Vora Pong Nimnual sent the following note to CTN: “As an editor or a reporter, I thought you have the responsibility to tell both sides of the story. However, judging by the latest issue of CTN on pickleball, I can see that you’ve already made up your mind on who you will be supporting on this contentious issue. Sadly, our members are outraged and flabbergasted by what appears to be biased and misleading reporting in your newsletter.” (His email in its entirety is printed below the story.)
Nimnual calls himself the Palisades Pickleball ambassador, but according to an April 24 email from Connie Thrasher, the Sector Leader-West for USA Pickleball, “The person in Pacific Palisades is not currently and has not been an ambassador for USAP for over a year. My understanding is the $5 donation he requests (not mandatory) is to cover the cost of the tape, nets and court fees if he has to pay for them. He advised me he worked directly with the park department and received approval to provide services and use court space. I have not verified this as he’s operating independently and has no affiliation with USAP at this time.”
Thresher explained that “Over a year ago USAP required all existing Ambassadors to go through a background check. He declined and his ambassadorship was removed. All new Ambassadors have to go through a background check, or they aren’t considered.”
She said that if he [Nimnual] planned to renew [his ambassadorship], he would have to go through the vetting process which could take several months. “We haven’t received an application from him that I’m aware of. Once he submits, we’ll start the process.”
Pong in his email to CTN said that L.A. City Recreation and Parks promised pickleball players court #7 at the Palisades Rec Center, and would pay $28,000 for striping. The caveat before striping was done that a sound study had to be completed. (See CTN’s story September 2022 https://www.circlingthenews.com/pickleball-court-striping-goes-before-rap-commissioners/)
CTN happened to be at court 7 and 8, when the “unofficial” sound study was done. In attendance were West Region RAP Superintendent Sonya Young Jimenez, Palisades Park Advisory Board member Lynn Hylen, Rec Center director Jasmine Dowlatshahi and two guys with a machine that was supposed to measure noise.
CTN asked if the pickleball players were going to come down and play, so an accurate reading could be done. CTN asked if the “audio” recorder was going to be placed in the adjoining neighbor’s yard to get a reading there. Neither were done.
Then Rec and Parks, which does not have a pickleball policy and is aware of the numerous pickleball noise lawsuits across the country, decided the City department should have a policy in place before they went ahead with implementation of courts in residential areas. There are pickleball courts in Westchester and at John Adams Middle School in Santa Monica, but neither are near residential areas. Rustic Canyon had one pickleball event and does not have weekly or daily play.
Here’s the California State Government Code Section 65302g that mandates that noise elements be included as a part of city general plans and that cities adopt comprehensive noise ordinances. To read the department of City Planning noise element (visit: https://planning.lacity.org/odocument/b49a8631-19b2-4477-8c7f-08b48093cddd/Noise_Element.pdfis).
According to the standards adopted by Los Angeles in 1975, “The noise element applies to the city as a whole.”
That means there are no exceptions for loud noises at parks.
In addition to the noise ordinance, Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 41 contains several disturbance of the peace provisions that are enforced by the police department. These include regulation of noise from theaters, construction activities, devices used to emit music, miniature golf courses (including unduly loud talking) and “loud and raucous” noise, including intentional noise making.
Several pickleball players wrote to CTN that people who live by the park should be prepared to deal with noise. “Sixty or so people want to play pickleball every weekend. . . .Those who buy houses right next to a well-used public park cannot fairly object to daytime use of that park because they just don’t like it. They do not deserve a veto, no matter how loudly they complain.”
The law does not agree with that sentiment. The Department of City Planning Noise Element states: “Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 63.44 regulates use of recreation and parks department facilities. Park rangers and other recreation and parks department staff enforce regulations that include restrictions on use of sound amplification systems within parks and regulation of concert uses of park facilities. In addition, the recreation and parks department designs its facilities, locates activities within park sites, enforces park use hours and has operational policies for individual sites that are intended to minimize potential noise and activity impacts on surrounding neighborhoods.”
Now, the Palisades Tennis Center is trying to help by providing pickleball players with an alternative. Starting May 15, pickleball will operate with two 90-minute sessions from 11:30 to 1 p.m. and from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on courts 1 and 3. The price is $15 for a 90-minute session. If one buys a package of 10 sessions, the price goes down to $100.
For those who have previously played pickleball with the Palisades group they will offer a 50 percent discount, so the first 10 sessions will be $50 (and if you help tape, you will get a free session).
The initial session will run from May 15 through June 9 (no play on Memorial Day). Registration will be through an APP Mind/Body and the tennis center will assist those who need help in registering.
Previously, Pong has been collecting $5 from each player, but not everyone pays. The money Pong collected has not gone back to the park, but he said it helps cover the cost of balls, paddles and tape.
A reader wrote, “The $5 donation as stated above is totally voluntary. Let it be said, many of the participants do not donate even $5 per session. And turnout maxes at 40-50 (frequently less) depending on weather or other factors. So, the gross dollar intake is much lower than stated in the article. This article mentioned that it only costs $12 to rent a court for an hour. Our group rents two courts for up to five hours and again there is the ongoing costs of nets, balls, paddles, water, etc.”
At the last PAB meeting, it was noted that the Rec Center will continue indoor pickleball play on Mondays and Fridays. It was unclear if the cost will still be $5, and will that money go to Pong or to the Park?
Once tennis courts 1 and 3 are open for play, the Park will shut down weekend play on courts 7 and 8, which are in the “backyards” of two homes.
Pickleball players have said they have a permit to play on courts 7 and 8—that the reservation is made through the City.
One reader wrote: “When one makes an online reservation for one of the tennis courts there is a query that asks for the purpose of the reservation. The reservation process is quite automated. In other words, I wouldn’t assume a person checks the response, so to conclude that the City was aware that people were going to play pickleball is not necessarily true.
“The rules for the tennis court usage on the City website continue to make clear that tennis courts are for tennis: no more than four people on the court; equipment limited to tennis balls and rackets; no lessons. There are some designated parks where pickleball can be played. To my knowledge Pacific Palisades is not listed as one of them.”
If a pickleball organizer has reserved courts 7 and 8 for five hours at $12 an hour and between 50 and 60 people are on the courts, that breaks the rule of no more than four people on the court.
A pickleball player wrote: “Please allow Pong to continue his role as the ambassador and organizer of Palisades pickleball play. He makes sure that everyone knows when and where the games are, when they are canceled, and that everyone plays and follows the rules, etc., etc. We would not have such a large and enthusiastic group of pickleballers without Pong.”
(Editor’s note: Below is Pong’s May 7 email to CTN. It has not been edited.)
This is in response to your latest Circling the News online article on us
As an editor or a reporter, I thought you have the responsibility to tell both sides of the story. However, judging by the latest issue of CTN on pickleball, I can see that you’ve already made up your mind on who you will be supporting on this contentious issue. Sadly, our members are outraged and flabbergasted by what appears to be biased and misleading reporting in your newsletter. Don’t get me wrong, most of the things you said in this article are true. However, you’ve managed to include facts that only support one side of the story. Specifically, you have omitted important facts and misrepresented others. We are not trying to change your personal opinions, or perhaps your bias against us. The surging popularity and community engagement in our sport speaks for itself. However, as a reporter you do have a basic responsibility to report the facts correctly, and refrain from omitting facts that mislead the public.
Sue, we did not put us here. RAP & PRC put us here by leading us on and making us believe that they are still planning to paint pickleball court line on tennis court #7. Here are solid proof:
- In July 2022 – An email reply from Sonya Young Jimenez, Superintendent of Venice Beach and West Region of RAP to our spokesperson, Kane Phelps:
- In September 2022 – RAP officially approved funding of $14,000 for a project scope to replace the windscreens, resurface the tennis courts, and paint hybrid pickleball lines onto the tennis court surface (court # 7). https://www.laparks.org/sites/default/files/pdf/commissioner/2022/sep15/22-251.pdf
- Also in September 2022 – RAP Commissioners approved a motion to perform a sound test with Pickleball equipment at the site.
- In January 2023 PAB meeting – PRC was still planning for an “official” noise study to be conducted. https://www.laparks.org/sites/default/files/pdf/PAB_agendas/2023/Jan/PAB%20Jan%202023%20Agenda.pdf
- Also in January 2023 – Another email reply from Sonya.
We are not against noise study. We are all for it. In fact, PRC conducted an “unofficial” noise study in October 2022 and we are still waiting to hear any results. RAP or PRC is supposed to conduct an “official” noise study but, according to them, it is going to cost $10K. Really? How ridiculous is that?
And lastly let me debunk a couple of myths (in italics) from your article:
- Why doesn’t Rustic Canyon carry pickleball? FALSE – Because we have played there before and LevelUp Pickleball just had a clinic there last January 2023.
- Why don’t tennis courts in the Highlands carry pickleball? FALSE – Both the Summit at Palisades Highlands and the Santa Ynez Recreation also in the Highlands have pickleball.
Sue, I could have put all these in the comment box at the end of your online article but I’m afraid you simply are not going to post it and make it public. Thank you for continuing to report important issues affecting the livelihood of people of Pacific Palisades and bringing them to life. We trust that you will proceed to report the facts in a non-biased manner and report the necessary corrections. Please keep up the good work and, last but not least, here’s is our Change online petition which garnered over 600 signatures. Please let me know if you still have any questions as I can back up anything I said in writing. Thanks again for keeping an open dialogue and I apologize for being blunt. Take care.
Vora PONG Nimnual
USAPA Ambassador – Pacific Palisades
Culver City, CA 90230
Pickleball is a wonderful and exciting sport for many of us in the Palisades. Change is hard for many but I would hope that we can accommodate a new sport that many enjoy. I have played with this group many times. The tennis courts are not fully utilized and the pickleball players are exercising and having a lot of healthy fun. Let’s find a way for all to enjoy our public emenities and not be searching ways for to exclude people who are just regular exercise and enjoying life
I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, but I am told that one of the Rec Centers in the Highlands installed a sound barrier around a tennis court before it allowed pickleball to be played there.
I have been following the claims and demands of the pickleball players as represented by Pong. I initially found several things stated to be untrue, including that no one had objected to pickleball on the tennis courts. It’s now hard for me to believe any subsequent claims of what was promised, where pickle ball is being played, etc.
Perhaps local pickleball players need to select a different representative going forward. I do not live adjacent to the park, but I am entirely sympathetic to any homeowner who does not want pickleball played near their residence. The aggressive attitude expressed that it is just too bad for these homeowners seems quite unreasonable to me. The homeowners are not objecting to tennis players and other park users. Pickleball is a very, very noisy sport, and it would help if pickleball representatives were more polite and willing to acknowledge that fact.
As I have said before, tennis really cannot be played on a court next to pickleball players, so the use of one court really eliminates two court for tennis. That would leave only two courts for public tennis. The courts, which years ago were in part paid for by tennis players, were built for tennis and not noisy, large group activities.
The offer to play on Courts 1 and 2 should be satisfactory if it won’t bother nearby residences. Playing inside the gym also seems a reasonable option. I find the tone of the continued demands does not serve to advance the pickleball cause.
“Coming to the nuisance” has not been a viable defense in California to a nuisance claim for almost one hundred years, so the Pickleball players are on the wrong side of the law when they say that neighbors have no rights. The residents who abut the park are entitled to the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their property—it is a state law. These homes are all zoned “R1” which prescribes an ambient daytime noise level of up to 50 dB at their property lines. More than a 5 dB uptick is considered a violation. Pickleball impacts and crowd noise far exceed that. The park has obviously realized they will be subject to nuisance litigation if these noise levels continue. This is said by someone who loves Pickleball.