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New pickleball facility delayed, but GRF leaders ‘confident’ in project

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

 

Wednesday, May 15 (9:30 a.m.): Six months ago, GRF officials said the groundbreaking for the new $2.9 pickleball facility would take place in April or May of this year.

GRF now anticipates having all the needed city of Walnut Creek permits in hand to start the pickleball facility work by the end of October, bid results from contractors to do that work by mid-December, and construction starting by mid-March 2025.

It all may be taking a year longer than originally advertised, but Ann Mottola said it will all work to the good, especially after productive meetings of city and GRF officials.

“We’re pretty sure we have all we need to move forward,” Mottola, Rossmoor’s community services director, said before the May 9 Planning Committee meeting. She wanted to dispel rumors the project, at least as first drawn up, was in jeopardy.

“We’re more confident than we were several months ago,” Mottola said.

Mottola said a March meeting of city planning officials and GRF leaders, which included a thorough review of the site and discussion of various concerns of both the city and GRF, seems to have improved communication – and understanding – on both sides.

“The city reached out to us and came here to get a better understanding of the types of uses we have, and what is adjacent (to the planned pickleball structure),” Mottola said last week. The city and GRF, she said, talked through some “trigger issues” surrounding the structure’s plans, including noise, the size of the lot, and questions about restroom facilities, parking and allowed hours of pickleball play.

There had been questions about whether the open design of the building would be allowed; Mottola said the design that leave two sides of the structure open near the roof will remain, but that play will no longer be allowed past 6 p.m.

Fred Ponce, a contract manager for the pickleball structure project, said the building site straddles two parcels adjacent to the Event Center, and that it isn’t legal to build a structure on multiple parcels, even if the parcels are both owned by GRF. Therefore, a “lot line adjustment” to create one 1.8-acre parcel on which to build in in process, he said. The permitting is continuing while that lot line is redrawn, he told the Planning Committee.

There also is the matter of relocating a 15-inch high-pressure underground irrigation line that runs through the parcel, serving the adjacent golf course. Ponce said the pickleball building can’t be built over it, but that the line relocation work will wait until October, when golf activity is expected to slow down.

“You can’t stop Rossmoor golf,” he said. Also, it isn’t reasonable ground-preparation (grading) work to be carried out during what is usually the rainy season, from mid-October to mid-March.

Resolving these issues has helped lengthen the project’s overall timeline and schedule. And Mottola said the original timetable calling for a spring 2024 groundbreaking was probably overly “aggressive.”

But Ponce said he isn’t particularly surprised by the time this process is taking, calling it “pretty much what you’d expect.”

“We all have to remember this a brand-new building from the ground up, not a renovation of an existing building,” he said.

GRF officials in recent weeks have publicly questioned the Walnut Creek city permitting process, notably over delays in approval of roof panel installations atop the Tice Creek swimming pool. But both Mottola and Ponce said they understand city planners in Walnut Creek (and elsewhere) are trying to do. They noted that Walnut Creek, like many government employers, has had difficulty hiring staff post-COVID.

Mottola noted Walnut Creek planning staff – like that in any city – must follow specific rules. The Walnut Creek city planners, she added, have been “problem solvers” in seeking solutions to what can sometimes be thorny issues that satisfy both project sponsors and municipal codes.

“The word of the day is ‘patience,’” Mottola said.

Given that some of the 2024 capital projects budget will now not be spent this year on the pickleball facility, the Planning Committee – at Mottola’s request – voted 4-0 to recommend to the Finance Committee that its members then recommend to the GRF Board to spend about $1.664 million on seven other projects that had been deferred in the interest of moving the pickleball project along.

The committee’s recommendation includes spending about $960,000 of that on Rossmoor’s paving program, with the rest of the $1.664 million to go to Event Center tech-AV rehab, Tice Fitness Center roof replacement, removing median turf and replacing it with drought-resistant plants, a golf course water pump, a scoping study for replacing the golf course lake liner and drought-related golf projects. The GRF Board will ultimately have to approve that reallocation.

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