Rec Commission votes 5-1 in favor of transforming courts from tennis to pickleball

Games at the Beach courts during PRD's pickleball trial last year.

The City of Piedmont’s Recreation Commission voted 5-1 at its July 19 meeting to recommend officially turning two old tennis courts at Linda Beach Park into four pickleball courts through a re-striping project. Commissioner Amir Virani, who also opposed the pickleball trial earlier this year, was the lone no vote; Commissioner Rebecca Posamentier was absent.

The vote came near the end of a three-hour, 45-minute meeting with some 90 minutes of public comment on the issue. The vote was a recommendation with the ultimate power to decide belonging to the City Council. The Council’s next meeting is Aug. 7 but the agenda for that meeting has not been published yet.

The Recreation Commission sent a list of nine recommendations to the City Council. The main one was to re-stripe the courts at Linda Beach. A five-month trial project allowing pickleball play daily at the park concludes on July 31. The courts needed re-striping whether used for pickleball or tennis due to wear, tear and root damage so a decision has to be made whether to restore the tennis courts or change them to pickleball courts.

Passions ran high at the meeting, and nearly 40 people testified on the subject. An informal count found 25 speakers in favor of pickleball with 11 clearly opposed. Several people opposing the conversion of the courts spoke about the noise created by pickleball.

The city commissioned a noise study by Salter Inc. The report found the noise attributed to pickleball to be within the noise limits in the city code. Some opponents of the sport disputed the study and what it measured.

The city also commissioned a study on traffic patterns by Kittleson & Associates which found the use of the courts for pickleball caused a negligible effect on traffic near the park and school, within the standard variation of traffic along Linda Avenue.

A usage survey was also conducted.

Multiple recent Recreation Commission meetings have been focused on the issue including at least one in June that did not have pickleball on the agenda.

Supporters of pickleball pointed to the growing popularity of the sport, especially among multiple generations. Pickleball is a racquet sport, sort of like tennis but played on smaller court with paddles and a plastic ball. Among the reasons for its growing popularity is the aging population in the United States, with many participants finding it a way to stay active as they get older.

Many of the supporters at the meeting testified that they can no longer play tennis or other sports. However, one rising senior at Piedmont High School also spoke, saying she plays four hours per day.

Several residents who live near Linda Beach complained that the sound of the racquets hitting the balls is incessant and affects their qualify of life. During the five-month trial, pickleball has been allowed from 9 a.m. to sundown.

The Commission advanced the recommendations of a subcommittee with minor revisions. The subcommittee considered three factors: 1) Safety, especially the safety of children being dropped off at Beach Elementary School; 2) Noise specific to pickleball; and 3) Best use of limited park space in Piedmont. The existing tennis courts were not regulation due to a lack of space around the courts and the Commission was told they are underused. Since starting the trial period, both supporters and opponents of pickleball testified that not only are 16 people able to play on the four courts but that people are often waiting to play as well. One group saw that as a positive, the other as a negative.

The other recommendations sent to the City Council were:

  • Limiting pickleball hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
  • Revert pickleball times at Linda Beach back to pre-trial status until the Council makes its decision (potentially just for a week if the Council decides on Aug. 7; the old pickleball times were Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
  • Encourage city staff to work with the Piedmont Unified School District to expand use of pickleball courts at Piedmont Middle School (which could be available when the school is not in session)
  • Require low-noise balls and paddles to be used at all times at Linda Beach (with the Recreation Department setting up a way to check out equipment to those who might not be able to afford their own)
  • Encourage the pickleball community to communicate the low-noise rules
  • Request the sound consultant (Salter) to submit other sound reduction strategies
  • Form another subcommittee in the future to consider whether to require reservations and fees or other rules (currently, all play is drop-in, something pickleball players said they prefer)
  • Have the appropriate city department review the passenger loading signage near the courts and the elementary school.

3 thoughts on “Rec Commission votes 5-1 in favor of transforming courts from tennis to pickleball

  1. Open Play has been critical to the growth of pickleball in Piedmont. This was an important decision voted on by City Council in January 2020 after a seven month study by the Recreation Commission. No reservations or decal system has been the critical and correct decision that has helped pickleball grow in town and represent Piedmont in the most favorable manner regionally. We welcome all and as others are welcome here, we are welcomed in other local pickleball venues without payment.

    The other important and almost unheard of action in 2020 was the City donating $50,000 to PUSD to repave the then very deteriorated PMS courts. The City recently obtained Prop 68 funding and we are about to play at the new modern court surfaces at PMS starting Sat 8/5.

  2. Ending pickleball play at 6:00 pm seems appropriate given results of the noise study. The long-term noise data, released to the public at the meeting, showed a significant increase in noise from pickleball between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. compared to background. Unfortunately this is the time many working Piedmonters would like to play. Given the busy schedule of many residents, a reservation system is needed for afternoon and weekend play.

    A reservation system would also help all residents gain access to the courts . Results of the online survey conducted during the trial show that the greatest number of court users before and during the trial were nonresidents and the greatest increase in new players was among nonresidents. If this trend continues, the dedicated courts will become the only recreational facility in Piedmont serving more nonresidents than residents. A reservation system would help Piedmonters gain access to these courts as participation in pickleball increases.

  3. It’s wise to end pickleball at 6:00 p.m. as the long-term noise date, shown to the public for the first time at the meeting, shows that noise from pickleball is significantly higher than background noise from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Unfortunately this is when many working Piedmonters will want to use the courts. A reservation system is probably needed so busy Piedmonters can work the game into their busy schedules.

    The online survey conducted during the trial found that nonresidents were the greatest users of the pickleball courts, before and during the trial. And nonresident use showed the greatest increase during the trial. If this trend continues, this recreation facility may be the only one in town that serves more nonresidents than residents. If so, it will be difficult for residents to get access to the courts without waiting so a reservation system is probably needed in the afternoons and weekends.

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