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Something for Everyone in La Cienega Park Plan

October 12, 1986|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

After seven months of sometimes heated public discussions, Beverly Hills officials have arrived at a proposal that seems to offer something to everyone who uses La Cienega Park.

The 14-acre park covers two sides of La Cienega Boulevard between Olympic Boulevard and Gregory Way. Built in 1925, it has become outdated, according to park officials.

The plan calls for athletic fields on the eastern side of La Cienega, including a soccer field, two Little League diamonds and one regulation baseball diamond.

The proposal also includes a new walking and jogging path, an exercise area, shade trees, benches and a flower garden.

Taller fences would be designed to reduce the impact of organized sports on houses adjoining the park to the east.

The putting green now on the east side of the boulevard is to be moved to the west side, and four tennis courts on the east side are to be removed.

The tennis facility on the west side of the park would be revamped and the number of courts increased from 11 to 16. The west side would also include a six-acre open area at its southern end, landscaped with trees and small hills.

A flat area there would be used for baseball and soccer, but there would be no concession stands, no permanent lines and no backstops. This practice field would be used for peewee soccer and T-ball, which attract the youngest players.

Additionally, the plan, which must be approved by the City Council, calls for a pedestrian bridge over La Cienega Boulevard linking the park's two segments.

A parking structure would be built partially underground in the space now occupied by an unused water reservoir. A separate proposal will be submitted calling for the demolition of the abandoned waterworks that have been named a civil engineering landmark.

Despite the unique appearance of the waterworks, which resemble a Mexican hacienda, the structure is in danger of collapsing, city officials have said. The building was damaged in the 1971 earthquake and has not been used since.

No one who favors keeping the waterworks took part in the debates that led to the latest plan for revamping the park--even the American Society of Civil Engineers has said it cannot expect the city to maintain an unused facility.

But there was no shortage of people advocating other uses, especially at last week's meeting, where a brief shouting match erupted between representatives of the soccer league and local residents over the allocation of space for the sport.

"Originally, we would have picked up two fields," said Harvey Tack, commissioner of the Beverly Hills region of the American Youth Soccer

Organization, which serves about 950 children.

Instead, there will be one new soccer field, but it will be lighted. That, together with the informal playing field on the west side of La Cienega Park, means the soccer players would come out with more playing space than they have now, Tack said.

"Naturally we would have preferred the additional field, but I guess in this world not everybody gets what they'd like," he said.

"In something like this you cannot satisfy everybody," said Lillian Senitsky, a member of the executive committee of the Coalition for the Improvement of La Cienega Park, a group of residents that sprang up when plans for the remodeling were announced six months ago.

In the end, however, she said, "I'd say the greatest majority of people were receptive to this (the latest) plan. That was not the case at first."

Her comments came after last week's meeting at which most of the 90 participants voted to approve the latest plan.

"Overwhelmingly, we got a consensus," said Rick Putnam, director of recreation and parks for the city.

Starting in April, Putnam and landscape designer Pat Hirsch tested a series of ideas on residents and representatives of sports clubs that use the park.

The first plan called for athletic fields on both sides of the park. Neighbors on Le Doux Road, which adjoins the park on the west side, complained that crowds would bring noise and congestion to their street.

There was also a proposal for food concession stands on Gregory Way, a prospect that raised visions of litter, rats and other problems.

"We just couldn't believe it," said Julie Kahn, co-chairman of the the ad hoc neighborhood group.

"The neighbors were talking and the consensus was you couldn't fight City Hall, (that) this is terrible, let's sell our houses and move. But this is Beverly Hills. You believe you have influence."

After more discussions, the latest proposal was unveiled last week. It is to be presented to the City Council in four to eight weeks.

Although no price tag has been attached to the proposal, Putnam said he expects it to cost in the neighborhood of the $2.2 million required recently to refurbish Roxbury Park, which is off Olympic Boulevard near Century City.

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