Neighbors lobby to prevent games at Trancas Canyon Park

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West Malibu residents outraged over last month’s vote by the Parks and Recreation Commission in favor of league play on the proposed Trancas Canyon Park are urging the City Council to reject the advice. At least two council members say they plan to do that.

The 3-1 vote on April 17 came as a shock to many residents living near the 13.5-acre park site off Trancas Canyon Road. They believe city officials made it clear during the planning process that league games would never be held in the park. The residents say the small park could not accommodate league play and would create traffic, safety, noise and overuse problems.

The residents are supported by at least Mayor Pro Tem Andy Stern and Councilmember Sharon Barovsky. Stern said this week the residents were originally promised no league play, and he “couldn’t care less” about how the Parks and Recreation Commission voted. Barovsky made similar comments during a council meeting last week.

“It would be disgraceful to the residents if the city changed its mind,” Stern said. “I’m utterly opposed to league play.”

But supporters of league play say due to a lack of recreational facilities in the city, using Trancas Canyon Park for games could alleviate some of the congestion at Bluffs Park.

“The people of Malibu West don’t want active playing,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Doug O’Brien, who voted in favor of no use limitations at the park. “They want to spend a lot of community money for a private park for them. The money is coming out of the pockets of the people.”

O’Brien added, “The City has not built one athletic field since it became a city in 1991. There are no playing fields here. Kids have to have a place to play.”

Commissioner Paul Spiegel was absent from the meeting and did not vote. Commissioner Dermot Stoker was the only commissioner who voted against no use limitations.

The Draft Environmental Impact Report for the park was released earlier this year. It is available on the city’s Web site and at City Hall and the library for review. Comments must be submitted to the city by May 19.

The site is also proposed for a dog park, children’s play area, group picnic facilities and a walk/jog path. The council is expected to vote on the final park proposal and the DEIR in late June or early July. But Stern wants to bring the issue of park use before the council for a vote earlier than that.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department began to develop plans for the property after the municipal acquisition in 2003. In August of last year, more than 50 residents met at Malibu High School to discuss plans for the park. They divided into groups and voted on their preferences of three proposals. The residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of what was called Plan B. This design was then presented before the Parks and Recreation Commission and later the City Council. Both government bodies supported the design, although this was not a final approval.

Scott Tallal, president of the Trancas Highlands Homeowners Association, said at the meetings that citizens questioned why the blueprint plans included 64 parking spaces if there would not to be games at the park, as they were told. Their concerns were brushed aside. “[The city officials said], ‘Don’t worry, there will never be organized league play at this field. You don’t have to worry about all the traffic or the noise from having organized league play,'” Tallal said.

While a Trancas Canyon Park fact sheet from the Parks and Recreation Department states the multiuse sports field will be used primarily for practice and will lack backstops and goals, the DEIR mentions the ramifications on weekends from increased traffic due to AYSO soccer games and suggests the limitation of use on the fields as an “alternative,” not a principal.

Justine Petretti is the president of the Friends of Trancas Canyon Park Association, a group of roughly 300 park supporters she started two and half years ago. She said residents would never have favored the park if they knew there would be no use restrictions. She worries that if games are allowed, more money will be needed to expand the park, which could mean a lengthy process.

“If they redo it, redesign it and raise the money to support it, it would take years,” Petretti said. “If that happens, my kids will be in college [by the time the park is finished].”

Petretti has actively pursued a letter writing campaign to encourage council members to turn down the commission’s recommendation. Petretti said, based on communication with Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich, she believes the mayor wants a park with league play, and she hopes enough council members feel differently. Conley Ulich did not immediately return a call for comment on Tuesday.