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Friday, May 9, 2008

Dysfunction on the diamond

Here's one of those classic "WTF?" moments. Over at the Hollyrood-Fernwood School in the Grant Park neighborhood in the northeast part of Portland, a group of public-spirited folks recently raised a goodly amount of money to rehabilitate the baseball diamonds where the kids play:

The work got done, all right, but where you would expect to see and hear kids playing the great American game, these days you see nothing but a barbed-wire fence, and hear the sounds of silence:

Now, at first glance, we thought that perhaps the work wasn't finished, but apparently that's not the case. Word has it that the place has been shut down because of a dispute between the school and some of the neighbors over the process by which the improvement work was authorized. A glance at page 4 of a recent edition of the neighborhood newsletter would seem to confirm that version of what's going on:

Now, I've been known to be as big a NIMBY as anyone, but in this case, the nastiness seems awfully silly. People, it's May. It's time for baseball. Kids have played ball on that playground for many decades, and there is no good reason on earth that they should not be playing it there this year. Someone made a heroic effort to make the place a better place to play, and instead all they've managed to do is shut the field down entirely. Whatever the problems are, they need to get worked out, at least temporarily -- like yesterday.

It's time to grow up -- and we don't mean the Little Leaguers. Surely there's some way to put the hostilities on hold while the kids play ball.

Comments (70)

Kids make noise when playing ball and their parents drive cars.

I live on the border of the Hollywood and Grant Park neighborhoods and get both association newsletters. The Grant Park Neighborhood Association has been completely obstructionist about improvements not only at Fernwood, but at the Grant HS/Grant Park track as well. As my own kid uses these facilities, I am pretty unhappy about the GPNA. Their entire approach is NIMBY. With the field improvements, it's all about protecting their turf from those noisy kids and parents. Hello? You choose to live net to a school and then complain that kids and parents show up?

The GPNA folks were completely uninterested in taking a stand with the Hollywood folks several years ago when the initial plans for the Hollywood library building were unveiled. For those who forgot or never knew, the developer had cut a deal with Multnomah County and designed a building that grossly violated height zoning restrictions for the site. It was only neighborhood activism by many, including yours truly, that got the building size reduced. When some Hollywood folks went to a GPNA meeting and asked for their support, we were mooned. The GPNA folks talke the NIMBY approach to quite an extreme.

"No speakers, no lights, no concessions..." It sounds like they knew what to avoid if they weren't going to apply for BDS permits.

This is a fine example of City Bureaucrat powermongering in the extreme. Where's Handy Randy when we need him?


Just another example of the city that works.

The answer is easy.
Turn it over to the PDC. Then what ever they decide it's a done deal and no one can get past their lawyers.

these folks are losers....but the real losers are the kids who cannot use the ball fields.....as Bugs Bunny has said
"What a buncha maroons"

Remind me never to move into any of those neighborhoods. What a bunch of first-class chumps. Serious losers. What the Hell is wrong with people. Waaaaaayyy to much navel gazing in those neighborhood associations.

I have lived in the Grant Park neighborhood for 20 years. I coached baseball, soccer and basketball for my two children as they were growing up and attending the local public schools, including Fernwood. (They are now in their 20's) We played many soccer and baseball games on the Fernwood fields. Some years the neighbors got together work parties on the weekend and, with rakes, shovels, sand, rototillers and lime, repaired the baseball fields. We never got permits and no one complained. We were being good neighbors.
The new improvements to the fields are a great addition to the neighborhood. I remember that field being like jagged concrete when my daughter first started playing 3 on 3 soccer on it. The renovations are a vast safety imprvement for the children.
I have also always loved walking or riding past that field in the spring and seeing all the kids and their parents doing the T ball shuffle, or playing little league baseball. It is a constant that announces spring is here. It's the kind of scene that makes the neighborhood a better place. It 's the kind of event that makes neighbors better neighbors, and gives the Grant neighborhood a better sense of shared community.
I was therefore shocked to see the unsigned (??) editorial in the Grant Park Neighborhood Association (GPNA) newsletter condemning the improvements because PPS and the neighbors who secured the private funding had not jumped through a bunch of technical land use loops in implementing modest improvements to baseball fields that have been there for decades. This is nonsense and a tyranny of the minority. GPNA does not reflect the views of the vast majority of of the Grant Park community on this subject, as well as the Grant High School field improvements. I would estimate that over 90% of the Grant residents are in favor of improvements that make better and safer playing fields for the neighborhood children. GPNA has come to over represent a strident minority view on these matters, based upon the (faulty) perception by adjacent landowners that these changes harm their property values. The opposite is probably more likely, but people are afraid of change. Regardless of that question, I think most people in the neighborhood probably think, as I do, that someone who chooses to buy a home next to a school or public park(as I once did myself), buys a home next to a public space dedicated to the betterment of the entire community, and not the private enjoyment of the private landowners who choose to live nearby. Kids make noise when they are having fun. Isn't that the point? Let's work this out so we can all go back to being good neighbors.

This is a fine example of City Bureaucrat powermongering in the extreme.

What makes you think the City initiated this blockade? Reading the newsletter, it sounds like the neighbors are pissed off about increased use, increased noise, and (*gasp*) the possibility of "future tournaments." Joel and Drew's comments seem to back this up.

I live a block from an elementary school. The sound of kids playing baseball (mostly t-ball) in the evenings and on weekends is one of the more pleasant sounds of summer.

I would guess that the school was there before some (maybe most) of those complaining. Besides that, if they are complaining about possibly more use and more noise sanctioned by PPS, how is that any different than a bunch of neighborhood kids playing a pick-up game without any sanction? It's a playground and ball field . . . that's what it's there for.

It is the stink of 'hit back' retaliation, trying to stop changes and progress(ivism) -- and retaliatory sabotage is the stink of rightwingy fascists.

The same as I was 'astro-blogized' in the commentary of All the Charged Negativity post and thread.

I don't know the players or scorecard in this Baseball Field of Screams, yet it looks exactly like the ManNix-ian maniacs (who greet every morning sunrise seething hot to find a way to stop, undo, and go backwards to a lost time before people wisely made land-use planning), took the (baseball) park as hostage -- thinking this is, "one of those 'liberal icons': kids at play!, let's see how they like it when land-use laws are used against them; THEN they'll be forced to repeal the damn thing."

And it sounds exactly like LIARS Larson instructions to sourpuss suckups.

Pin the purpose on the instigator, (just like seeing Nine-Eleven Op was invented before 2000 and made done by Bushbabies, not any fictitious 'fanatic religi-otes' ... ya' know, the Nine-Eleven Op (unsolved) Case detectives probably come in all partisan stripes, yet it is only and always the 'conservative' detectives who "can't think the rightwing government would massmurder its own people"); wake up!, wake up!, open eyes, people: see who is doing it, pin the purpose on the instigator, and understand why persons who got tricked and taken for a ride on the 'conservative' gallows-trumbul bandwagon, and call themselves GOP and follow hatetalk radio instructions, now stay low and lob anti-baseball brickbats and are embarrassed if not ashamed to have anyone know they are Republican.

We have to figure out, detective-like, who the instigator is in ALL these negative-going, social destructions because it ain't the kind of things the perp steps forward proud to be credited for. (So, for the baseball park, rightwing 'instructions' say, "We (editorially) urge you to tell PPS," and "go to ... members and let them know," all anonymous without fingerprints; whereas the time-tested procedure for democratic community consensus is canvassing a petition and everyone signing their 'John Hancocks' plain and legible.)

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

It seems to me that the neighborhood association might be overreaching just a bit based on Article 1, Section 2c.

RE: "overeaching"
Hardly seems within the realm of "exclusively educational, scientific and charitable purposes only". I'd call it outright lobbying for the adjacent neighbors land use challenge. How do the kids get to vote?

Wow, only Tensk can segue a baseball diamond dispute into Lars Larson, Bush, and US government implication in 9-11.

The District went straight to building permit. Whether the District needs a land use review looks like it hinges on whether the they are increasing the "exterior improvement area" by more than 1,500 square feet.

Decide for yourself: the relevant Portland zoning code sections seem to be 33.110.100(B)(2)(a), uses in the zone, 33.815.040(B)(2), alterations to conditional uses, 33.910.030, the definition of exterior improvement.

And yes, this was triggered by a (anonymous) complaint to the City.

To each his own...

Miles likes "...The sound of kids playing baseball (mostly t-ball) in the evenings and on weekends is one of the more pleasant sounds of summer."

Tensqwat likes linking everything bad to Bush, LIARS, and now Mannix, all Republicans. BDS gone wild...

As for me, if I lived in Portland, I would like to hear the sound of squeaky bicycle brakes ridden by eco commuters, and the sound of squeaky wheels of grocery carts pushed by homeless people going to homeless camps, and the sound of protesters protesting whatever protest is in vogue that particular evening.

Alas, I don't live in Portland. Too bad for me.

Who put up the barbed-wire fence?

...and why - is there a safety hazard - or is to prove some point on the part of the GPNA? What civic-minded folks they must be to go to all this trouble to make sure that city bureaucracies get their poound of fish.

Altruism, no doubt.

Can't this all get ironed out without holding kids hostage?

...no Rodney King-ishness intended.

I called Fernwood and nobody there knows nuthin' - they referred me to PPS' Facilities Department - 503-916-3168

Only in Portland...

Maybe a little input by a coach from a visiting league, who played a few games as guest on this new field (including one last Saturday when it was shut down), will cool the rhetoric. The field was set in a new corner of the playground, simply too close to the neighbors' property lines. In one game we watched and heard a good dozen and a half foul balls go into those back yards and onto roofs. A distraught mother came out to wail that her 2-year-old couldn't play outdoors, and that a ball came near a window where her infant was sleeping. She was really angry at our nervous laughter whenever a batter fouled one back. To catch these, the backstop or some new fence on the property line would have to be 50 feet high or more. Say what you will about the neighborhood association, there's an unfortunate design flaw here.

RE: foul balls

My understanding of the above is that the design included netting above the fence line to prevent the foul ball problem (like at golf courses) but that the neighbor's complaint to code enforcement halted the completion of the project. Then the neighbors complained about foul balls that might not have been a problem if the netting had been allowed to go up. I don't know "Coach", I haven't seen the design, but maybe they should let them install the netting and play ball again on a temporary basis to see if it solves that porblem.


PPS called me back and the concerns from neighbors are apparently legit. As "coach" says, foul balls have been finding their way into neighbors's yards with alarming frequency. The story is that T-ballers used to use this diamond but now it's "real" ball. The guy I spoke with at PPS was open, plain-spoken, forthcoming and very responsive. He said that the district is actively trying to resolve the problem and that netting, more fencing, etc. may be necessary. The clear intention was to "make it happen"

I think that mis-, or lack of, communication is the culprit here. The district seems more than willing to solve the problem and the "process" just got screwed up.

What a surprise.

neighbors's = neighbor's

Neighbor's = neighbors'

geez, so early...

CC: Thanks for the informative update (I mean the first one). Now we will have to see if the neighbors want the problem, which does appear legit, "solved", or if they just want the field out of there. On PortlandMaps it does appear to be in the same location as before the renovations.

This is all too reminiscent of the newbie Pearlites who having moved to condos in the inner city then complain about the city noise like garbage trucks and trains and sirens. Or the folks who move to the 'burbs' next to the pig farm and then complain about the smells.

On PortlandMaps it does appear to be in the same location as before the renovations.

The PPS guy did say that the new backstop is in the same spot as the old one...

By the way, this issue is on the agenda for the Grant Park Neighborhood Association meeting on Tuesday, May 13th at 7:00pm at the Grant Park Church 2728 NE 34th Ave. (at Knott). Hope the little leaguers show up, and that there is some constructive problem solving for the short term so that someone can yell "PLAY BALL" again.

Additional facts for y'all. When the LL's first did the work they didn't apply for a general building permit. Only specific permits for part of the work. Consequently Planning Bureau didn't look at it. In March someone filed a complaint with the City. In response to that the LL's went in and applied for a general building permit to legalize any unpermitted work. A planner, (and one I know to be a very experienced planner) reviewed the permit and approved the work. That permit has been issued and all work has been approved. In other words it has been approved by the City and was back in March. (This above information came from a review of the permits online at PortlandMaps.com.)

The LL's and the School District have decided to fence off the area to give a little time for folks to calm down and to schedule some meetings to see if they can fix some of the neighbors concerns. (I got this from listening to the School District guy talk to Lars today)

Given that they approved the permit AFTER the complaint came in my guess is that the City is out of this.

Greg C

As of Friday afternoon, the barbed wire is off the fencing. Some progress, I suppose....

I forgot to mention that the City on March 13th closed out the violation case it had started to investigate the neighbors complaints. So at this point OPDR at least is satisfied that the LL's have done everything they need to do here.

Greg C

If foul balls are the problem, then netting would easily solve it. If the neighbors object to the netting, then I would suggest they aren't looking for a solution, they just object to living next door to a ballpark.

If it was a ballpark before and it's a ballpark now, why did you buy a house next to a ballpark? If they break your window or dent your care, then sue them!

Here's an idea: let's put up tents and relocate the City Hall homeless camp to
Fernwood Field: the Rottweiler puppies and kittens are going to love the fresh green grass, and the fence will help to keep those schoolkids from hassling the new residents.

If the foul balls are really the problem, they ought to at least let the T-ballers play.

If they thought they were going to put up 50 feet of netting without the neighbors' consent, that was the school folks' mistake.

Looking at those pictures my team of 8,9 and 10 year old's would put 10 balls in 2 hours into those house's. I played at Beaverton High, and that field has the back stop that hangs over home plate, good for batting average all pop up's are foul into net. This would solve problem.

Hey! This was the hot topic last week around here:


The fence interfered with their "Vision:"


But guess what? Enough people were finally aggravated enough to tell someone to Baack Off! The fence is going in, the Wilson High School girl's softball team can play next to their school now. And even though, "The fence would have blocked use of the slope above the field for sledding and other activities, Baack and others said...," people will actually be able to use the ball field for playing ball! And they can cut down on their DRIVING

Aaahhh, neighborhood associations...

Stay tuned for more in the 'hood!

I agree with Meg, a backstop with more overhang and the plate recessed further into it would probably make a huge difference. That would deal with the high pop ups. The curving fouls down the right field line would likely not be as high. I'm glad they removed the barbed wire from our neighborhood.

If they thought they were going to put up 50 feet of netting without the neighbors' consent, that was the school folks' mistake.

Well, they could have left the field the way it was - with a diamond exactly where the new one is. Whatta ya want - foul balls or netting? I'm starting to think it's all a dodge.

We'll soon see.

NIMBY baloney continues... Some years ago, when people were far less concerned about themselves, and far more concerned about making things happen which benefit others, a project like this would have and should have received a hearty CONGRATULATIONS for a job done well.

Now, we have people worried about baseballs in their back yard and noise? Get over it, and find a way to make it work. And make it work now, while the children, their friends, and their parents can utilize the fields going into Summer.

Beside, the noise from the playing field might help drown out the voices some hear in their head.

It is with a heavy heart I write my comments. You see, I'm the guy who dreamed our community would embrace and benefit from the changes at Fernwood.

It started with a simple idea Let Them Play.

Let Them Play...

...baseball, soccer, frisbee, lacrosse, kickball, or tag... just play.

...on fields free of potholes.

...on fields with green grass (we added an irrigation system to Fernwood).

Somewhere along the way it went all wrong. We stopped talking. We started writing e-mails. We threatened to involve attorneys. We allowed bureaucracy to take over the simple idea and now we're in a "cooling off period".

We are better than that! The idea of "Let Them Play" should NOT be divisive. "Let Them Play" should be a rallying cry for OUR neighborhood.

We need to get in a room (free of attorneys and city officials) to find a compromise. We must find a way to "Let Them Play".

I want to know what city officials were involved in the conversation that led to the putting up the temp fence w/barbed wire, to close the field?

And who made that call?

They're in a meeting, talking about complaints from neighbors and someone suggested closing the field till it gets resolved? Kids using it would be ?????

And who ordered the closing?

All idiots. I want all of their names.

Is there something wrong with knowing who does this?

And why is the City Council so dumb as to let this closing happen? Bigger idiots.

If you don't want foul balls in your yard, don't live next to a ballfield. Period. Casting neighborhood-inspired improvements to a ballpark as negative is just plain disgusting.

"I want to know what city officials were involved in the conversation that led to the putting up the temp fence w/barbed wire, to close the field?"


As I pointed out above, the building permit for the field was reviewed by the Planning and Building Bureaus, permits were issued, and the construction approved in March. A violation case opened by the City to investigate the neighbor's complaints was also closed in March.

Given that the property here is owned by the Portland School District, I suspect they are the ones involved in deciding whether to allow the kids to play there right now and not the City. I heard a School District spokesman on Lars yesterday say that he was hoping the School District could meet with neighbors to satisfy their concerns and "hoped to get the field open as soon as possible." He also stated that the City was "looking into the neighbors complaints".

Now usually that would be done by the Code Enforcement folks but as said they closed their violation case several weeks ago. So IF there is someone with the City still involved it is most likely either the Neighborhood Association Office, some one from Commissioner Leonard's office or both. The only way to find out for sure is to get on the phone starting Monday morning and ask them.

Greg C

If the City of Portland is involved with PPS in closing down the field even after they have determined "no foul", then why doesn't CoP close down the illegal encampment around City Hall? Or the illegal alien hiring center on the east side that doesn't meet codes. Or the illegal transient camp that doesn't meet city codes out by the airport?

The field was shut down solely for safety reasons. The foul balls were not only hitting the adjacent homes but also going into the nearby play structure. It was only a matter of time before there was a serious injury. See Coach's comment above about how many balls he witnessed in just one game. These were hitting the homes hard and just missed the residents on a number of occasions.

There are other safety issues with the field too. The dugouts aren't safe - the opening is in direct line of foul balls also. I know 2 visiting coaches who already don't like to play there because of this hazard to the players themselves as well as the uncomfortable proximity to the homes.

The field was shut down by PPS with the agreement of Parks and Rec and the little league (don't believe it then go check the sign that's posted on the fence - it's accurate).

No resident requested barbed wire - chalk that one up to someone in the City or PPS.

BTW, the kids are still playing baseball, just at a much safer field only one block away where they have played for years - Grant Park. The games aren't canceled.

The school district is looking into making the structure safer in a manner acceptable to all. Until then the field is closed.

And this doesn't even touch on the whole botched process of field development. The field could have been placed at a different site at Fernwood that makes much more sense - at the other corner which is an intersection that is removed from the adjacent homes and is the better site for baseball anyway because of its direction. If the people who developed this had given it even an ounce of forethought, these design flaws and other problems are instantly recognizable. But they didn't and no one ever consulted with any of the neighbors before this happened.

Stop bad-mouthing the neighbors. Their complaints are totally legit. Start placing the blame with the planners who should have seen these problems beforehand.

There are a couple of temporary solutions available here while the final outcome of this dispute is determined:

1. Put up netting to prevent the foul balls from going into the yards.

2. Reopen the field to tee-ball only.

Putting up a barbed wire fence was not an appropriate option.

For the record, the LL would have loved to place doors on the dugout - however once the complaint was filed by the neighbors we were told to stop all further construction on the site. We were prohibited from adding safety doors to the dugout and we could not finish building the netting/fencing system needed to mitigate the foul balls.

Portland is not alone in its problems.

From California. We suffered similarly trying to get a girls' softball infield skinned! (We were accused of single-handedly changing the micro climate) People have a right to protect their properties, but they also have a duty to contribute to the community as a whole. It takes a "little" give and an awareness that there is almost always a solution if you want there to be one.

WM is right. If this issue were really all about safety, as the neighbors maintain, then the league would have been allowed to finish the dugout entrances and the netting over a month ago. The fact that the league has been prevented from doing so says a lot.

There's a very basic issue here, which is this: it is practically impossible to play youth baseball in the central city. If you live in Gresham, or Clackamas, or Beaverton, or LO, your kids have a bounty of spacious Little League fields to choose from. Compare this to the situation just in inner east Portland. Most leagues have to jam their home diamonds into an undersized middle school play field: Wilshire LL's home field is at Beaumont MS, Rose City LL's field is at Gregory Heights (Roseway Heights now?), Mt. Tabor LL's is at Binnsmead MS. Foul balls from these fields routinely hit cars, buildings, private property, innocent bystanders, etc. That's baseball in the city.

But you know what? It's always been that way. Baseball didn't emerge out of the suburbs; it came of age on city streets and empty lots in east coast cities. The sport hasn't changed, but attitudes toward safety, and maybe more importantly, private property, have. Yes, you should have a reasonable expectation to not have 100 foul balls hit onto your property -- so let the league finish construction.

And for anyone who thinks Grant Bowl is a "safe" place to play baseball, ask the multitude of people who use the oval track how safe they feel when a kid hits a modest 175-foot home run onto the track down the left field line, or a foul pop straight back over the backstop and onto the track. It happens all the time. Hollywood LL has been around for over 50 years, and has never had a "safe" place to play, but then baseball is not an inherently "safe" sport. You do what you can to mitigate risk. That's always been accepted, but maybe society has moved on, and everybody can just play soccer or something.

I agree. It is hard to play baseball in the inner neighborhoods. The field space is limited. And yes, baseball is full of risks. Foul balls happen all the time. That is why to mitigate those risks, ball field development needs to be taken seriously and not proceed in a haphazard manner. It sounds like this wasn't a well thought development. If there was an alternative site to place that field then that should have happened. I don't blame the neighbors one bit.

It’s unfortunate that this project was so hastily developed in a rush to create a new home field for Holly Little League. Although a permit was obtained after the fact, the field was developed based on the original layout as a school yard – not as an intended sports facility to support Hollywood Little League.

Those that say that the field “always existed” are right – but the use has changed, and that, my friends, triggers a use review by the Portland City Development codes. No one is immune to these codes, even with the best of intentions.

You ask why? Exactly to vet out the issues the field has created. Codes have changed over the years to accommodate our different use characteristics. In addition, our codes are designed to preserve and enhance our neighborhoods. Consider this example - If you live next to a grocery store, it doesn’t give the grocery owner the right to redevelop the store in to a multi-story shopping mall. What’s developed anywhere in our fine city requires a diligent review to preserve everyone’s rights.

Relative to the use review, other factors are considered to mitigate the impact to the area and the neighborhood – but with no neighborhood input, and a “surprise” approach to this project, it simply backfired.

The fields and associated equipment needs to be re-designed to accommodate the area – Costly? Probably. But that’s due to poor planning and is not the neighborhood’s fault.

To be clear, the Hollywood LL DID NOT sanction or approve a barbed wire fence on the Fernwood Field. The fence is a visual nightmare for everyone involved. A simple yellow tape would have done the trick. Hollywood LL is NOT paying for the barbed wire fence.

I don't know who coined the saying, but I first heard it paraphrased by Bill Cosby. "The surest way to fail is to try to keep everyone happy."

The solution is simple: Just limit the field to small kids who don't swing hard enough to send balls into neighborhood yards.

Sometimes the Portland public engagement process thinks too much.

Given the size of the field, one diamond for "real baseball" and one diamond for T ball only (the one closest to the neigbors fence) makes sense. There just aren't a lot of foul balls in T-ball...

A netting system that can be raised for games and then lowered when not in use or a "cage" style backstop for the "real" baseball diamond would seem to be reasonable alternatives.

Dugouts should be protected - that's just a basic safety concern and why that part of the project was halted is baffling.

Get a room, work it out...make it happen

I for one, as a neighbor in the Grant Park area, want to thank you for your energy and vision, and for the new fields and improvements. Let us not overlook, in the rush to complain about "process", that the overall project has resulted in better playing fields for all of the neighborhood kids, not just the LL.

It looks to me like the problem is not the improvements. They didn't reconfigure anything on the playing fields, so I'm not sure what additional input was needed to simply improve what was already there. And if you had tried to change the pre-existing configuration, then I'm sure a myriad of other complaints would have arisen and nothing would have gotten done. (See Grant Fields project).

The problem now seems to be that the foul ball mitigation efforts were stymied. Let's all try to get that worked out and see what happens. If that is the real concern of the neighbors then it should be possible for all of us to make it happen.

I know I broke my share of windows playing ball in the street when I was growing up. My recollecton from that time is that if you had the courage to go to the neighbor and 'fess up', things usually worked out OK. Let's all try some of that good neighbor compassion here.

Mr. Gardner has it right on the button.

But I'm wondering if the issue is not really foul ball mitigation (i.e. danger/possible trespassing). The issue that is more likely than not is pure vanity and entitlement: the next door neighbors are irate that what was thought to be their "own" greenspace view from their backyards is now altered by playfield structures, more people and decreased parking during ball games. A once dead field has been brought back to life. Now it's a real playfield for the community kids and they has them all puckered up...and that's the real shame.

Folks...you live next to a schoolyard where kids play games, baseball being one of them. Yes, you should not have baseballs flying into your yards at all times and something should be done about that and sounds like a plan was in the works. But come on...foul balls in your yard are your only leg to stand on in this argument.

since you seem to be our neighborhoods equivalent of Kevin Costner in "Field of Dreams", I'd like to pose a question to you: Where were those kids playing before moving to Fernwood in the first place? I heard that they played at the Grant Bowl. Why is that not an option for them today? Is it because they don't want the little kiddies playing on the soon-to-be installed astro-turf? Is it possible that they understand that those kids will unduly affect the effective life of that synthetic turf.....and need to keep those kiddies out of there? Just wondering.......

The saddest part of this is that the most outspoken neghbor has all their kids in a private school!
So their kids are hitting balls into another Neghborhoods yard?

And they don't seem to like the net either!

Of course they don't like the nets. If it was about fixing the problem of the foul balls the nets and safety doors on the dugouts would already be up. It's about finding a hook to delay the use of the field until people of good civic interest tire of the fight. You can see the same strategy in the coments of Mr.T. Act like you want to be reasonable, but really all you want is to delay the use you don't want until inertia accomplishes your private objective. If PPS has the permit in place then they should consult with the adjacent neighbors, offer mitigation, and, if refused, release the field for baseball. That way it comes down to the adjacent neighbors deciding what they want, nets or no nets. Either way there should be baseball. If after that process there are no nets, whose fault is that?


are you saying that people who do not share your particular point of view are not acting with "good civic interest"? I think that's a bit one-sided. When the Nike Folks, along with PPS and LL got together to dream up this new field....they were told to get feedback from the neighborhod, and specifically those who were going to be most dramatically affected. If they had done their job, the structures would have been designed differently and all those involved would be much happier today. What I don't understand, is that the guys who built the structure blew the process, and now everyone want's to pick on the people who have to deal with the fall-out. I for one do not believe that is acting with "good civic interest".

BobT: re: feedback
Perhaps that is true, I was not involved in that process. And I am not saying that different points of view mean one is civic minded and one is not.

However, judging from the way the "feedback/dialogue" process has gone for the Grant Field project, there comes a point where one has to ask whether dialogue is in good faith, or merely a part of a strategy of delay.

And if by different design you mean relocating the existing fields, then that would have resulted in a whole new dialogue from others who might have different objections, and certainly greater land use hurdles/obstacles available to be thrown up. I don't know why the LL field improvements were not made to the other field, but I'm sure there would have been issues with that as well.

Based upon the comments above it appears that PPS is willing to work to solve the "design" problems to prevent the foul balls from landing in the neighbors yards. If that is true, doesn't that solve your problem. After all these are preexisting baseball fields at a preexisting middle school, both of which undoubtedly predate the ownership interests of the adjacent neighbors, who bought their private property adjacent to a middle school recreation field.

All I'm saying is that private landowners who buy property next to public space should not hold the keys to the the playing fields.

The people involved in developing this fatally flawed plan blew it and they alone are responsible for the current situation and all of the fallout. The little league parents should be asking those people why they would put at risk this entire project - all of the effort, fund-raising, and expectations and hopes that come with it. Now the neighbors have to take the heat for dealing with what is simply horrendous urban planning.


relative to any "strategy of delay" regarding Grant Bowl: What's going on at Fernwood actually makes my point. There are always unintended consequences to every decision. The improvements to Grant Bowl have somehow necessitated the movement of LL to Fernwood. Those who acted unilaterally on this have created a situation where the residents have 2 choices:

1) accept the field as is (unsafe)

2) erect netting (safe but unsightly)

What's unfortunate is that by circumventing their own processes, they may have eliminated the possibility of another option that would be mutually agreeable to all parties.

To your point about the additional land use hurdles: Isn't that the purpose of the review process- to ensure that any improvements that are made are in keeping with the adjacent neighborhood, and to avoid the very prediciment that we are in today? PPS/LL is trying to imply that there is no greater usage of the Fernwood field. To admit that there is a significantly greater usage of the field would trigger a conditional use review. Undoubtably....this review would have meant that the structures would need to be built differently.

I don't believe the neighbors who live next to Fernwood are attempting to hold the keys to public land. And yes there used to be a baseball field at the middle school that predates any of the residents there. But you said yourself- Fernwood is a middle school recreational field. The relocation of Hollywood Little league to this play area has significantly changed the usage of the park. And unfortunately that necessitates a conditional use review.

If you're asking if PPS's willingness to construct netting around the area "solves my problem"......that's a qualified yes and no.

Yes- it may solve the immediate problem of safety

No- it probably won't address the other unintended consequenses of the additional use of the field

But the much bigger issue is that it took over 72 foul balls pelting the neighbors houses in a 3 week period and the frantic pleas of a woman who only wanted to protect her child's safety in their own back yard before PPS would even address an issue they already knew was a problem.

If this is how PPS does things, then GOD help us when they start work on Grant Bowl

Also, since PPS pulled the permits and the baseball usage stopped, in order to get those permits back and use the field again, there MUST be conditional use review. Thanks for nothing PPS! Geez! Looks like no more baseball at Fernwood this year!

This was sent via email to the community this afternoon from Doug Capps with PPS. (It's long, but should clear up a few issues for those interested.)

An open message to the Northeast Portland community:

Portland Public Schools would like to provide information on the changes to Fernwood Field to date as the conversation continues about the project. Note that there are several players here:
• Portland Public Schools (PPS) “owns” the property
• Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) is given a permit by PPS to schedule sports leagues use of the property after school and on weekends, and in turn issues use permits to those leagues
• Hollywood Little League (HLL) is one of the sports leagues that have a permit from PP&R to use Fernwood field.
• Bureau of Development Services (BDS) is the city agency that issues building permits for projects, and also reviews projects for compliance with Portland’s Planning and Zoning Code when the nature of those projects warrants review.

Steps that have occurred to date:

1. Portland Public Schools (PPS) gave consent to Hollywood Little League (HLL) to make improvements to Fernwood Field when funding became available. PPS welcomed the
expenditure for improvements to the playing surface of the field, both for little league and soccer use, and also for its own students.

2. Field plans were submitted to the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) for plan review. Since the project was similar to installations by Portland Parks and Recreation, it was reviewed under the same standards. Given that the project was primarily a maintenance project (upgrading the field and backstops) and was designed to PP&R specifications, BDS indicated that a permit was not necessary for construction.

3. Neighbors and the Grant Park Neighborhood Association raised concerns with the Bureau of Development Services. These concerns include: proximity of the field to neighbors’ property, greater use of the field by HLL that would bring potential expansion in number of games, resulting in more parking and traffic, and game-related noise. (The City’s Planning and Zoning Code was written to address these impacts through Conditional Use Review.) According to BDS, the project was not subject to conditional use review when it was first reviewed by BDS.

4. Because these use issues were raised with BDS, the PPS project manager returned to BDS to assure that the installation was correct (emphasis on the back stops), and as a result the plans were formally approved by BDS.

5. BDS decided to investigate the conditional use issue. So pending the outcome of the conditional use complaint, PPS issued a stop work order to suspend continued installation of elements of the project by HLL (bleachers, storage box, additional fencing, and netting to capture foul balls). All improvements were put on hold to not violate the conditional use review process. In addition, Grant Park Neighborhood Association had issued a newsletter article that indicated that PPS was subject to fines; a ruling that would affect continued play, and the potential removal of the field improvements.

6. Foul balls continued to threaten neighbors’ homes and property as games continued. PPS, PP&R and HLL agreed that there was a potential safety hazard, and rescheduled the games to only include girl’s softball at the field.

7. PPS initiated a redesign of the backstop, to include netting to capture foul balls.

8. Neighbors indicated that HLL scheduling changes were insufficient since other non-Little League players use the field. Safety concerns remained.

9. Neighbors wrote letters to elected officials protesting the operation of the field. PPS, PP&R with HLL closed the field due to the safety issues with the existing field arrangement.

What happens next? See tentative project schedule below

PPS is committed to complying with all permit and zoning code provisions in the City code.

• A Conditional Use Review is in process. The case is still open.
• Backstop changes to protect neighbors from foul balls are being developed.
• Field options are being pursued to address the conditional use issue.
• All options under investigation to improve the safety of the field are being completed in consultation with BDS, PP&R and HLL.
• PPS expects the field plan review to be carried out in the next three or six months. It is not likely that the City review will be completed prior to the end of the Little League season.

PPS will consult with the community before any plans are finalized. PPS will notify the adjacent neighborhood, and will work with neighbors and the larger community in an open process.

PPS is committed to improving the safety of the field. PPS appreciates Hollywood Little League’s efforts to improve the Fernwood Field, to the benefit of neighborhood families, Hollyrood-Fernwood students and the many soccer and baseball players who have used the field for years.

PPS is committed to finding a mutually satisfactory resolution of these issues and will continue to provide facilities for children in the community to play. Questions or concerns can be addressed by calling the Fernwood Field Project number at 503-916-3168.

Doug Capps
Community and Government Relations

Bob T.

Baseball was a simpler game when I was growing up. It wasn't about land use rules, it was about the kids having fun on a warm spring evening, the parents getting to know their neighbors, and sometimes, after we won (or not), we got to go to Dairy Queen.

What have we become that our irate neighbors (I am told) picketed Mr. Capps' home complaining about a baseball field that was only rebuilt in its preexisting configuration to be better for the children. "Unsightly" is the key word in your critique. I don't think the kids that can't play on that field this season -because the safety measures that will protect the adjacent neighbors from their foul balls is in a land use process as it is considered unsightly by some nearby neighbors - will understand the logic of that situation. A few parents without kids in the game, stopping it.

Anyone with an objective view, who looks at that field now, and knew it for the last two decades, knows that what the people did to improve it was a gift to the neighborhood for many years to come. But those who have made your point about the process (the blessing and curse of Oregon land use law) have accomplished their objective. They have stopped the improvements, and baseball on the field, for the foreseeable future.


Picketed? Are you kidding? Not only are you misguided, you are terribly misinformed. The 2 mothers who went to Mr Capps home were demanding a halt to a very unsafe situation on a school field that was occuring only a block away of which he had been informed repeatedly over the previous few days and weeks. There were no pickets - that's ridiculous - only 2 moms who were very angry that their children were being put in harm's way by the close proximity of this ballfield to their homes.

You've shown yourself to be acting on hearsay! You should stop talking before you get solid facts.


I understand your desire for a simple game of baseball, getting to know your neighbors, and heading off to Dary Queen for ice cream. That sounds great. But that can only happen when all parties have mutual respect for one another.

I can certainly understand your frustration in PPS's decision to halt the games at Fernwood. But it is incorrect to lay this at the feet of "irate neighbors".

PPS and Portland Parks, in their overjealousness to secure a private funding source for these improvements, were willing to circumvent their own processes to build these facilities. One need look no further than the body of Doug Capps last blog to see that many of the improvements that were scheduled would in-deed involve conditional use review.

These review processes are necessary to ensure that ALL citizens of our city can enjoy the public environment. Is it too much to ask that Portland Parks,PPS,Doug Capps....et al...go through the proper review processes to ensure that adverse outcomes will be minimized?

Neighbor: Thanks for the clarification on the picketting.

So,,, without reading all the minutia here,

We still don't know the NAME of who ordered the field closed with that temporary fencing?

"We still don't know the NAME of who ordered the field closed with that temporary fencing?"

PPS facilities was probably asked to provide temporary security fencing around the property. "Temporary security fencing" always, always, always comes with a barbed wire cap. So you want to blame someone call up PPS facilites and ask for the boss.

PPS asked for the fencing to show good faith while the City "investigates" the conditional use question. In this context "investigates" means the neighbors have asked BDS to determine whether or not it made a mistake in deciding that the project didn't violate the underlying conditional use. Since this is a no win for BDS my guess is that the question will go to some anonymous Appeals Board who will decide the City was right in the first place. And hopefully in the meantime everyone will get their knickers untwisted and calm down.

Greg C

"The fights are so furious because the stakes are so small." Henry Kissinger

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