A compromise between the city of Los Angeles and the Air Force on military housing in San Pedro passed what one city official called "the last major hurdle" last week when the city's Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners voted unanimously to approve it.
Last month, the commission shocked city officials and negotiators when it postponed action on the issue because of residents' objections. Routine commission approval had been expected for the compromise, which took nearly three years to negotiate.
Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, whose office led negotiations with the Air Force, left nothing to chance last week. Flores, who did not attend the meeting last month, made a personal appeal to the commission, and three of her deputies as well as aides to Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana and state Sen. Robert Beverly (R-Redondo Beach) were on hand to support the compromise.
"Let us go forward with this agreement," Flores told the commission. "I think you will be pleased a year or two from now when all of the dust settles."
100 Acres for Park
The agreement would preserve 100 acres of the city's White Point park for a proposed oceanfront state park and would allow housing on the remaining 13 acres of the park and on the entire 22-acre Martin J. Bogdanovich Recreation Center.
Both parks were once part of the Ft. MacArthur Army base, but the land was declared surplus by the federal government in the 1970s and was deeded to the city, with the provision that it could be reclaimed "for national defense purposes." The Air Force has sought to take back some of the land to build 170 single-family homes for officers assigned to its space division in El Segundo.
Bob Bryant, regional commissioner for the American Youth Soccer Organization, has led opposition to the agreement, arguing that city negotiators have not adequately considered the 1,200 children who play soccer at Bogdanovich park.
At the board meeting last week, Bryant submitted petitions with 1,900 signatures of residents who oppose the agreement. Board President William Robertson accepted the petitions, but did not allow Bryant--or any other resident at the meeting--to speak.
Difficult for Children
"They are making this thing as difficult as possible for the children," Bryant said after the meeting. "I think it is terrible that our First Amendment right to speak was denied. Supplying them with almost 2,000 names did not even give us the courtesy to talk."
Assistant City Atty. Pete Echeverria, who advises the board, said this week that the commissioners were permitted to limit discussion on the issue because Bryant and others had already spoken at a public hearing last month. Echeverria said the commission had postponed making a decision at that time to gather more information, particularly the testimony of Flores.
"I think it is appropriate for the chair to say we are not going to reopen it to rehash the same old arguments," Echeverria said.
In her remarks to the board, Flores promised to relocate the soccer field at Bogdanovich park, and said a citizens group she appointed last month has begun looking for a new location. She assured the commissioners that the city has enough money for the new field. Bryant and others have voiced concerns that the city has neither the will nor the money to replace the Bogdanovich field.
'Keep Our Commitments'
"We will keep our commitments," Flores told the board.
The agreement must now be reviewed by the city's Planning Department before it is sent to the City Council and Mayor Tom Bradley for approval. Bernie Evans, Flores' chief deputy, said he expects Bradley will sign the agreement before the end of next month.
The board's vote was "the last major hurdle," Evans said. "We feel very optimistic that it will now be certified by everyone."