Planning Committee suggests exploring area near Dollar Clubhouse
By Ann Peterson
Friday, July 9 (8:40 a.m.): The GRF Planning Committee wants to take a closer look at another possible location for an expanded pickleball complex – this time in the picnic area alongside Dollar Clubhouse.
At last week’s meeting, committee members decided to ask the full GRF Board to approve authorizing Resident Services Director Jeff Matheson to obtain soil study, engineering and layout proposals for the area at Dollar.
The committee had already dismissed the idea of reconfiguring two of Buckeye’s tennis courts, instead selecting the temporary Creekside pickleball courts for a permanent expansion to seven courts now, possibly eight courts in the future.
Initial plans, with a $300,000 price tag, called for resurfacing the courts and installing an acoustic blanket to block and absorb the noise. But soil tests and engineering studies showed movement with the clay soil that will require either a wall or pier system behind the creek erosion work completed under the courts last year. That ballooned the cost to $755,000, and it could jump to $1.1 million if additional on-street parking is needed because of the expansion.
The cost of the project is in line with similar projects, Matheson said, noting that a previous expansion of Buckeye by two tennis courts cost $1.5 million.
CEO Tim O’Keefe said that he never had a complaint about the Creekside pickleball courts until the committee began discussing a possible expansion. “Now neighbors are organizing and objecting,” he said.
So, staff offered another option: the picnic area by Dollar Clubhouse, which could accommodate at least seven courts. Although the location is still close to the creek, which means the price-tag won’t necessarily be lower, O’Keefe preferred this option to Creekside because it’s farther from residents’ manors. He noted that on Google, the Creekside courts are 110 feet from the nearest home, while the Dollar location is 400 feet.
“People’s home values are affected by the perception of noise,” O’Keefe said. “To me, Dollar makes sense because you have parking, restrooms, space for social gatherings, and it’s farther from the homes.”
During the Residents Forum, Pickleball Club President Frank Reynolds asked the committee to stay the course with the Creekside plans, noting that the longer the project is delayed, the more likely pickleball is to end up with nothing.
“I don’t want this to be like pickleball showed up to the birthday party, and when we arrived, the cake was already gone,” he said. “Creekside was picked because we’re already there.”
Looming over Creekside, however, is the possibility that additional parking might be needed. Depending on what the Walnut Creek traffic engineer might suggest, that could involve taking Rossmoor Parkway down to one lane between Saklan Indian and Stanley Dollar drives or taking out the median to keep the two lanes and add off-street parking.
Initially, Planning Committee Chair Leanne Hamaji suggested approving the $755,000 for the pickleball project and seeing how the parking situation panned out. She noted that parking is a big issue throughout Rossmoor, but not necessarily as bad at Creekside during pickleball’s peak hours from 8 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 5:30 or 6 p.m.
Committee member Kathleen Stumpfel agreed that parking should be analyzed separately, but “we do have to come up with the worst-case scenario,” she added. “We have to assume me might have to remove the median if they decide two lanes are needed there.”
Still, Stumpfel wasn’t entirely sold on Dollar as the right location, noting noise could be a factor for the nearby pool and picnic area.
O’Keefe said the Dollar picnic area is heavily used on the Fourth of July but booked only about 17% of the year. “The rest of the time, it’s small groups coming together,” he said. “It’s really the only flat space in Rossmoor that is not being utilized by anyone.”
Committee member Ted Bentley argued that it’s being used without reservations – recently, he saw 16 golf carts and about 35 people. But he proposed having the soil tested and a layout drawn for the Dollar area so the committee could make a comparison to Creekside.
Stumpfel seconded the motion. “Making a decision in a rush and spending a lot of money, it just seems to me we need to be patient,” she said.
The GRF Board will decided at its meeting on Thursday, July 29, whether it should authorize Matheson to obtain the report on Dollar.
Also during the meeting, consultants from ELS Architecture and Urban Design updated the committee on a long-term master facilities plan for Rossmoor. The consultants have inspected facilities, held feedback sessions with residents and distributed a survey (available online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/W8FPLPQ until Thursday, July 22), with 260 people responding as of last week.
At Thursday’s meeting, the consultants presented their findings, including “first thoughts” for project ideas, and sought input from the Planning Committee to start prioritizing the ideas.
“We want to give you a shopping list that provides for the overall needs of everybody,” said Mark Schatz of ELS.
David Masenten of ELS said the top feedback so far has been desires for accessibility upgrades; an additional vehicular exit; AV and data improvements, such as teleconferencing and streaming; universal key-card access for all public areas; updated online reservation system; kitchen upgrades at most clubhouses; more restaurant and bar options; additional shade structures in outdoor gathering locations, such as Peacock Plaza at Gateway; off-street parking on Rossmoor Parkway; and additional electric car charging stations. Mastenten said the latter really is needed in the Mutuals.
Hamaji asked the consultants what role the Planning Committee should have in the process now. Masenten said they planned to take all comments and refine the plan based on urgent needs and projects that serve the greatest number of residents.
Ideas ranged from reconfiguring existing facilities, such as the Performing Arts Studio and Vista Room to create a small theater, to adding amenities, such as a playground and miniature golf course for visiting grandchildren. Other ideas were more pressing, such as replacing kitchen equipment in poor condition and upgrading the lateral structural system and providing accessible bathrooms inside Dollar Clubhouse.
“Everybody loves Dollar,” Schatz said, “but it has issues.”
Schatz also said the Mutual Operations building on Rockview Drive “is a mess,” noting that the offices next to the maintenance space were built as a temporary utilitarian space and are in poor condition.
“For a lot of residents, this is low priority,” Schatz said, “but these are the people who keep things running. You have to give them a space from which to operate.”
The consultants also addressed outdoor activities, from necessary bridge repairs on the golf courses to possibly using artificial turf for lawn bowling and replacing the lifts with ramps at the outdoor pools, to installing separate walking and bike trails and bringing food trucks to Gateway and Dollar.
While not all of the ideas will become reality, Matheson said the input in the early stage has been “fantastic. We accomplished what we wanted to. Our intent is to continue to report back, and as we develop more information and get more direct feedback, then we can eventually take this to the Finance Committee and report to the Board in the fall.”
The committee ended the meeting by moving a resident request for a bicycle repair station to the master facilities plan discussion.