El Pescadero  Park

El Pescadero Park, now the site of a homeless encampment, is slated to become the site of a new recreational center.

Planning for a new multi-generational recreation center in Tracy is about to shift into high gear, with a new site for the center selected at El Pescadero Park and the Tracy City Council asking for an accelerated schedule for planning and construction.

The result will be the transformation of El Pescadero Park at the north end of Parker Avenue between Grant Line Road and Kavanagh Avenue. What is now an encampment for unsheltered homeless people could, within the next couple of years, became a new city center that includes a gymnasium, workout studios, library, teen lounge, teaching kitchen, outdoor splash pad and fitness loop, plus offices for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department staff, as well as a Tracy Police Department office to serve the north end of town.

On Tuesday the Tracy City Council got a look at the potential concepts that would be incorporated in the center, and also heard the results of community workshops held recently as an early step in the planning process.

The city hired LPA Inc. of Sacramento in April to design the 30,000-square-foot center, estimated to cost about $40 million, $31 million of it to come from the Measure V half-cent sales tax approved by Tracy voters in 2016. At the time the city was considering Ceciliani Park at Lauriana Lane and Cypress Drive as the likely site of the recreation center.

Part of the consultant’s job was to work with city staff to gauge public interest in the center. As the city and consultant conducted two workshops and a walking tour of the park earlier this year they learned that there would be neighborhood opposition to a new recreation center at the 7.5-acre Ceciliani Park, but support for the center at 14.62-acre El Pescadero Park.

“We’ve received a ton of great feedback from the public on the programming and site selection for this project, including one of the largest-attended community workshops we’ve experienced in recent years over at North School, next to El Pescadero Park,” Parks Planning and Development Manager Richard Joaquin told the council.

That workshop in May at North School drew about 120 people from the neighborhood, about three times as many as turned up for previous workshops where the focus was Ceciliani Park.

The center would take up the area at the south end of the park, where rows of tents sit now, and the entire park will likely be renovated. Arash Izadi, LPA’s Director of Sport and Recreation, told the council that a large open area of turf would remain as a feature of the park, and it would still have a playground, dog park and skate park.

“It does need an investment on the rest of the park,” Izadi added. “That investment is probably candidly worthwhile regardless of whether the multigenerational rec center goes there or not. It’s a park that needs some additional improvement. It needs a little love at this point.”

He said the next step is to begin the schematic design of the center, which will involve meetings with the Parks and Community Services Commission and Arts Commission, with a design ready for city council review by October. Environmental reviews could also take place by the fall.

Some construction at the site could begin early next year but the bulk of the project wouldn’t be under construction until 2024, with a target date to complete construction in 2025.

Joaquin added that the council should also be mindful of the budget, set at $40 million now, but costs are likely to keep going up with time, and the city must also consider that the cost of renovating the park could be anywhere from $5 million to $10 million.

Mayor Pro Tem Veronica Vargas said she wanted to see the construction schedule move forward much quicker.

“I don’t want that park to be fenced off for years. We’ve put that neighborhood through enough. The speed of getting this project done is very important, at least for this council person,” Vargas said, adding that she would like to see construction begin within the next year and completion in 2024.

Councilman Mateo Bedolla, urged that the city make a smooth transition as it moves the homeless encampment out and getting people into the new shelter. He also agreed the timing of the project should be accelerated.

“We need to move on this as soon as possible,” he said. “We’ve seen the construction market slide that said that inflation is costing this project budget an extra 10% to 15% per-year and construction costs continue to move up.”

Councilwoman Eleassia Davis added that the city has a responsibility to reclaim the park as a recreational amenity and community resource for the neighborhood.

“At the end of the day this is about doing the right responsible thing, and that’s making sure that children and families have a place to go that is safe and clean and gives them the opportunity to recreate in a way that they feel comfortable, and also not devaluing the residents’ properties over there,” she said.

“It should have never come to this but this is where we are. This is how I believe as a council we’re going to choose to go forward to make it right.”

Council members also expressed enthusiasm for bringing a new recreational amenity to the north end of town.

“It truly is the historic central and north parts of town that need greater investment,” Councilman Dan Arriola said. “We have to invest in our youth. That’s how we change communities for the better.”

Mayor Nancy Young emphasized the importance of Measure V, which was sold to voters in 2016 as a funding source for projects like this and urged that the city pursue the accelerated schedule. She also cited that advantages of El Pescadero Park as the site for it.

“It has always, always been important that it be in a central part of town where people can walk to, where people can bike to, where people can take a bus to,” Young said. “This is an opportunity to repurpose, to put new life into that area.”

• Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com, or call 209-830-4227.

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