Opting to spend some more time trying to reach solutions that work both for pickleball players and for neighbors who say noise from that play has been oppressive, the City Council has asked that a “working group” made up of a neighborhood representative, a representative of pickleball players and two city staffers to review concerns and approaches to addressing noise created by pickleball play at the Linda Beach pickleball courts.
That group is scheduled to report back to the council on Tuesday, Sept. 5, the next time it meets (the meeting that would have been held Aug. 21 has already been canceled).
It’s the latest action since 2017, when pickleball first took Piedmont by storm. In May 2018 the Subcommittee on Tennis Court Use and Pickleball was formed to help the nation’s fastest growing sport get an equitable foothold in the city.
After myriad public meetings, sound tests, neighborhood surveys and discussions about various aspects of pickleball since then, and ever-increasing hours for public play at several locations within Piedmont, a trial began on March 1, 2023 making the Linda Beach courts pickleball only (replacing tennis courts) and opening for play 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. That trial ended July 31.
More than 30 speakers offered comments Monday night about pickleball. Several, from the neighborhood closest to Linda Beach, said the end of the trial period was a welcome break from what some of them called the “torture” of the noise, and the “intolerable” 12 hours every day of the thwack of paddles slamming balls. Several of them said they don’t believe the city has reached out sufficiently to address their problems.
Constance Whitting, who lives on Howard Avenue, said her health has taken a downturn since the most recent trial started in March bringing with it “the stress of unending pickleball noise.”
“It’s explosive, penetrating, nerve-shredding,” said Whitting, adding that city officials never responded to her request to come to her deck and listen to the noise themselves. Pickleball players have also added to that neighborhood’s traffic woes, some residents there told the council.
But many more speakers praised pickleball as a social boon, a reliever of stress, a reducer of blood pressure, a tonic for depression and loneliness and a builder of community in general. One speaker, Diane Santos, called Piedmont pickleball “a culture.”
“All Piedmonters have a vested interest in the courts in this area,” resident Jeff Trowbridge told the council. He and others, in fact, questioned whether any changes from the trial-period days and hours; a city staff report recommended shortening the hours of play at Linda Beach to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. But several speakers said the 9 p.m. extension better suited them.
“A working stiff like me can’t really play before 6 p.m.,” Jeff Ngyuen told the council.
Many of those who praised pickleball said they wanted to move ahead with permanent restriping at Linda, and moving ahead right away with planned renovations of the Linda Beach courts. The city works on a 10-year cycle for tennis court repairs; restriping of the Linda Beach courts was last addressed in 2013, and renovations of those courts are scheduled for this (2023-24) fiscal year.
But the council voted unanimously to let that new group spend an extra few weeks trying to come up with solutions that will please as many people as possible to the extent possible. The city had hired the consultant firm Salter, Inc. to do a noise survey of the area near the Linda Beach courts, and Councilman Tom Ramsey said he hopes some new sound mitigation measures can be considered as part of that work. Some residents suggested six days of play at Linda Beach, instead of seven, could offer nearby residents a respite.
Daniel Gonzales, the city’s public works director, said he hopes the Linda Beach courts renovation can be complete by the end of February, if not sooner. City Administrator Rosanna Bayon Moore said a bid on that work could possibly include upgraded noise reducing measures, depending on how the working group’s recommendations play out and what the council approves.
Bayon Moore said the information gathered by Salter can provide a “platform for discussion” for refined discussions about the noise issue that should be part of the Sept. 5 working group report to the council.
Mayor Jen Cavenaugh noted that having the Linda Beach courts unavailable during renovation will put added pressure on the pickleball courts at Hampton and Piedmont Middle School.
Council members, however, said they realize Linda Beach changes warrant a careful, thorough process to do best by both the pickleball group and by neighbors affected by the noise. Councilwoman Conna McCarthy said taking a little extra time to do that is fine by her.
“We continue to struggle to do the right thing,” McCarthy said. “We have listened.”
Fire Department promotions
Piedmont Fire Chief Dave Brannigan announced three departmental promotions Monday night, with those three firefighters receiving their pins in a short ceremony in council chambers at the start of the council meeting.
Former Engineer Justin Morris has been promoted to Lieutenant, and Sandor Lengyel and Anthony Rentoria are now engineers.
Brannigan praised these three firefighters, as well as those who didn’t get promoted at this time.
“It’s a great problem to have when you can promote any of them, and any of them would do a great job,” he said.
Contact Sam Richards at email@example.com