The Recreation Commission on Wednesday approved converting the Beach tennis courts into a pickleball-only facility starting on Feb. 27 for a five-month trial period, in an effort to help meet demand for places to play a sport that has exploded in popularity.
The commission’s 5-1 vote to begin the trial pleased most of the 30-plus people who addressed the commission on the subject, several of whom said long wait times for games are plaguing what has become a close-knit community in Piedmont.
“We really are at a tipping point for demand” for pickleball play, Piedmont Recreation Director Chelle Putzer told the commission.
Many of Wednesday night’s speakers praised Piedmont’s pickleball community for its inclusiveness, and the sport’s popularity with older residents, some of them current or former tennis players.
Nicky Silver said she recently broke arm playing pickleball in Piedmont, and that she was overcome by all the people that helped her, took her to the hospital and then home, and even made soup for her afterward.
“It’s humbling to be part of a community that is so caring,” Silver told the commission.
Added Judith Stacey, “We have a great time schmoozing with people, but you can hardly get (time) on the court.”
A few pickleball supporters from outside Piedmont spoke as well, and praised the community’s diversity, friendliness, and openness. Resident Rick Schiller said, “This represents Piedmont in the most favorable possible light.”
Some speakers who opposed the exclusive pickleball trial at Beach said the city doesn’t necessarily need non-Piedmonters taking up precious space and time on the city’s sports courts, or that non-residents should at least have to pay for the privilege.
And regardless of which pickleballers will be using Beach during the trial, Wednesday’s commission vote is considered a “takeaway” by people who have been playing tennis regularly there.
“You have no right to put one community’s well-being over another’s,” said Amy Vallerie, who brought with her a petition signed by 238 people who oppose the idea of a pickleball-only trial period at Beach.
The Beach courts were selected for the pickleball trial trial because they are Piedmont’s least-used tennis courts, and because those tennis court facilities are too small for use in formal competitive play, not having the required room to move around the net posts when those posts are properly spaced. They are also overdue for major repairs, Putzer told the commission, primarily to fix large cracks in the playing surface caused by the roots of nearby trees. Those repairs, she added, are scheduled for after the trial ends July 31.
Vallerie contended that the poor condition of the courts might well be keeping some tennis players away, and one reason why Beach is the least utilized of Piedmont’s tennis courts.
A few speakers also said they found the methodology for carrying out this trial inequitable, and that the detailed data laid out in Putzer’s report should have been discussed publicly at least a month or two ago.
In voting to approve the five-month trial, commissioners including Dick Carter said issues that come up, problems that arise, and changes that should be made can all be discussed, and possibly implemented, during the trial.
Commissioner Amir Verani, the lone “no” vote on the pickleball trial, praised Putzer’s report and its data, but suggested the trial should either be delayed a month to get more information out about it, or be lengthened to also include the Hampton courts as part of the trial. Neither of those concepts received broader commission support. However, pickleball hours at the Hampton courts will be suspended during the trial period, making eight of the city’s 10 tennis courts available full-time for tennis play.
The Rec Commission plans to accept more public comments on the Beach pickleball trial at commission meetings on April 19 and on June 21. The city also plans to conduct a community survey about the trial this spring, while the trial is in progress.
At that same time, the Rec Commission will consider all the feedback received, examine court use patterns and demand for pickleball court time and related pickleball activities. Based on those findings, the commission will then draft a formal recommendation to the City Council as to whether the Beach courts should ultimately be striped for both tennis and pickleball, or for pickleball only.
The city is fielding questions about the Beach pickleball trial period – send them to BeachPickleballTrial@piedmont.ca.gov
Contact Sam Richards at email@example.com
As an attendee of the public meeting on February 15 regarding the now approved pickle ball trial at the Linda Beach Tennis Courts, I had a few observations, including with regard to the Piedmont Post article published on February 20. First, no one supporting the pickle ball trial, and certainly not Piedmont resident and pickle ball’s chief advocate, Rick Schiller, made any comment disparaging the Recreation Commission process. To the contrary, Mr. Schiller and several other attendees praised the very thorough and thoughtful presentation and consideration of the trial by both the Piedmont Recreation Department Director and the Commission. Obviously, a public hearing on the trial did take place and there was plenty of opportunity for weeks of debate and hundreds of written comments to be submitted in advance of the hearing. The whole basis for the trial is to test the following hypotheses: 1. That there is a high demand for space to play pickle ball at locations within Piedmont; 2. That pickle ball play is consistent with Piedmont’s mission to serve the social and recreational needs of people, young and old, within its community; and 3. That the highest and best use of the now underused and non-regulation sized tennis courts on Linda Avenue would be for pickle ball. The Rec Director’s comprehensive presentation based on substantial data gathered by her department clearly showed that these were hypotheses worthy of being tested. She proposed a trial with specific parameters for a limited period of time during which these hypotheses could be tested. Such trial was approved after thoughtful and courteous consideration by the Commissioners. Opponents to the trial seemed to have wanted there to have been a trial already proving each of these hypotheses before this trial could be approved. I don’t think that’s the way it works. I trust that all persons interested in the trial will work together in good faith to obtain and analyze the data arising from the actual trial so that informed decisions can be made about pickle ball in the Piedmont Community at the conclusion of the trial.
The other frequent refrains of opponents to the trial were that something was being taken away from the Linda Beach area (rather than the Linda Beach community being granted inclusive and no charge access to the fastest growing sport in the country) and that pickle ball players were somehow being unfair by no longer wanting to “share” tennis court space in Piedmont with tennis players. This second refrain ignored the fact that the current “sharing” relationship of the 10 City owned and operated tennis courts in Piedmont involved allocating 30 hours a week of court time to pickle ball players and about 670 hours a week of court time to tennis players (presuming an average of 10 hours of daylight, less in winter, more in summer). The trial will shift that ratio of City tennis court use from about 5% to about 20% pickle ball use during the trial. If, as I suspect, the trial demonstrates that there are as many or more persons who would benefit from playing pickle ball in Piedmont than persons wishing to play tennis in Piedmont, then pickle ball players might be asking tennis players why they don’t want to share. It’s a wonderful thing in Piedmont that the community can courteously and fairly make decisions as to the highest and best uses of its very limited recreational spaces. Finally, my experience with pickle ball in Piedmont is that if you show up at the Linda Beach courts during the upcoming trial, you will be greeted warmly, be given a quick education on pickle ball rules, offered a loaner paddle and rotated into a game. All are welcome.