed in the issues from both sides and no further discussions were necessary to work through their understanding or beliefs. Instead, they jumped straight into possible solutions. Those that I remember include:

  • Acoustical Screening -- City staff is supposed to follow up with a cost estimate, however, discussions concluded this is likely a non-starter due to visibility concerns from the police (ie it's difficult for law enforcement to see into the courts).

  • Quiet Paddles and Balls -- After a brief discussion, they concluded that this is unenforceable.

  • Adding PB Striping to Other Courts in Monterey -- This is the first I've heard PRC mention this. They suggested that the City should consider putting pickleball lines on all tennis courts in the City. They didn't get into specifics, but, I believe the City staff is supposed to follow up with a cost estimate.

  • Mediation -- This was the bulk of the commission's discussion. It's pretty clear that they don't want to take a side and they prefer for the players and residents to work this out themselves. They proposed that the two sides take advantage of some free mediation services available locally and even agreed that 1 or 2 PRC commissioners could sit in on the discussions. Note that mediation was proposed by the Monterey City Manager several months ago, and at that time, the MVNA board voted not to participate in mediation.

In the end, no specific decision was made with regards to pickleball play at VP, and therefore, pickleball will continue in it's current state for now.


A few other notes about the PRC discussions:

  • I don't recall any discussions about reducing pickleball play time or the number of pickleball courts.

  • When pickleball first came to VP, there were significant objections from the tennis community but the commissioners appear to be satisfied that those issues are resolved. Nobody from the tennis community spoke against pickleball during the public comment section.

  • One of the commissioners made a strong statement about bringing this to a close. Clearly, he understands the public wants a decision in this matter. That said, by the end of the meeting there was no definitive plan to get to a decision.

  • The PRC reiterated their support for a 6 court dedicate pickleball facility, possibly located at Ryan Ranch. It's clear to me that they really want this to happen because it's a win-win for the players and residents and address the future growth of pickleball. But, money remains the issue.

After the meeting, some of us in attendance met with representatives from MVNA. They were very nice and respectful and I think our discussions with them were more beneficial than the PRC meeting. We had cordial discussions of the issues and possible solutions. We indicated that we were open to mediation while they said they needed to follow up with their board to see if the inclusion of PRC reps in mediation would change their minds. Apparently the lack of PRC participation was a key issue for them when mediation was originally proposed by the city manager. They also indicated willingness to support us in our quest for a permanent facility. Monterey has a system were local communities within the city can decide how park and rec funds are allocated. So, support from MVNA could be quite helpful.


- Michael Lang

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The City of Monterey has confirmed that people can attend the Wednesday 9/8 Parks & Rec Commission meeting in person.


Several people have asked if they can attend the meeting in person and the answer is "Yes". Covid protocols are in place, so, masks will be required during the meeting. The meeting will be held in the City Council Chambers located at:

  • 580 Pacific Street, Monterey, CA

On Pacific Street, this is the white building with the big brown double doors located beyond the large lawn. Parking is available in a lot behind the building. See images below.


The Zoom meeting remains available, so, please use whichever option is most convenient for you. We hope you can make it! And if you can't, please consider sending a short letter of pickleball support to parksrecreationcommission@monterey.org.


Thanks!


Michael Lang






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