Ninety residents who live near La Cienega Park in Beverly Hills met Monday night to denounce a preliminary plan for major renovation of the park, citing increased traffic, crime and litter as their primary objections.
"We should all participate in athletics," said Pearl Milman, who brought along her son's trophies in a shopping bag to demonstrate her support of organized team sports. "But not on my front lawn."
The plan that Milman and the others object to calls for concession stands and additional athletic facilities in the 14-acre park that straddles La Cienega Boulevard just north of Olympic Boulevard.
On the west side of the park, two baseball diamonds would replace an underground reservoir and an abandoned water treatment plant that looks like an old Mexican hacienda. A concession stand, a 250-space underground parking lot and five tennis courts would be built in addition to 11 existing courts.
On the east side of the park, a concession stand would be added and four other tennis courts would be removed, for a net gain of one court.
Rick Putnam, director of recreation and parks, said the plan, which was drawn by landscape architect Pat Hirsch, will not be presented to the Beverly Hills City Council until the neighbors' reactions are taken into account.
Designed in 1925
"We are merely exploring how to bring this park up to date," Putnam said of the facility, which remains virtually unchanged from its original 1925 design. "This is not a proposal or an endorsement."
Putnam said Beverly Hills has a shortage of playing fields and that a study is in progress to assess the extent of the problem.
"We have to balance that need (for more playing fields) with the residential nature of the city and its neighborhoods," Putnam said. "But just as it would be naive of me to think this park will turn out to be a park administrator's dream come true, it is also naive of anyone to think that no progress is going to be made in this city's parks in the next few years."
Some older residents had a different idea of how the park should be renovated.
"Everything you've been proposing is for the youth. What about us seniors?" said Maurice Smithson, who lives on Le Doux Road on the park's northwest border. "It seems to me we deserve some consideration."
Other residents expressed similar sentiments and suggested creating a botanical or sculpture garden.
"We like things that are quiet, that don't make noise or litter," said Marilyn Lindsay, a Le Doux Road resident who gathered 33 signatures on a letter objecting to the preliminary plan. "We object to the intrusion of team and spectator sports into our residential neighborhood."
Residents spent about two hours expressing their fears of increased noise, litter and lack of parking on the residential streets that surround the park while Putnam took notes. At the end of the meeting, Putnam suggested that residents form a committee to meet with him and the architect to come up with alternatives.
Asked if he was satisfied with the meeting, Monroe Milman, Pearl's husband and one of the meeting's moderators, said he was glad that so many people turned out to register their disapproval. "The plans may not be final, but when no one says or does anything to object, they have a way of becoming final," he said.