Crowd tells city, state: ‘We want more ballfields’


In an indication of the city’s burgeoning needs for ballfields, parks and recreation facilities, as well as the start of next April’s City Council election, nearly 90 people, just under fire code limits at the Michael Landon Center at Bluffs Park, attended a city public workshop last week on creating a Park Master Plan.

In spite of fears that summer vacations would decimate attendance, four out of five City Council members, four out of five city Parks and Recreation commissioners, representatives of Little League, soccer and equestrian organizations, service clubs, and the business community, as well as two senior state officials, gathered to hear what the city is doing in light of the state’s intention to reclaim the park when the current lease expires, in 2002.

Introducing representatives of the city’s urban design consultants to the audience, which included state Parks and Recreation department sector superintendent Hayden Sohm and state Sen. Tom Hayden’s constituent services director Ann Hiller, Mayor Walt Keller emphasized that the Master Plan, which the consultant, Takata Associates, is preparing, is just one way the city is dealing with the overwhelming demand for parks and recreation facilities.

Referring to his response to a letter Hayden wrote Gov. Gray Davis last month lambasting the city for not choosing new sites, Keller said the city is looking and negotiating for more playing fields but there is not much affordable, sizable flat land available. The city has no desire to take Bluffs Park away; it simply wishes to continue operating ballfields on eight of the 93 acres of property, Keller said. [See chart list of existing facilities below.]

Bluffs Park is used by residents of the local, national and international communities, Keller noted. Moreover, the city spends large sums to operate the park and a visitor center. Former resident Pierce Brosnan donated a Whale Watching Station, and local residents were prevented by State Parks from using funds they raised to build a toddler park.

Underscoring residents’ fears of losing scarce playing fields and anger at the City Council for not selecting new sites, as enunciated in a letter by state Sen. Tom Hayden to Gov. Gray Davis published last month in The Malibu Times, representatives of a the park advocacy group PARCS (People Achieving Recreation and Community Services) buttonholed Hiller after the meeting to say the City Council had not told them the state had been reminding the city since October 1997 of its intention to reclaim Bluffs Park.

Showing Hiller the community needs assessment survey PARCS recently presented to the city, PARCS representatives Laureen Sills, Kristin Reynolds and Patricia Greenwood (chair of the city Parks and Recreation Commission) asked, “Can we begin a discussion now?” Sills, who raised more than $8,000 in four years from the sales of a musical tape she produced featuring Beach Boys, Mamas & Papas and Paul Simon songs, represents the local residents who were prevented from building the toddler park Keller was referring to.

The public workshop was the first of two planned for Takata’s investigation phase in preparing a Park Master Plan.