Rec & Parks Chief Visits the Palisades
Michael Shull, head of L.A. Recreation and Parks, toured the Palisades Recreation Center on September 5.
Afterwards, along with staffer Ramon Barajas (assistant general manager for planning, maintenance and construction) and Vickie Israel (assistant general manager for partnership and revenue), Shull stayed for the Park Advisory Board (PAB) meeting and took questions from board members and the audience.
The top two projects listed for this park are replacing the playground and fixing the bathrooms. Neither are handicap accessible.
Schull doubts there’s money in the budget to address both, but suggested that if the PAB put together a plan of what they thought was most important, there would be money to start a project.
Many of the men on the board commented that when outside baseball teams come to play at the park, the bathrooms are disgusting and should be fixed first.
Yet others, such as Madeline Hyman, who has been on the board for seven years, said “If we put in a playground, we’ll have it for years. You put in bathrooms and they’ll be disgusting again in two years.”
“Maybe you’d want to think about an event around the playground to pump start it,” Shull said, noting the need to raise additional money for a universally accessible playground.
Shull said that the Department of Recreation and Parks “[has] had moderate growth with the budget,” and has been able to hire 25 new people this year, after hiring 40 new people last year.
In 2007, there were 2,200 full-time workers at RAP, but after the department suffered cutbacks during the recession, it had only 1,200 in 2009. Currently, there are about 1,450 employees.
According to the overview of the approved 2017-18 budget, the RAP budget was $235.6 million, and included $181.7 million from property tax, $7.4 million from the city’s general fund, $9.1 million from golf revenue, $7.2 million from the Harbor Department, $2.8 from the Greek Theater, and $21.2 million from facility and programming fees and concessions.
Shull was asked if the Quimby funds, taken away from the Palisades Rec Center in June 2017, have been returned. (To finance repairs at the Venice Pier, the RAP Board transferred more than $92,000 in designated money from the Palisades Rec Center, $1 million from the Barrington Rec Center and more than $50,000 from Rustic Canyon Rec Center).
“Our response was almost instantaneous, and the money was moved back,” Shull said. “We make mistakes, we’re a big department, our budget is about $250 million a year. Sometimes you overlook something; it’s not intentional.”
Other funding may come to the parks from Measure A, a parcel tax measure that was on the ballot for Los Angeles County in November 2016 to replace expiring funding that had been used for city/county playgrounds and parks. That measure is being litigated by opponents who claim it’s an end run around Proposition 13 because it allows the tax rate to be increased without going back to voters and there is no expiration date on the measure.
Shull is hoping the lawsuit will be settled soon and that by next spring, applicants–such as those who hope to receive funds for a Palisades dog park–will be able to apply.
Shull was asked about the budget at the Palisades Rec Center, since City parks must now pay for their own water and electric bills.
“We used to get general subsidy money from the City to pay utilities,” he said, noting that over the last decade the department has had to learn to budget for water, electricity, gas and trash. Last year, RAP had to pay about $9-10 million for water and about that same amount for electricity.
“It is a unique time with so many funding systems coming back to the park,” said Shull, who noted that there is some increased revenue now that RAP has taken over management of the Greek Theater and golf course driving ranges.
He was asked if a maintenance budget had been submitted for the still uncompleted Potrero Canyon Park.
“The process starts in September/October and a new budget comes out in November,” he said.
Palisades resident Joe Halper, who is now a RAP commissioner and who attended the meeting, said afterwards, “Mike, Vickie and Ramon are extraordinary. I can’t tell you how good we have it by having such dedicated people.”