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Youth Groups Unite to Demand Athletic Fields at White Point

June 07, 1987|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

San Pedro youth organizations, which unsuccessfully lobbied to keep the Martin J. Bogdanovich Recreation Center from being turned over to the military, have now entered the debate over the future of nearby White Point Park.

Two months after Los Angeles city officials turned over Bogdanovich park to the Air Force for military housing, nine groups representing about 5,000 children are demanding that at least one-third of the undeveloped White Point Park be set aside for athletic fields.

The proposal, if adopted, would kill hopes of environmental groups and some homeowners near White Point that the property be developed as a state park.

Undeveloped Shoreline

State officials are interested in the land, calling it one of the few remaining undeveloped shoreline properties in Southern California that is geologically stable enough for a state park. But they say they will not consider taking control of White Point if any of it is set aside for other uses.

The 115-acre park, a former Nike missile site that was deeded to the city by the Army in 1978, sits atop bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean between Western Avenue and Paseo Del Mar. Except for special occasions, the park is closed to the public, although a citizens advisory committee set up by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and City Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores recently began studying ways to open it on a regular basis.

The youth groups, calling themselves the San Pedro Youth Coalition, made the demand in letters sent last week to clubs, civic organizations, businesses and elected officials in San Pedro. The coalition, which includes the Mary Star Sports Assn. and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), has also begun circulating a petition that calls on Flores, who represents San Pedro, to set aside 35 useable acres of the hilly park for athletic fields.

"We finally have to make a stand and make sure that our kids have somewhere to play other than in the streets and at the shopping centers," the letter said. "White Point is most important because it is the last large piece of unencumbered land that San Pedro will have at its disposal for many, many years."

Turned Over to Air Force

Thirteen acres at the northern edge of White Point Park and the entire 22-acre Bogdanovich park, also formerly owned by the military, were turned over to the Air Force in April as part of a deal between the city and the federal government that was designed to preserve the rest of White Point as open space--and, possibly, a state park.

Under the agreement, the federal government gave up its rights to reclaim the remaining 102 acres of White Point, thus ensuring that the land would not be developed for military housing as the Air Force at one time proposed. The federal government's reversionary rights, retained when the White Point property was given to the city, enabled the military to reclaim the property--even without city approval--for so-called "national defense purposes," including housing for its officers.

With the possibility of losing the panoramic park to the military eliminated, city officials have begun reviewing options for the land.

The citizens' group set up by Bradley and Flores is exploring the state-park option as well as the possibility of keeping the land as a city-operated park, which could include softball and soccer fields and other athletic facilities sought by the San Pedro Youth Coalition.

But city officials have said that there is no money to develop the park, while state officials, who would not allow athletic fields, said they can obtain the money.

September Report

Jerry L. Gaines, chairman of the committee, said the group will issue a report in September that will evaluate the state and local options based on four factors: management and law enforcement capabilities; environmental concerns, including traffic projections and the effect on wildlife and sea life; the availability of money, and the ability to meet the recreational needs of the community.

Gaines is also president of the South Shores Homeowners' Assn., which represents residents near White Point Park, some of whom have suggested that White Point and adjacent Royal Palms State Beach be joined as a single state park. Gaines said he will not decide which option to support until after a public hearing in October

Some South Shores homeowners believe state park rangers would be better able to control crowds and restrict access to the area than would the city Department of Recreation and Parks, which has only one ranger to patrol parks in San Pedro, Wilmington and Harbor City. According to police, Royal Palms is a favorite hangout for gangs, making it a hotbed for criminal activity and a source of numerous complaints from local residents.

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