It is a joy to walk through the George Wolfberg Park at Potrero. Ever since it opened on December 10, it has rapidly become a place to meet other residents for a gentle passage in the Canyon – an area that had been closed to the general public for decades.
Resident Gustaf Soderbergh, played a vital role in this park’s opening. Without his help, this park might not have met the parking requirements set forth by the Coastal Commission – and still be closed.
As 2022 draws to a close, CTN would like to acknowledge this Palisadian, who has yet to be recognized for his valuable contribution.
Soderberg’s work stems back to January 2008. That year the Potrero Canyon Citizens Committee presented a plan to the City that endorsed a passive-recreation park that stretched from Frontera to Pacific Coast Highway.
After numerous community meetings and feedback from residents, the committee nixed any additional parking at the bottom of Potrero, which meant that more parking had to be added at the Palisades Recreation Center.
The Coastal Commission asked for an additional 10 to 30 spaces as a condition for constructing the park.
A member of the Park Advisory Board, Soderbergh, the founding principal of Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh, an architecture, planning and urban design company, presented a plan to add 30 parking spaces to satisfy requirements for Potrero.
At a July 2014 Park Advisory Board adopted Soderbergh’s plan that would allow for the increased spaces to be constructed without sacrificing any trees or play areas.
That plan included 17 new spaces configured at the center island in front of the Rec Center building and the remaining spaces to be added by relocating the sidewalk from the library to the playground further west.
Then, Norman Kulla, senior counsel to Councilman Mike Bonin, explained that as part of the Coastal Commission’s Potrero Park conditions, 10 to 30 parking spaces needed to be added in proximity to the park. Kulla felt that the Soderbergh Plan satisfied those that requirement, which means construction money for the parking lot would come from Potrero Park funds.
Initially, some parking spaces were going to be cut into the round island in front of the gym, while allowing the five existing pine trees to stay in place.
Then the prolonged drought and lack of watering resulted in the stone pine trees dying in front of the Rec Center and the trees were cut down in 2016.
This enabled Soderbergh to rethink the island, turning it from more of a circle into a triangle. His updated plan provided additional parking spaces, a sidewalk (with crosswalks), a place for two mature trees, and benches that will offer a safe place for kids to wait for rides, while maintaining a way to “circle” in front of the Rec Center to pick up kids.
The plan added 28 net spaces to the parking lot and Soderbergh worked with L.A. City’s Pedro Garcia, who was overseeing Potrero Canyon construction. Ultimately, it was Soderbergh’s plan that was adopted by the City.
Soderberg found out that Potrero Canyon Park funds would only pay for part of the resurfacing of the parking lot and the addition of the spaces (in his plan) and alerted the PAB Board. In January 2022, the Board said they would send a letter to the City asking for the entire lot to be repaved. That lot has not been paved, yet.
Ultimately, it was Soderbergh’s clever use of space and his plan that allowed the needed parking for the George Wolfberg Park at Potrero Canyon.
(Editor’s note: CTN nominated Soderberg for a Pacific Palisades Community Council Sparkplug. He was a volunteer, who spent years on the Park Advisory Board, and stepped up to construct a parking plan. He then met with city officials to see that it was adopted. One of the qualifications of a sparkplug is having an idea and an effort that results in an original contribution to Pacific Palisades that benefits the community.)