OAKLAND -- Mountain View Cemetery's expansion plans are plugging along at a slow pace, General Manager Jeff Lindeman said this week.
He said a presentation before the Piedmont City Council is "still months away," but Lindeman expected to meet with Piedmont City Planner Kate Black this week and also with Oakland city planners.
The cemetery's long-term plans are to move tons of earth to flatten a hill in the northern corner to be ultimately used for grave sites. That earth would likely be used to fill in the canyon area below Coaches Field. The uppermost pond in that corner, which empties and fills with rainwater and has been used for irrigation, would be eliminated. At issue was a boundary survey that needed to be researched by a civil engineer. Lindeman said the material supplied to the cemetery by the surveyor was difficult to interpret.
"It took the engineer a couple of tries to create a map that is color-coded and more refined to inform the viewer," Lindeman said.
"It's complicated," Black said. "We were waiting for the survey to be delivered to us" before discussions could continue.
The 226-acre cemetery owns a corner of land in the northeast sector that lies within Piedmont's city boundaries and over which Piedmont has jurisdiction. There is another little chunk of land in the area of Coaches Field that belongs to Piedmont. The cemetery plan will be subject to environmental review by numerous public agencies, such as the state Water Resources Board, Department of Fish and Game and the like as its project moves forward. Oakland, where most of the cemetery is located, and Piedmont will be involved in that process.
"It's a long-term concept we have," Lindeman said. "We don't know what it will cost. The cemetery master plan will define the (grave) spaces for the life of the cemetery."
The cemetery raised the ire of some residents who live near it as they saw hundreds of eucalyptus trees being cut down to stumps. The cemetery does not need a permit to remove the trees, which are considered a fire hazard. Lindeman said the stumps are being ground out now to be used for mulch and erosion control in the area.
Piedmont resident Bill Ruth, a retired private city planner, believes the denuded landscape affects some Piedmont property values. He owns a property that looks down on the cemetery. He is concerned that filling in the canyon below Coaches Field might result in a sports complex, an idea that was floated two years ago during public meetings for Blair Park but never went anywhere.
"I don't want my house to be turned into an announcer's booth for the playfield," Ruth said, referring to the clamor of sports play.
Blair Park dispute: A controversy has arisen whereby some residents are accusing three Piedmont City Council members -- Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka, Bob McBain and Mayor John Chiang -- of violating the Brown Act by meeting separately behind closed doors with officials from Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization over monies owed to the city for the PRFO's failed plan to develop Blair Park into a sports field. The city denies that any "serial" meetings were held and that council members have a right to meet privately with constituents as long as it's not a quorum.
"If those three members come up for a vote for the EIR they should recuse themselves," Ruth said. "It seems to me they were bound to have talked about trading deals -- 'we owe you money, we need another playfield.' "
"I don't see why they are being so secretive. It makes it appear worse," he said.
Lindeman said he has had no official talks with PRFO.
"Our mission is to develop the cemetery," he said. "If PRFO had a plan that has the support of the community, we are available to listen but not taking the lead in any way."
Oakland resident David Cohen, who walks the cemetery, said the cemetery "has done a decent job removing wood. The overall status looks reasonable."
But he and others are concerned with effects on wildlife, water quality, wetlands and other environmental impacts that must be studied carefully.