In what both sides described as a major breakthrough in a longstanding dispute, the city of Los Angeles and the Air Force reached a compromise Wednesday that allows the Air Force to build military housing in San Pedro, but preserves about 100 acres of White Point Park for a new oceanfront state park.
The "conceptual agreement" allows the Air Force to build 80 single-family homes on 14 acres in the northwest corner of the park, a former Nike missile site that was deeded to the city in 1978 after being declared federal surplus land. The Air Force had originally proposed building 170 homes on 50 acres there.
The agreement requires the Air Force to provide a three-acre undeveloped buffer zone between the homes and the park, and to grant the city clear legal title to the remaining 100 acres of the park. The current deed allows the federal government to reclaim any or all of White Point in "the national interest"--a provision the Air Force has cited in its effort to re-acquire land for the housing.
In exchange for its concessions at White Point, the Air Force will be given the Martin J. Bogdanovich Recreation Center, a 22-acre city park a few blocks away on 25th Street. Air Force officials said they will build 90 homes on about 16.5 acres of that park. The housing at both sites, which the Air Force hopes to have completed by the end of 1988, will be for officers assigned to the Air Force Space Division in El Segundo.
A state park official said the agreement, once completed, will allow the state Department of Parks and Recreation to move ahead with plans to acquire White Point from the city and convert it into a state park along with nearby Royal Palms State Beach. Much of the local opposition to the Air Force proposal to build at White Point came from residents and city officials who feared that a large housing development would jeopardize plans for the state park.
White Point is located on coastal bluffs above Paseo del Mar, east of Western Avenue, in an area that provides a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Catalina Island. According to state officials, it is one of the few remaining undeveloped shoreline properties in urban Southern California that is geologically stable enough to permit the development of a large recreational park.
"Our next step will be to enter negotiations for White Point," said Anthony (Allen) Ulm, deputy regional director of the Department of Parks and Recreation. "We have been authorized to negotiate with the city once this has been resolved."
Jerry L. Gaines, president of South Shores Homeowners' Assn., which represents 3,000 residents near White Point, said the group supports the compromise and welcomes the end of a two-year battle with the Air Force. The association and other community groups near White Point had favored preserving the entire area for recreation.
"It never had anything to do with being anti-military," Gaines said. "It was a community planning issue. Building 170 military housing units at White Point Park would have eliminated any possibility of developing a coastal state park. This agreement meets both the needs of the Air Force and the community."
But Bob Bryant, regional commissioner in San Pedro for the American Youth Soccer Organization, said residents who use Bogdanovich Park vehemently oppose the agreement. He accused city negotiators of settling the dispute at the expense of children who use the park and its soccer and baseball fields.
"The kids are not a voting bloc, and they are the ones who are going to be hurt by this," Bryant said. "If every time you turn around you get rid of a park to solve a problem, we won't have any parks left in San Pedro."
Bernie Evans, chief deputy to Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents the San Pedro area, said Flores and Mayor Tom Bradley have agreed to set up a commission to find new sites for the baseball and soccer fields once the agreement with the Air Force is final. White Point is not one of the sites under consideration, but the city has at least two locations in mind, he said.
Evans said the city will ensure that the youth soccer league does not miss a season because of the agreement. He estimated that it will cost the city about $200,000 to move the fields.
"We feel comfortable that once the kids are playing in a better field and all the emotion of this is behind us, it will all work out," Evans said. "You aren't going to make everybody happy, but this agreement is a fair thing for everybody in the community."
Won't Be Enough
Bryant, however, said new soccer and baseball fields won't be enough.
"We are talking about a park," Bryant said. "These people are not planning for the future. You can't grow undeveloped land. There is a limited amount of space in San Pedro."