At the Palisades Recreation Center Park Advisory Board meeting on March 10, neighbors reported via Zoom that dangerous activities are happening in the park on Friday and Saturday nights.
One resident said that partying is going on at the new Veterans’ Gardens and unsafe driving is being done inside the park, resulting in an accident on February 12.
“There were teenagers partying and they started doing ‘doughnuts’ in cars around the park,” the resident said. “The car flipped. They were lucky no one was killed. We reported it to the LAPD.”
Neighbors also expressed concerns about the growing number of people in the park after hours. Their homes back up against Veterans’ Gardens and the tennis courts and they’ve had conversations with some of the people who are there late on the weekends.
“People are coming in from other places, not just the neighborhood,” said one resident, noting that there had been other illegal activities in the park, such as starting fires and an apparent drug overdose.
Acting park director Christopher Wilson said that the Rec Center remains closed (because of Covid) and that the staff leaves at 6 p.m. “It’s a police matter,” he said.
Several suggestions were made, including calling the police whenever there is partying or any kind of disturbance in the park. “It will create a log and once there are accumulated entries, focus will be on that area,” said one resident.
Unfortunately, the LAPD budget has been cut, meaning there are fewer police responding to reported incidents. And thanks to a hiring freeze, Captain Jonathon Tom has not been able to hire a permanent senior lead officer following Michael Moore’s retirement.
A day after the PAB meeting, Vice Chair Bob Harter sent a letter to the temporary SLO, Jae Lee. He wrote:
“At last night’s Park Advisory Board meeting, two neighbors adjacent to Veterans’ Gardens reported that teenagers are regularly gathering there on the weekends. These gatherings inevitably turn raucous, often extend past midnight and typically create quite a disturbance. In addition, the Park has been turned into a raceway. Recently, the events turned dangerous when a teenager’s Jeep overturned.
“The neighbors are aware of the importance of reporting all of these occurrences to the police hotline so that the permanent log established by the Department will reflect the extent of the problem. They attended the Park Board meeting to ask for our assistance.
“To address this pressing issue, the Park Board requests that a police car be dispatched to drive through the Palisades Recreation Center on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The appearance of a police car — perhaps at random times — should discourage this unsafe and disturbing behavior.”
Lee quickly responded to Harter’s letter, writing: “I will advise and inform the unit assigned to that area (8A1) to conduct some extra patrol on those days that you’ve mentioned.
“Please also be advised, Officer Perez, Serial No. 41081 will be the new acting Senior Lead Officer for the next 28 days and he can assist you further with any other ongoing issues that you may have.”
Back at the PAB meeting, there was a brief discussion about hiring a private security company. Harder said that “Veterans’ Gardens would be supportive financially.”
Someone also suggested putting up a gate at the parking lot entrance, by the library. The gate would be closed when the park closes. One board member did not think the Fire Department would want a gate on that street—even if they were given a key.
Also on the agenda, the Palisades Americanism Parade Association asked PAB if they would be supportive of possibly setting off fireworks at the Park this coming Fourth of July.
President Matt Rodman said that PAPA’s first choice would be to have its fireworks show at Palisades High School, as has been the tradition for decades, but “We’re not sure what will happen this year. It will depend on where we are in the pandemic.”
He explained that his committee is looking at options – and this includes the park. “A lot of residents would see it from their homes and streets,” he noted.
Although PAB members were generally in favor (though one member worried about food trucks, music and parking in the Huntington Palisades neighborhood), they pointed out that they were only an advisory board, and that the permit would have to come from the L.A. City Department of Rec and Parks.
Regarding other Fourth of July traditions in town (especially the parade), Rodman said, “We’re planning to do everything, but may not be able to do anything.” This will all depend upon receiving permits from the City of L.A.
The agenda included an update on Veterans’ Gardens, but this had to be postponed until the organizers could hear back from the L.A. City Rec and Park Commissioners.
A discussion about lighting at the Rec Center was also on the agenda, but was also postponed because Councilman Mike Bonin’s field deputy, Durrah Wagner, was unable to attend the meeting.
A recognition of Erich Haas, who recently retired after 13 years as director of the Palisades Rec Center, was proposed. The Board will follow up with an appropriate acknowledgement.