School officials and parents on Wednesday made their case to Senior Planner Roger Kiesel, who presided over the hearing for the possible variance.
"Asphalt, although it is easier surface to keep and maintain, it is a very unsafe surface for the kids to play on," parent Christopher Lau said. "We do need to have that cushion and that textured surface, which does serve multiple purposes. One is it's good for play and socialization for the children, and also it's a safe surface in case they do fall."
Lau's son broke two teeth when he fell off the playground and landed on the pavement, he added. His daughter also broke her elbow and wrist when hitting the asphalt.
Landscaper Jon Pride, who applied for the variance on behalf of the school, said the playground's current surface is unsafe and repaving wouldn't be conducive to the school's mission.
The artificial turf, he said, is only visible to one neighbor, who has a second-story view of the playground.
Using grass in the playground would be expensive to maintain and require tons of water, Pride said.
While installing the turf would initially be costly, it can last up to 20 years, he said. The permeable turf could also be installed to allow moisture to pass through to nearby trees.
"It's something that is really needed," the school's principal, Glen Baker, said. "We have a real desire to improve the play facility for our children. Even though we do everything we can to make sure the students are safe, asphalt is not a very forgiving substance to fall on."
City Planner Christopher Baxter recommended that Kiesel approve the artificial turf because while the school is in a residential zone, it is not a single-family home.
Allowing the turf in a playground, he said, would not flout the ordinance.
The artificial turf would also make the playground area safer for students, Baxter added.
"Kids got to get out and play," Baxter said.
A decision on the school's application will be announced in coming weeks.