Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
William Hsu, 15, teaches Leo Lin, 10, how to play tennis at San Mateo Central Park’s courts.
As city officials consider the future of San Mateo’s Central Park, a group of tennis players are starting a petition drive to save the downtown courts.
In the midst of updating the Master Plan for the 16-acre park, the city has released three conceptual designs inspired by community outreach that will guide future improvements at the downtown amenity. While the maps vary and aspects of each may ultimately be included in the final proposal, all propose removing the six tennis courts currently atop the underground parking structure at the park along Fifth Avenue just east of El Camino Real.
Although the city doesn’t currently have funds set aside for construction, the update of the 33-year-old Master Plan will determine what types of improvements are eventually implemented at the city’s premier park.
Surprised that the heavily used courts could be demolished, San Mateo resident and co-founder of San Mateo Tennis Shop Jason Gan started the petition that’s been signed by 185 people as of Monday.
“With its close proximity to bustling downtown San Mateo and residential areas on two of its four borders, Central Park is a vital community resources that can be accessed and enjoyed by a large number of citizens,” according to the Keep Our Tennis Courts in San Mateo Central Park petition. “By relocating the tennis courts out of Central Park and to another location, access to the game of tennis and the benefits that it brings from playing the sport will be severely hampered.”
Gan and co-founder Kevin Lim opened their tennis shop on Ninth Avenue just a few blocks from the park in January and said, if the courts are removed, local players would be forced to drive to Beresford Park or even another city to play.
“We’re still in a position where we don’t know what the reason is for trying to move the courts out of the park there,” Kevin Lim said. “I know there’s classes that go on there, there’s a lot of folks that come into our shop that grew up playing there. In terms of utilization, it’s definitely being used by the community.”
The city began the update process about a year ago when it hired a consultant and has since held several community workshops as well as a joint study session with the City Council and Parks and Recreation Commission. The city released the three conceptual maps in January and are currently seeking online feedback from the community. Eventually, the Parks and Recreation Commission as well as the City Council will vote to decide what to include in the Master Plan, said Parks and Recreation Director Sheila Canzian.
All of the maps include keeping the park’s historical attributes such as the Kohl Pumphouse and Japanese Tea Garden, as well as enhancing the playground and creating a larger event center lawn.
Instead of having the tennis facilities, the proposals include the Community Center Option, which would construct a new recreation center and plaza atop the courts on Fifth Avenue; the Enhanced Open Space Option, which includes creating permanent kiosks and a large plaza used to host events; and the Community Gathering Option, which proposes a paved open-aired plaza with trellis-covered seating that could also host events or farmers’ markets.
Councilman David Lim said while he’s in favor of creating a recreation center or plaza along Fifth Avenue to form a better connection to downtown, he’d like to keep the tennis courts located somewhere within the park.
“I’m not in favor of removing them. I think tennis courts are central to Central Park. They’re the only city courts in the greater downtown area and I think they add an important element of recreation to our downtown. So I think they should remain in Central Park,” Lim said.
Tennis instructors offer classes at the courts while Gan and Kevin Lim said they also host Meetup.com tennis matches on Thursday nights. Because the courts have lights, they’re accessible until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., which is helpful for those who may have limited time to exercise, Kevin Lim said.
William Hsu, a 15-year-old Aragon student, learned how to play at Central Park and began teaching his family friend, 10-year-old Leo Lin. Heidi Tung, Hsu’s mother, said they live nearby and she’d be extremely disappointed if her two sons didn’t have access to the courts.
“It’s good for all ages. Especially for the boys,” Tung said. “They always invite their other friends to join and play tennis, then I can stay home and prepare food because during the morning and evening, it’s a safe area for kids. … If [there was] no tennis, I cannot imagine, it’d be terrible.”
Kevin Lim said he hopes the park will continue to offer tennis as the courts are a great community resource.
“I know there’s classes and different sorts of training and stuff there too. I know for parents that want to bring their kids up playing tennis, they have classes at the park,” Kevin Lim said. “If they were to take that away, it’s hard for parents to place their kids in programs like that.”
For more information or to comment on the Central Park Master Plan Update visit http://www.cityofsanmateo.org/index.aspx?nid=2735.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106