SAN PEDRO — After nearly four months of haggling over how White Point Park should be carved up, the City of Los Angeles and local representatives of the Air Force have forwarded an agreement on military housing at the park to Air Force officials in Washington.
The agreement, which allows the Air Force to build 170 three- and four-bedroom homes in San Pedro while preserving most of White Point for a 100-acre state park, is expected to be approved by Assistant Secretary of the Air Force James E. Boatwright before the end of this month, an Air Force spokeswoman said.
Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who represents San Pedro and whose office negotiated the agreement, said this week that she "wasn't entirely happy" with it but said that she approved it in hopes of ending a three-year dispute with the Air Force over the property.
"We are trying to give a little so that we can get this thing off dead center," Flores said. "But this is as far as we will go. If it comes back with more demands, we will cancel the talks."
100 Acres Preserved for Park
City and Air Force negotiators reached a "conceptual agreement" on military housing in July that would allow the Air Force to build 80 single-family homes on 10 acres in the northwest corner of the park, while preserving about 100 acres of White Point for a new oceanfront state park. That agreement called for a 3- to 4-acre buffer zone at White Point, and also turned over the 22-acre Martin J. Bogdanovich Recreation Center on 25th Street for an additional 90 homes.
Since then, city and Air Force negotiators have been trying to work out final details of the White Point development, disagreeing on where the buffer zone should be, who should control it and whether it could be incorporated into the housing development, city officials said.
Both city and Air Force officials described the final draft agreement that has been sent to Boatwright as a compromise. The city agreed to turn over 11.4 acres--rather than 10 acres--of the park for housing, to reduce the size of the buffer zone to about two acres, and to give the Air Force a long-term easement to it, said Bernie Evans, Flores' chief deputy.
In return, the Air Force agreed to place the buffer between the housing and the park rather than incorporating it into the development, Evans said. At one point, the Air Force wanted to use the buffer zone as back yards for some houses and locate some of it in areas they considered unbuildable regardless of how close they were to the park, he said.
Flores said that she remains unhappy that she had to cede control of the buffer zone to the Air Force because she fears that the federal government might someday find a way to circumvent the prohibition on developing it.
"I know the federal government can change things around even when there are covenants," Flores said. "I want to make sure this is change-proof. I hope it is."
If Boatwright signs the draft agreement and the city attorney approves its final wording, the agreement must also be approved by the city's Recreation and Parks Commission, the City Council and Mayor Tom Bradley, all of whom were represented in the negotiations. They are expected to give routine approval, said Evans.
Capt. Norma Payne said the Air Force would not comment on details of the draft agreement until it is signed by Boatwright. She said the Air Force is "cautiously optimistic" that the dispute over White Point is over.
"The fact that the Air Force is going to get needed military housing makes us happy," she said. "We would like to get started on building our houses as soon as possible. The need has not gone away."
Formerly Fort MacArthur
Both White Point and Bogdanovich parks were once part of the Fort MacArthur Army base, but were deeded to the city in 1978 after being declared surplus land by the federal government. The deeds allow the federal government to reclaim the land in "the national interest," and the Air Force has asserted that it needs some of it to provide housing for officers at its Space Division in El Segundo.
The Air Force had originally proposed building 170 homes on 50 acres at White Point, but the city, eager to convert the former Nike missile site into a state park, opposed the plan because of warnings from state park officials that a large housing development would jeopardize state funding for the park.
Flores said that if Boatwright signs the agreement and the city attorney approves, she and Mayor Bradley will name a citizens committee that will search for a new location for a soccer field at Bogdanovich park, find another public site to name after Bogdanovich, and begin determining what kind of state park residents want at White Point.