Like the 2004 election, Tracy once again is bitterly divided by an attempt by two developers to dominate most of the building in the city for the next several decades. At the center of this controversy is the construction of a youth sports facility at the old antenna farm on Schulte Road.
All sides agree that the sports facilities need to be constructed, and with the building of 15,000 homes in the last 15 years, they should have been built sooner.
I and many other citizens object to the location of the childrens sports fields at the Schulte Road site. In the early 1990s, the federal government proposed a prison at the antenna farm site. The community, led by Rep. Richard Pombo, whose family owns many acres near the facility, lobbied against the prison at that location. Ultimately, the federal government decided not to locate the prison there. I called the agency controlling the parcel, and its officials assured me not to worry because they could not house prisoners over the 36-inch and 24-inch natural gas pipelines that run under the site.
Subsequently, the community had a plan to locate a learning center on the property, including a junior college and high school facility. An environmental impact report was prepared and the project headed to the Tracy Planning Commission for approval. In a unanimous vote, the commissioners turned down the proposal for the learning center because it would be unsafe to locate students near these pipelines. At that time, Mayor Dan Bilbrey and City Councilman Brent Ives did not challenge the planning commissions decision.
In 2001, four power plants were proposed for Tracy. They would provide energy for more than 2 million homes. Two energy companies floated proposals for peaker plants next to the antenna farm. The city and county opposed these two projects, and I got involved with the projects because there is already a glass plant there which emits 500 tons of nitrogen oxides and 87 tons of PM 2.5, and a biomass plant that emits 78 tons of PM 2.5. During that time, the proposal to locate the youth sports park at the antenna farm surfaced. Every air quality expert I spoke to, including Tuan Ngo of the California Energy Commission, Dave Stein of URS and Seyed Saedrin of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, thought the city would be crazy to have children play next to the three large sources of pollution.
Alvin Greenberg, the risk assessment expert from the Energy Commission, told me not to worry because the children could not be located there because of the pipeline safety act. The Pipeline Safety Act requires that when population densities change over a large gas pipeline, like the ones that run under the antenna farm, the pipeline must be dug up and replaced with another that is much thicker and safer. I was distressed when I learned that Pombo had gone to the Public Utilities Commission and got a variance from the Pipeline Safety Act.
I appreciate the hard work of the sports community to bring attention to the need for sports parks in Tracy. I have lobbied for a safe place for a sports park since 1990 when my oldest son got hurt playing soccer at Central Elementary School when he stumbled into a pothole.
Despite that, I will never support a location that puts children next to three large industrial facilities in Tracy that have had three major fires in the last 10 years. I certainly will not support a location that puts children over the Pacific Gas
Electric Co. backbone pipelines for the valley and does not comply with the Pipeline Safety Act. That is why I support the Coalition for a Better not Bigger Tracy’s proposal to put the children at a safer location with a more modest price tag that taxpayers can afford.
Pombo, Bilbrey and Ives, shame on you. You have had 15 years to provide this park at a safe location for the children. You have failed.
• Susan Sarvey and her husband, Bob Sarvey, own and operate a shoe store in Tracy.