PIEDMONT -- The city has reached agreement with Friends of Moraga Canyon to settle a lawsuit that the group filed challenging approval of the Blair Park sports complex, Mayor John Chiang announced at Monday's City Council meeting after a closed session.

Blair Park LLC and the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization, the entities formed to build the sports complex with private funds, joined in the settlement.

The city will pay $15,000 to the attorneys who represented Friends and will also allocate $15,000 to hire a consultant to develop and implement a landscape plan at the passive Blair Park on Moraga Avenue. The money will come from the indemnification fund provided by the Recreational Facilities Organization per agreement earlier.

The Friends filed suit on Jan. 5 alleging that approval of the project on Dec. 6, 2011, violated various requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The Blair Park plan was officially scrapped by the City Council on May 7, following an announcement on April 27 by PRFO and the city that the project would likely disband due to escalating disputed costs related to the project.

A proposal to build a sports park at Blair with private funds was proposed to the City Council in 2008 by architect Clarence Mamuyac. PRFO was later formed to manage the project, which became very controversial, with scores of marathon meetings, demonstrations and lawn signs pro and con.


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The Friends agree to dismiss the lawsuit against the city with prejudice and not seek any further costs or attorney's fees from the city.

Friends President Jim Semitekol said the Friends were pleased with the agreement.

"Our goal has been to save Blair Park as a small slice of natural open space for all to enjoy, and provide an attractive gateway to the city," he said. "We are grateful to have the lawsuit behind us, and we look forward to working with the city to develop a successful plan that truly preserves and enhances Blair Park.

His wife, Joanie Semitekol, said Tuesday: "We would like to clean up what hasn't been done to make it a nice passive, presentable park.

"We weren't out to be bloodthirsty. No funds whatsoever are going to the Friends.

"We look forward to be able to do some volunteer work in the park and work along with the city. We can do some fundraising to do some projects in the park as well. Our work is not done, it just started."

The landscape architect shall develop a plan to improve the natural open space of the park with removal of invasive plants, weed abatement, erosion control, tree pruning and removal where needed and improvements to a pedestrian trail. The Friends may review the landscape plan before it is adopted. The city is not required to expend any more funds over the $15,000.

Firefighters deal: In other business Monday, the city has settled a salary and benefit package for Piedmont's fire captains. The agreement mirrors the settlement made with firefighters. The agreement runs through June 30. There will be no salary increase.

Any amount above the 37 percent the city pays toward the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) will be equally shared between the city and employee. Employees will contribute $50 semimonthly toward retiree medical, which became effective Aug. 1.

A two-tier retirement plan was agreed to whereby those hired after Sept. 1 will be subject to a 2 percent at 50 retirement plan, with a three-year average used in calculating final benefit. Current employees receive 3 percent at 50.

Captains work 48 hours on-duty and 96 hours off-duty. Their pay ranges from $7,929 to $9,633 per month. Those who serve as fire captain/paramedic will receive 12 percent more than base pay.

FYI
The complete text of the settlement agreement is posted on the city's website at www.ci.piedmont.ca.us.