Ancient, Unsanitary Rec Center Playground Needs to be Replaced

The playground at the Palisades Recreation Center is not handicapped accessible, and the sand is deemed unsanitary.

The playground at the Palisades Rec Center is close to 30 years old. The base of the playground is sand, which serves as a bathroom for feral animals, making it unsanitary and potentially unsafe.

Many Palisades parents send their nannies to the playground, not realizing that the helpers and children often congregate near the bocce courts, where there is shade and picnic tables. Children run up and down the courts, rather than on the playground.

“The resiliency of the current sand surface is not up to the current standards for playground safety and requires daily raking and sanitizing,” Joe Halper told members of the Pacific Palisades Community Council at its meeting on May 25.

Halper was a member of the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Board of Commissioners (RAP) for almost five years and is now the Pacific Palisades Community Council Parks Advisor.

The plan to get a new playground in Pacific Palisades has been ongoing since at least a September 2021 meeting.

Then, there was a discussion at a RAP meeting about a proposed playground replacement for Aiden’s Playground, which was built in Westwood in 2002. General Manager of the Department of Rec and Parks Michael Shull told commissioners: “Ideally, playgrounds should be replaced every 15 years. We’re constantly trying to replace them and do about 25 to 30 playgrounds every year.”

Shull said the reasons for replacing playgrounds is liability and the risks associated with play. “It is our strong commitment to replace playgrounds,” he said, noting that the rubber surfacing is generally the first thing to be replaced and that there are safety and maintenance concerns with sand. “The sand has to be sifted every day by hand,” he said.

CTN contacted Shull after that meeting and he said, “Yes, I stated that we strive to replace playgrounds on regular intervals. I agree that Palisades is in need of replacement. I am going to ask staff to talk with the Palisades PAB [the Park Advisory Board] about this because there was a push to make it a universally accessible playground.” (California Assembly Bill, 1055, required all playgrounds installed between January 1, 1994, and December 31, 1999, be updated by January 2000. This playground, constructed in 1986, never was.)

Shull has retired, and the Palisades playground is now two years older.

Halper told the Community Council that “RAP Assistant General Manager Cathy Santo Domingo has offered to have RAP design and budget for a refurbished playground area if the community was interested in considering raising the funds locally for its redevelopment.”

Halper said the City would not have money to fund the playground. He brought the playground project to Palisades Park Advisory Board President Andy Starrels and PPCC President Miriam Zar.

“Both indicated that they would appreciate RAP’s offer to provide the proposed plan for refurbishment of the playground design as an inclusive facility and consider the possibility of locally funding the project,” Halper said.  “I have since been advised that RAP is currently in the process of engaging a pre-approved planning service for this purpose.”

“In the event PPCC and the PAB propose to initiate a fund-raising effort, Shane’s Inspiration (inclusive playground design), would be available to Pacific Palisades for consulting in the fund-raising effort,” Halper said.

Then a member of the community council cut Halper off and asked why this wasn’t going to PAB?

Halper responded that RAP needed to hear from the community, too.

The PPCC website notes, “The mission of the PPCC is to protect and improve the quality of life in Pacific Palisades, also known as the ‘Community.’ The PPCC is a forum for the consideration of Community issues;  . . .”

The Recreation Center and the Park fall under the mission statement. Why would the PPCC not support a safe playground?

Rather than take kids to the playground at the Palisades Rec Center, nannies let them run up and down the bocce courts, where there is shade and picnic tables.

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