Rec Commission to consider pickleball subcommittee recommendations July 19

Elementary school students try out pickleball at the Linda Beach courts as part of a Rec Department trial in May 2023.

On Wednesday, July 19, the Piedmont Recreation Commission will hear recommendations from a subcommittee formed earlier this year to assess the viability of turning the Beach Courts into a permanent pickleball-only zone.

The subcommittee released its findings on July 14, concluding that there is no evidence pickleball play at the courts has created a safety hazard for students, school leaders, or the police department and that the courts should be restriped for permanent pickleball-only play and they be used as pickleball courts with permanent nets. The subcommittee also recommended that efforts be made to minimize “negative noise effects” on some who live nearby.

Their conclusions:

The number of people who would enjoy recreation by playing pickleball on the courts would be significantly greater than the number of people who would play tennis or engage in some other recreation on the courts. There continues to be tennis courts available throughout Piedmont, and residents are able to travel across town to play at the various courts.

The opportunity to play pickleball in Piedmont has created a community that has enriched the lives of many participants, and especially older adults. Given the growing demand for pickleball and wide range of court options throughout Piedmont, creating a dedicated space for the sport best serves the needs of the community. The benefit of a dedicated space for playing pickleball ensures better logistics for managing the space and allows for permanent equipment and clear striping to be installed which would enhance the activity.

Restriping the courts for both pickleball and tennis would not solve the increase in demand for dedicated pickleball space. The logistics of pickleball set-up is challenging. The benefit of four dedicated pickleball courts far outweighs the benefits of mixed-use space. There has been demonstrated demand for an increased number of pickleball courts in Piedmont and there is the availability of tennis courts in Piedmont as well.

The primary concern with this recommendation is the noise issue. Some residents have said specifically that they do not have any complaints about the noise. However, others have stated that the noise throughout the day and early evening has been disruptive to their lives. As part of being “good neighbors,” this subcommittee seeks a compromise as a solution for this issue.

Therefore, the primary issue to be addressed in this subcommittee’s recommendations is how pickleball can continue to be played in Piedmont while minimizing its negative noise effects on some people who live near the Courts.

The subcommittee made the following recommendations:

  1. The courts be restriped for permanent pickleball only play and they be used as pickleball courts with permanent pickleball nets. The courts at CRTC, Piedmont Park, and Hampton Park should remain exclusively tennis courts, and the multi-use courts at the Piedmont Middle School (“PMS”) should continue to be available for pickleball when school is not in session, or otherwise being used for student-centered programming and as approved by PUSD.
  2. The hours of pickleball play at the courts be limited to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day of the week.
  3. At the conclusion of the trial on July 31, 2023 from August 1, 2023 until Council considers the Commission’s recommendations, the courts revert back to the pre-trial dedicated pickleball hours (i.e., Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 10 1 p.m.).
  4. To encourage pickleball play at the PMS courts, staff should work with PUSD to maximize the time available for pickleball play at these courts, especially in the late afternoon and evening.
  5. Only low noise balls and paddles be used on the Beach Courts. Players will be expected to comply with an approved low noise equipment list posted at the courts. This list should be updated as necessary by PRD. The subcommitttee recognizes that the cost of low noise equipment could be a barrier to court access therefore the subcommittee requests that PRD develop a check-out system to provide equipment to those who need it.
  6. Continue to leverage the pickleball community leadership group to help communicate the low-noise equipment rules. PRD should conduct regular audits of the courts to ensure the rules are being followed.
  7. The city should request specific noise reduction strategies from the sound consultant, such as sound barriers, that would further reduce pickleball noise transfer at the courts.
  8. A future Commission tennis and pickleball subcommittee should be formed to review the possibility of reservations, court fees, and rules.
  9. The appropriate city department reviews passenger loading signage near the courts at Beach Elementary School.

Read the full report HERE.

2 thoughts on “Rec Commission to consider pickleball subcommittee recommendations July 19

  1. Garrett, Actually the first set of data about usage shows 60% of players are residents. As I play nearly every day there, my allegorical observation is that percentage remains throughout the trial. I have many new Piedmont friends from all parts of town.

    PRD accumulated data showing that there was no increase in reservations at the other three tennis venues in town compromising eight full size courts (Linda courts are 68.5% of regulation). Left as tennis courts or dual striped for occasional PB use, these courts would have remained significantly underutilized as the data shows. There was no surge at the other tennis venues in town.

    All data and observation show that pickleball transformed the previously quiet Linda Courts into a thriving new community asset enjoyed by all ages. For an aging-in-place town lacking in senior facilities (though the current Rec Commission is playing a good catchup game on that), the Linda court also acts as a de facto senior center. We play, we talk. Repeat many times.

    Many cities may be adding dual-striping to existing tennis courts because of the demand for pickleball. But that solution creates a less desirable playing surface for both sports with a myriad of lines. The only permanent net solution that might work for both volleyball and pickleball is a permanent emplacement that eliminates tennis play. If you add other sports such as basketball for multi-use, you have aspaghetti pile of lines. Setting up temporary pickleball nets is not the fifteen second task of popping open a potable soccer net; this task takes several players 3 – 5 minutes if the net was properly stored away; a big if.

  2. Regarding best use of the courts, from the report: “The Subcommittee considered what is the best use of space to best serve the greatest number of Piedmont residents with recreational opportunities.” The subcommittee seems to have done that by comparing the survey responses about tennis and pickleball play at the courts during the trial and the substandard quality of the courts. The questions about pickleball play before and after the trial show that the greatest increase has been in non-resident players. Unfortunately, the subcommittee seems not to have weighed this factor in its determination of “best use” so lower Piedmont will lose neighborhood access to tennis courts to provide pickleball play for mostly non-residents.

    An obvious solution is to stripe the courts for mixed-use but the subcommittee dismissed that option, partly out of inconvenience. Many cities are installing multi-use courts (Antioch, Redwood City, Albany) and there are products that make changing nets simple (multi-net). If surfaced for volleyball, these could be truly multi-use courts. The subcommittee tells tennis players to “travel across town” but is it aware that a good third of Piedmont lives closer to the dedicated pickleball courts in Montclair than the proposed courts at Linda-Beach? The Recreation Commission should schedule more discussions of this matter and study how a multi-use court in Piedmont would add to the growing capacity for pickleball in the immediate vicinity of Piedmont.

    Garrett Keating

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