The Palisades Park Advisory Board held its quarterly meeting on October 19 via zoom, and it did not disappoint for controversy.
Accusations from residents, which were not confined to public comment, flew throughout the meeting, which covered trees, grills, noise and light – but not pickleball.
Palisades Recreation Director Jasmine Dowlatshahi announced at the beginning of the meeting that a sound check would be done on tennis court #8 on Friday morning to ensure that if that court were to be turned over for pickleball players, there would be no noise issues. She also said that staff was complaining that the gym floors were being damaged by pickleball users.
PLAYGROUND AND RESTROOMS:
It was noted there is no shade on the playground since the tree next to it fell over last year. The playground is not ADA compliant. In July the PAB, an advisory board to Rec and Parks, sent a letter to Jimmy Kim, RAP acting general manager that “the condition of our ADA noncompliant playground and bathrooms are dangerous and unsuited to the standards of the L.A. City Department of Recreation and Parks.”
It was suggested that perhaps a shade structure could be placed above the playground, but a parent pointed out that the sand was dirty and needed to be cleaned, too.
The board was told by Los Angeles Rec and Parks Superintendent Sonya Young-Jimenez that “a lot of parks have to fund for themselves.”
PAB member Maryam Zar asked, “When was the last time money was allocated to 90272?”
PAB member Rick McGeagh explained that money had been raised for the Field of Dreams, the staircase to the Field of Dreams and for the bocce courts. “We’ve done more than our fair share of raising money,” he said, and noted that the “restrooms are a huge liability for the city.”
Then the meeting heated up with talk of the six grills located in Veterans Gardens: the closest is within 35 feet of neighbors’ backyards.
Pacific Palisades is located in the very high fire severity zone. The grills already must remain closed between April and November.
Neighbors said that even though the grills are closed, there are still fires in the park during those months.
Resident Rob Weber, whose house is next to the park said, “a couple of weeks ago, three food vendors, one with a gas grill, set up right on the property lines.”
PAB members were told that for some birthday parties, taco vendors would bring in their own grills. “We see gas and wood flames along our fence line,” Weber said. “We understand there are going to be activities, but there are rules that should be followed by people who use the park.”
PAB members agreed that cooking should not be allowed in the park by vendors and the statement “no cooking/flames” needed to be clear in the permits issued. Food trucks on the parking lot were determined to be safe.
Neighbors have complained that when the grills, located in the park have the padlocks removed from November 1 through April 30, that teens and homeless use them after hours. They say fires, which are not regulated, can pose a threat to their homes, especially during wind events.
Neighbors asked PAB to have grills remain closed year-round.
In a February 2020 email obtained by CTN, Erich Haas, who was the Palisades Recreation director at the time, wrote to neighbors:
1) The operational times of the grills will be dependent on the time of the picnic permit which is approved by me. Historically, picnic permit applications usually go for about two to three hours. Time of day can vary dependent on which day of the week and the times they are requesting. As I explained to a resident at our meeting last week, the idea of keeping the grills locked when not on an approved permit was a very good idea and one, I felt could be implemented without much push back.
2) Use of all park picnic areas are by permit only. If they state they will be grilling, a staff will go and unlock the grill when the permit begins, periodically monitor the area throughout the permitted time and when the permit is over will ensure the fire is out and re lock the grill.
But at this meeting, Veterans Gardens developer/builder Bill McGregor said, “These grills are as high quality as money can buy,” and argued they should be unlocked starting November 1. “The comments from the neighbors are gross exaggeration.”
The park was asked if there was a hose or fire extinguisher close to the grills. “No,” was the answer. Incoming PAB President Andy Starrels asked about other parks, “Does Crestwood Park have grills?”
“No,” said Sonia Young-Jimenez, superintendent of Los Angeles Rec and Parks. The Crestwood Hills Recreation Center is located off Kenter in Brentwood, in a wildland-urban interface area.
The PAB voted that the grills should remain closed from November to April, unless someone had a permit, or someone went to the office to ask to use it. It was also noted that a fire extinguisher should be on site if grills are being used.
CTN contacted LAFD Station 69 Fire Chief Thomas Kitahata and asked him to look at the grills. If CTN has a response from the Captain, the story will be updated.
(In subsequent stories, CTN will report on other PAB topics: trees, noise, lights and bocce.)