"Parks and Wreck": Reporter's Wide-Open Spaces? 

Also, Palisades residents respond to Weekly's "Rathouse" cover story

Wednesday, Aug 13 2008

Parks Space

Your cover piece “Parks and Wreck: L.A.’s Fight for Public Green Space” [July 18-24] is a misleading and distorted view of the park and recreation situation in Los Angeles. How can it be otherwise when your author failed to even talk to any of the more than 10,000 employees of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks? Instead, you adopted a characterization of all of them as “round-shouldered ticket punchers.” As volunteer commissioners of the Recreation and Parks Department, we are proud to be counted among these devoted civil servants.

Our department administers an enormous range of parks and recreational opportunities, and more than 3 million Angelenos take advantage of them every year. We maintain more than 15,000 acres of parkland with some 400 neighborhood and regional parks, 11 lakes and more than 180 recreation and community centers. The department operates two beaches plus the Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk. Our great Griffith Park, which you list among alleged “detritus,” includes the Observatory, the Greek Theatre, three superb golf courses, the Eques­trian Center, Travel Town, the Zoo, the Autry Museum, the carousel, pony trail rides, the Friend­ship Auditorium and a multitude of other facilities.

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The department has — in addition to its parkland and numerous facilities — programs, classes and activities. In addition to adult classes, sports leagues and the country’s largest municipal golf program, the department is a premier provider of children’s programs. The department serves more than 1,000 children in its afterschool programs and more than 60,000 youths in its sports leagues.

We are aware of our challenges and we work hard to improve and enlarge what we offer the people of Los Angeles. We acknowledge the need for more parkland. We have been working to expand joint-use agreements with the Los Angeles Unified School District, create more neighborhood/pocket parks using surplus city property, and aggressively pursue federal, state and local funding for additional park acquisition. In fact, since July 2004, 18 parks and 394 acres have been added to the city’s park inventory. The city’s plan to add 45 new parks by 2011 is ahead of schedule, with 15 parks added since Mayor Villaraigosa assumed office.

There is a story to tell about our parks — but not the erroneous, insulting picture you present. We would be happy to contribute to any report that fairly and objectively informs the public on the state of our parks, the opportunities for enjoyment and recreation that they offer and the difficulties that are encountered in establishing and maintaining them. You chose not to write such a story.

Barry A. Sanders, Luis Sanchez, Maria Casillas, Candy Spelling, Jonathan WilliamsBoard of Recreation and Parks commissioners

Editor’s Note: Fleischer spoke to many people in L.A.’s Department of Recreation and Parks. In fact, he attended the City Council subcommittee hearing addressing Laura Chick’s Quimby Audit at the suggestion of Rec and Parks spokesperson Jane Kolb, who talked with Fleischer several times and met him at Park Mesa Heights. Others in the department weren’t quoted because they either were afraid to go on the record (we use anonymous sources only when absolutely necessary) or they had little to add to the story.


Ratted Out

As a private citizen and longtime resident of Pacific Palisades, I am appalled by the sensationalized and misleading treatment of the rat-feeding issue at the center of “Rathouse of Pacific Palisades” [Aug. 1-7] . Why read the National Enquirer when I can get it right here: false and unverified informationdiscrediting an organization for the sake of sensationalism. I was present at the October 25, 2007, Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC) board meeting. The board and the public agreed that the conditions described by the Denhams were deplorable. Taves did not mention that the board members and the many guests that evening were shocked at the disclosure of the rats and discussed the issue along with the councilman’s representative in the parking lot outside the library for quite some time after the library closed. Taves did not mention that the city’s Neighborhood Councils were modeled after the PPCC and that the PPCC is self-funded by the residents. Therefore, the $50,000 it would receive annually as a certified council is available for other city services. Taves did not mention that the primary reasons for the PPCC to remain uncertified have nothing to do with money but rather with the continued ability to potentially oppose the city of Los Angeles’ “broken” bureaucracy as well as the ability to negotiate with surrounding communities. Such actions are disallowed as part of the certification. Taves did not mention that the PPCC operates under Brown Act guidelines, even though it is not mandated to do so with its uncertified status. According to the Brown Act and the PPCC bylaws, the board is prevented from acting on any item that is not on its published agenda 72 hours prior to the meeting. Taves did not mention that the Denhams never contacted the PPCC to ask that the item be placed on the agenda. Taves did not mention that the PPCC chair encouraged the Denhams to contact him to place the item on the agenda if they [didn’t] get resolution from the city. Taves did not mention that the PPCC is a liaison with the local government’s enforcement agencies and does not have enforcement powers in itself. It can therefore not enter the twins’ residence and collect the rats. The one thing that Taves did get right is that “much of local government is broken.” And that is exactly what the PPCC is trying to address.

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