There was one subject the public wanted to discuss at the June 21 meeting of the Piedmont Recreation Commission meeting: Pickleball.
Unfortunately, the fast growing sport was not on the agenda for the meeting. So everybody will get to do it again at the July 19 meeting.
State law generally prevents boards and commissions from discussing or acting on items not on an agenda.
Public comment shows split in views
The trial began at the end of February. Since then, many pickleball enthusiasts have flooded the courts, which are open 9 a.m.-dusk (or no later than 9 p.m.) every day. Several nearby residents have complained about the noise generated by the game, which is akin to tennis but on a smaller court with a whiffle ball-like hard plastic ball. Neighbors complained that with the game comes a nonstop, 12-hour chorus of “thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack” (think: ping pong).
The controversy is over the city’s five-month trial of having pickleball at the Linda Beach courts. The trial will end on July 31. The Commission will then make a recommendation to the City Council about what to do thereafter.
Plus, some neighbors complained about the noise made by the players.
“It’s being played 12-13 hours a day, seven days a week,” Lisa Neville told the Commission. “This involves not only the game itself, but all the noise that goes along with it — the yelling, the shouting, the cheering — the sometimes-swearing, particularly late at night.”
Constance Whitting said her backyard is 50 feet from the courts. She said a prior proposal to only allow pickleball on Tuesdays and Thursdays might have worked for her.
“Seven days a week is way too much,” she said. “I can’t enjoy my backyard, I can’t have people to come and join me on my deck.”
However, there were several pickleball players who came to the meeting, outnumbering the opponents by roughly 2:1.
“It has been a real blessing to me,” said John Davies. “I’m not a big athlete — I’ve never been a big athlete. It has been terrific. People have been very welcoming; it has been really self-regulating.
“This has been the first Rec Department experience that I felt was aimed at me.”
A 12-year old testified how much he has enjoyed picking up the game. A mother told how her son introduced her to the sport.
“I am really familiar [with] the competing demands for limited space in town,” said Chris Lahey. “I am relatively new to pickleball, just started this year, but I have definitely caught the bug — and it’s because of this Linda Beach pilot. What I want to emphasize here is how connected the community is. It’s also because of open play. I walk to Linda Beach just about every day and I can play. I don’t have to have a partner, I don’t have to have a time. I can play.”
Several players said they hoped there could be a compromise with the neighbors to allow pickleball to continue.
“I’m sorry about all the noise and I appreciate the Rec Commission thinking about how to mitigate the noise and truly try to make it workable for everyone,” said Molly Lloyd.
One speaker asked if an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) had been filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). New projects are supposed to be evaluated for their environmental impacts. It’s not clear that changing tennis courts to pickleball courts would qualify.
Public comment lasted over 40 minutes. Once it finished, the Commission paused its meeting so everybody could leave. The Commission will take it up again at the July meeting. A noise study has been conducted but hasn’t been given to the sub-committee working on the issue yet.