“Unfriendly” Opposition to an Entrance Gate into Potrero Canyon Park

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Some Friends residents object to the small gate that will provide entrance to the George Wolfberg Park at Potrero.

Several residents are waging a battle against an entrance gate, under construction off Friends Street, that will allow hikers to enter the George Wolfberg Park at Potrero Canyon, once it is opened.

Three Palisades residents made public comments during the Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners meeting on February 3, arguing that  a public hearing about the gate/pathway should be held, and that an EIR and a traffic study are needed for this area on the west rim of the canyon.

In a January 27 letter in the Palisadian-Post, Chris Spitz (the Community Council secretary and chair emeritus, writing in her capacity as a resident on Friends), objected that “City officials have told residents that 1) the park’s south entrance leading to PCH and the beach will be closed at the park’s opening and 2) a new entrance from Friends Street will be open.”

For people who have recently moved to Pacific Palisades or who live outside of the area: The City has been trying to construct a park in Potrero Canyon since the 1960s. After numerous homes slid into the canyon, the city paid homeowners for their property and ended up with 33 lots. The City’s infill and construction costs so far have exceeded $50 million (though nobody really knows the actual cost), and the park is still not completed.

The Potrero Canyon Community Advisory Committee was formed in 2005 to help the City plan the park. The Post covered every public meeting, and its articles noted that there was a wide range of opinions among residents what the uses should be and what entrances should exist.

A May 2006 Post story (“Locals Reject Potrero Plan”) spoke of the difficulties of reaching consensus.

“A crowd of almost 200 attended last Wednesday’s workshop on the proposed park for Potrero Canyon, held at the old gymnasium on Alma Real,” the article began, and Vice Chair David Card explained had a subcommittee had examined park access points to “provide easier access for residents and emergency personnel,” and to encourage “more eyes and ears to watch and protect the canyon.”

At the meeting, four access routes on the west rim were discussed, including two from De Pauw, one from Earlham and another from Friends.

Some residents attacked the committee asking, “Why do we even need the park? The canyon is fine the way it is.” The story then reported that “Friends Street resident Chris Spitz called west rim access a disaster.”

So, yes, even though not everyone was in agreement with west rim access, potential entry points were  discussed. The PCCAC’s final report did not discuss a west rim entrance into Potrero but did note that “No new walkway/stairway easements for West Rim public access. The existing status quo will prevail, though this issue may be considered again much later in the process of lot sales and park construction if there is public support.”

The term “status quo” referred to the fact that for years, residents had been accessing the park/construction area from Friends—and once a fence was placed around the area, there were always holes cut in the fence, allowing people to enter (usually accompanied by a dog).

The late Ted Mackie was famous for cutting the fence so that residents who did not live on the rim could enjoy the canyon with their dogs.

Spitz is correct that the Potrero advisory committee has not officially met since 2008, but the gate at the “NEW Friends Street entrance” is not a new proposal.

Also, there’s no plan to close the PCH entrance hikers and bikers. The state has approved $11 million for a pedestrian bridge between Potrero and the Will Rogers State Beach parking lot, and the City and Caltrans are currently discussing the proposed trail along PCH from Potrero to Temescal.

This was reported at the January 17 PCH Task Force meeting, attended by Community Council President David Card. He relayed that information to the Palisades Park Advisory Committee and also to the PPCC, of which Spitz is the secretary.

Spitz wrote in her letter to the Post, “The Coastal Act requires projects in the coastal zone to provide ‘maximum access’ to the coast. The Coastal Commission clearly required that this park–a regional park that is expected to be visited by thousands of people from far and wide–preserve coastal access.”

That’s certainly true, and that’s why there needs to be three entrances to Potrero: one at the Recreation Center, one down at PCH and one at Friends Street.

It seems that the brouhaha could be summed up: “We don’t want a gate, then, now or ever,” and “no, we’re not NIMBYS, we’re concerned residents.”

Friends Street is adjacent to the George Wolfberg Park at Potrero.

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