Viewpoint–Pickleball Continues to be Contentious

 

Courts seven and eight at the recreation center have had between 50 and 60 people on the court playing pickleball.

After CTN ran a story about the Park Advisory meeting on April 20 (“Park Advisory Board Discusses Off-Leash Dogs, Pickleball, Playground and Restrooms”), this editor has been inundated with more than 60 comments about the value of pickleball and how wonderful Vera Pong Nimnual, a pickleball ambassador, has been.

People said it doesn’t matter if park rules are followed, because the sport is popular and people deserve to play it.

This editor wishes residents felt as passionately about the demise of the wildlife in the Ballona or having a new ADA -handicapped playground installed at the Park (The old one was built in 1986). But it seems “it’s all about me and what I want.”

For informational purposes, the noise element, not popularity, is the reason for limited pickleball at this recreation center.

Sound studies have been done and noise levels, even at a park, have to meet state and federal standards. California State Government Code Section 65302g 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).

The noise problem is not unique in the Palisades, if one googles Pickleball and noise, the number of lawsuits across the nation is staggering. A November 30, 2022, Wall Street Journal carried a story “’It’s Been Awkward.’ Pickleball Is Pitting Neighbor Against Neighbor in Noise-Conscious Communities. Local homeowners’ associations are serving up bans on the sport, despite its growing popularity.”

City officials, officials at the Rec Center and this editor, acknowledge the sport is growing, that the sport is popular and that many senior citizens love it. But this is not about popularity, but about noise regulations and the law.

Why doesn’t Rustic Canyon carry pickleball? Why don’t tennis courts in the Highlands carry pickleball? If this editor had to guess, it’s not about popularity, but about noise.

This editor doesn’t think it’s fair for pickleball players to tell park neighbors to “suck it up” because they knew what they were getting when they moved next to the park. Pickleball is a relatively new phenomenon and was not around when many people bought homes on Alma Real and Frontera.

Just because a resident may be happy playing the sport, does not mean that a Rec Center neighbor signed up to have 50-60 players in their “backyard” every weekend.

I’ve printed many of the comments, but not all, because some are repetitive.

Many had praise for the Palisades organizer Pong. CTN suspects “Pong” sent out an email to all of those signed up (palipickleball.com) and asked them to make their feelings known to CTN.

One wrote “I must give kudos to Pong. He has worked so hard to keep the community playing happily together. When there are a large number of people waiting for an open court, he’ll call out “Nine points per games, no ad!” (The usual 11-point game where you must win by two can last maybe 20 minutes, but at 9-no ad games will rarely reach 15 minutes.) He also makes sure people are aware that protective eyewear is a must, and that hydration is crucial. He plays with beginners in a delightful, instructive way and plays with the top-level players in an amazing display of those pickleball skills we can aspire to. Without his support and genial leadership, I suspect problematic disorganization would ensue. The man is deservedly respected throughout our community.”

The Culver City resident said he is the Pacific Palisades ambassador. CTN contacted USA Pickleball, a nonprofit and the governing body for pickleball and asked how one becomes an ambassador (usapickleball.org).

Connie Thrasher, who is the Sector Leader-West for USA Pickleball, wrote in an April 24 email “The person in Pacific Palisades is not currently and has not been an ambassador for USAP for over a year.”

Thrasher said that more than a year ago, USAP required all existing Ambassadors to go through a background check. He [Pong] declined and his ambassadorship was removed.

“If his intent is to become an ambassador again he will have to reapply and start from scratch. That process will take a couple of months and we go through an entire vetting process,” Thrasher said. “In this case that would include reviewing what is being done at the location, discussing with the parks, local players, etc.”

Pong was asked about the ambassadorship and wrote in a April 24 email “I became inactive because I did not submit a background check in time earlier this year. Can you believe USAP would ask their ambassador volunteer like me who is trying to promote pickleball for them to have to pay for a background check with their own money? . . .I am in the process of doing that so that they can reinstate me.”

Thrasher said, “USAP uses a company that does background checks for government agencies, so it’s not an issue, but people are cautious.”

Thrasher added, “Due to the incredible growth of pickleball, we see the pressure this is placing on court usage between tennis and pickleball. The noise issue comes into play if it’s close to houses, and there are no restrictions for days/hours put in place.”

On Courts 7 and 8 in Pacific Palisades, which is in the “backyard” of two homes off Alma Real, groups of 50-60 people play. One person receives a reservation to play on the tennis court, but there is no permit for a gathering of that many people.

And if noise is no issue for pickleball players, I’m sure those players will be advocates for a skate park.

From an August 29, 2019, Palisadian-Post article about PAB discussing a skate park proposal: “Superintendent Darryl Ford of RAP pointed out that “location is probably the most important thing to think about when we’re thinking about a skatepark.”  Ford said to keep three aspects in mind: security, use, and, most importantly, the noise. “That lower picnic area…that whole area is surrounded by homes,” Director Erich Haas said.  “I can tell you right now those homeowners are not going to go for that.”

 

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2 Responses to Viewpoint–Pickleball Continues to be Contentious

  1. Traci Mars says:

    I am at a loss for words. I can’t even respond. Please keep this small amount of time for pickleball alive at our park. It is the best thing that has happened to our community for so many years. I have the contact for the ambassador for Santa Monica that will support Pong. Please keep an open mind!

  2. Bruce Brough says:

    Pickleball perspective:
    I am reminded of Marvin Braude’s effort to establish a bicycle path along the beach front. In the beginning there seemed to be an exclusive for “bikes only”. It evolved into “share the path” to include skateboarders, joggers and walkers. If everyone accepts and understands the idea to share space for exercise and make some minimum amount of compromise for this rapidly growing sport, perhaps we can recognize the need to accommodate Pickleball, that so many people find physically and socially satisfying, here in the Palisades?

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