Nearby Park Neighbors under Attack: Resident Being Scapegoated

Bocce players were using decorative lighting to play after dark, which is illegal. The lights were turned off, but that didn’t stop players from accessing the courts when the park was closed.

They strapped on headlamps in order to see in the dark, they used a cellphone flashlight to help guide them through the pitch-black night. Were they coal miners? Were they environmentalists trying to tally wild animals?

No, they were illegal bocce players at the Palisades Recreation Center. According to Rec and Parks spokesperson Rose Watkins, the park closes at dusk. There are no lights at the bocce courts for nighttime play and never have been. There had been safety lighting installed to illuminate the outline of the courts to prevent someone accidentally tripping.  According to Watkins play after dusk is not permitted and has never been permitted.

That has not stopped the rumor mill from blaming a neighbor for having the lights removed.

Bocce after dark is forbidden by the park, but people ignore the rules. In this case they used headlamps and a cellphone flashlight.

At the Park Advisory Board meeting on October 19, venom was directed toward a neighbor of the park.

Instead of trying to mediate and find a solution, one PAB board member suggested that because the neighbor is adjacent to the park, concerns about open flames, alcohol, after-hours activities, unpermitted activities, noise and trees were not important because “when you live near a park you have to expect noise.”

Neighbor Rob Weber said “We live near the park, and we understand there’s going to be noise. But there are regulations and ordinances with a park, and they are ignored. If there are regulations enforce them.

“There is no amplified sound: amplified sound is not allowed, but now there’s an exception for devices that run off blue tooth devices,” he said.

Palisades Recreation Center Director Jasmine Dowlatshahi, said, “We have regulations, but they don’t apply to special events.”

Park residents said there used to be a few special events, but now it seems like events are nonstop.

Weber said, “I do expect that municipal regulations concerning the noise, light and off-leash dogs that have been on the books for decades will be enforced.

The bocce courts abut a neighbor’s property line.

Circling the News asked RAP’s Watkins for the rules:

  • No alcohol is allowed in the park. Those who are drinking while playing bocce, are doing it illegally. Likewise, the parents who bring alcohol to little league baseball games are in violation of the law.
  • If a resident plans to hold a birthday party or other event in the park, the resident needs to apply and pay for a permit. If one does not have a permit, one may be asked to leave.
  • There are no open flames in the park (and once again, the rumor mill has blamed the neighbor for the grills being closed). Grills are closed, per state fire orders from April through November 1, because Pacific Palisades is in a very high fire severity zone. There were issues with homeless and youth using the grills after hours. Because there was no enforcement by the city, the grills are now locked. Residents who want to cook a burger can go to the park office to have it unlocked during prescribed months.
  • The trees in the park have not been watered and are not pruned on a regular basis. That led one diseased eucalyptus needing to be removed and a second one trimmed severely. A resident who lives near the park, who had been worried about the tree, contacted an outside arborist, who sent his recommendation to the City of L.A., which eventually agreed the tree needed to be removed. Contrary to rumors the tree was not chopped down because the resident didn’t like the droppings in the yard.

People should realize that eucalyptus trees can drop limbs if they lack water and even the trees next to the bocce court should be monitored, according to an arborist that CTN spoke to.

As far as adding trees to the bocce area, CTN reached out to the landscape architect Pamela Burton Company, who designed the area. There are no trees in the original design and Burton was asked if that was intentional. If CTN receives a response, we’ll update the story.

  • Electric blowers are allowed in the park. CTN also spoke to the landscaping company that said they “blow” the area at least twice a week. But CTN has obtained photos of at least five different residents using blowers on the courts in addition to the maintenance crew.

Park Advisory Board Member Maryam Zar, who was running the Zoom meeting, instead of PAB President Mike Skinner, allowed other residents to attack one resident in particular.

One man claimed a resident had wrecked the bocce court. He asked the PAB Board how much it cost to build the area and was told $1 million. He then told the neighbor they would have to pay a million.

Another woman claimed that the neighbor had sprayed water on her purse and wrecked it—and that the neighbor was spraying bocce members.

Yet, another woman said that the neighbor was playing music that was vulgar and blasting it on the courts.

One woman during public comment said that when she moved near Palisades High School, she expected noise and would never ask for accommodations and that this park neighbor should understand that and “suck it up.”

That “high-school” neighbor failed to mention that when the park resident purchased the house, the area was for picnics. Bocce court construction started in 2019 and was done without a conditional use permit. A hearing for a CUP might have forestalled the noise complaints, had a sound wall or other measures been taken.

Watkins was also asked how the project was approved without a permit – according to Section 12.23U.19 (Public Game Court), one is required.

When she responds, we’ll update the story.

Zar called out the neighbor’s name several times during the meeting. One would hope Zar’s intent would be to allow the residents to respond to the accusations, but the neighbor was called away from the meeting.

CTN contacted Jimmy Dunne, who heads the Palisades bocce league and asked, “One player said the courts are damaged. How are the courts damaged?”

Dunne responded, “The courts aren’t damaged. They’re fantastic. We have to replace some of the strings of the in-court lights and a few other odds and ends, but that’s normal and regular maintenance issues.”

He was asked if the courts had been vandalized and if a police report had been filed. “They’ve never been vandalized,” Dunne said.

He was told that someone in the meeting said there was water damage. Dunne was asked, how it happened and if it had ever been reported.

Dunne said, “There is no water damage. When there are heavy rains, it marks the courts – but that’s all normal and regular. The courts are world-class courts with the best surface possible.

“If you focus a story on how the woman and her husband are physically damaging the courts, you’re missing the story,” he said. “The bocce courts are just fine.

“The story is about a community of so many senior citizens and so many Palisadians outraged by the continuing, relentless behavior to maliciously harass the seniors and players on the bocce courts,” Dunne said. They’re doing it by playing loud, obnoxious, obscene music with speakers against their fence pointed to the bocce courts; by playing loud, ‘white noise,’ by playing the sound of ‘house alarms;’ and by squirting players with water over their fence and onto the players on the courts.”

CTN received no video or photographic evidence to support Dunne’s statement.

CTN contacted the neighbors, who deny spraying water, and say they play music to drown out the sounds that fill their back yard. The neighbors say that the noise from nonstop leaf blowers make remote work difficult.

Additionally, three different women, bocce players, have taken it upon themselves to threaten the neighbor, leaving messages in her mailbox, calling her, trying to find out where her children go to school and posting on Nextdoor. The women have even posted a photo of the neighbor’s house online. Those actions are prohibited by California cyber bullying laws.

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3 Responses to Nearby Park Neighbors under Attack: Resident Being Scapegoated

  1. Danielle says:

    The bocce league is one of the most wholesome and neighborly groups in the Palisades. At 44, I’m far and away one of the youngest members. I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many different neighbors, some twice my age! The matches are filled with friendly competition and good cheer–congratulating opponents on a nice throw or victory. Music is never blasting, never offensive. The sounds are of people cheering for both teammates and opponents, enjoying picnics, chatting with neighbors.

    On one occasion, our opponents were short players and were going to have to forfeit the match. Instead our children played for their team and had a blast. Everyone was supportive, encouraging and both teams had a great time. Jimmy Dunne has done an amazing job bringing together young and old to create a truly enjoyable league.

  2. Pasquale Formaggio says:

    Can’t we all just get along. Isn’t there enough anger and animosity in the world. Does Bocce has now become a contact sport with water hosings, noise pollution and outing neighbors addresses.
    Common courtesies have now been replaced with needed permits, picnic laws, and cyber bullying and park vigilanties.
    Really? Even here in Pacific Palisades paradise, devils lurk in clandestine forms.
    I thinks I’ll crawl back under my bed, and wait it out

  3. Sue says:

    Danielle,
    Bocce is about building community, which is why its so disappointing that some members don’t feel all Palisades residents deserve equal respect.

    Sue

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