BHCIA Threatens Another Treasured Local Resource

The Belmont Heights Civic Improvement Association (BHCIA)—a group whose leadership has been threatening recreational access at Waterdog Lake Open Space—are attacking another local resource: the Crystal Springs Cross Country Course.

Photo by Malcolm Slaney is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is the Crystal Springs Cross Country Course?

The Crystal Springs Cross Country Course is a wonderful regional resource for middle school and high school cross-country running teams. It is also a popular hiking and running destination for the general public. (Cycling and dogs are not allowed on the course.) The land is owned by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), who issues a permit to the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD) to operate the course. During the three-month cross-country racing season, there are a number of track meets, which necessarily bring some temporary traffic to the neighboring homes in the Belmont Heights neighborhood. A little-known fact is that the income from the cross-country racing events not only funds maintenance of the venue during the racing season, but it also provides for year-round public access.

Who are the BHCIA?

Belmont Heights is a neighborhood of large single-family houses in Belmont that sits between the Waterdog Open Space and the Crystal Springs Cross Country Course. It has a private neighborhood association, the Belmont Heights Civic Improvement Association (BHCIA). It is not a true homeowners’ association with mandatory membership of all homes in the neighborhood. Rather, membership is voluntary, and residents of Belmont Heights can choose to pay $20 per year to join. Accordingly, the BHCIA does not represent all of the homeowners in Belmont Heights. The BHCIA is a private organization; it is not a governmental or quasi-governmental entity, and It has no authority to make decisions for anyone.

Unfortunately, the BHCIA board has been taken over by a handful of activists, including people who have recently run for Belmont City Council, but could not get elected. They are using the BHCIA, under the guise of representing the Belmont Heights neighborhood, to push their own agenda—even though this agenda is not supported by many Belmont Heights residents.

The Threat

The BHCIA Board has recently been on a crusade to limit the use of the nearby Crystal Springs Cross Country Course. At the outset, they stated that their goal was to limit events to “locals only”, but are now on the precipice of having all public access restricted. This should sound familiar to anyone who has been to any of the Belmont City Council and Parks and Recreation meetings in the past year or so, as they’re the same tactics being used in that forum to argue for severe restrictions to recreational use of Waterdog Open Space.

Without doing any polling or canvasing of BHCIA members or non-member residents of Belmont Heights to see if that is what the neighborhood wants, the leadership of BHCIA has demanded that the SMCCCD severely limit the number and scope of track meets at the course. (Video of the SMCCCD board’s August 25, 2021 meeting is available here: Board Meeting Videos | Board of Trustees | San Mateo County Community College District. Click on the link for the 8/25/21 meeting part 1, and fast forward to 2:12:00.) At this meeting there were 22 public speakers that made public comment against closing the course and/or limiting the number of events. By contrast, a paltry four public speakers, most of whom were BHCIA board members, spoke in favor of limiting access. At 2:21:16 in the video, a Belmont Heights resident provides an excellent explanation of how the BHCIA does not represent the neighborhood’s interests, nor did the BHCIA do any polling of the neighborhood residents before portraying that it speaks for the neighborhood as a whole.

Taking the same unreasonable stance they use at the Belmont city level to the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD), which holds the permit to conduct the cross country events, the BHCIA has rejected all proposed compromises. Luckily, the community made it clear to the SMCCCD in public meetings that the BHCIA was not representing their desires, and succeeded in keeping the long-running cross country events intact.

Despite it being clear that the BHCIA leadership was not representing the interests of the area in this matter, its leadership escalated the issue to the SPFUC. The SFPUC is now considering revoking the permit for the cross country course entirely. A recent update from the SFPUC reads, "If an agreement is not reached among SMCCCD and the various stakeholders by the end of this calendar year, then we will take steps to revoke the existing license."

BHCIA President Deniz Bolbol—one of the primary individuals who speaks out on behalf of the BHCIA against recreational use at Waterdog—has personally been pressing this issue, speaking at meetings at both the SMCCCD- and SFPUC-level. Despite protests from many neighbors, Ms. Bolbol has escalated this agenda item, which now threatens public access to the course entirely. See this Nextdoor thread from Belmont mayor Charles Stone on the subject.

You can help stop this assault on our local treasures

Ms. Bolbol and the BHCIA's tactics have clearly created a threat to yet another beloved local resource. While we are a group dedicated to keeping Waterdog open to recreation, we're also community members invested in the Crystal Springs Cross Country Course, and want to show our support for keeping it open and available, as it has been for decades. Let's not let Ms. Bolbol and her BHCIA ruin this resource for Belmont and the wider community. Please email to show your support for this issue today.

If you’ve come to our site because of the cross country course issue, welcome! Please consider signing up for our low-volume mailing list and help us stand up to these same people who seek to impose severe restrictions to recreational access in Waterdog Open Space. Help us keep our recreational resources open to all!

Cross Country Runners at Crystal Springs

Heat 2 is off” by Malcolm Slaney is licensed under CC BY 2.0


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