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Playground or Preserve? : Citizen Group May Settle Debate Over White Point Park's Future

September 27, 1987|SHERYL STOLBERG | Times Staff Writer

When Mike Lansing thinks of White Point Park, he hears the sounds of children playing. He sees baseball diamonds and football fields--fields where San Pedro youngsters could stretch their talents and their muscles, "without being like a herd of 10 million ants, one on top of the other."

Ken Malloy has a far different vision. When Malloy thinks of White Point, he summons up images of history lessons and nature trails overlooking the Pacific. He sees a well-managed state park where families could discover native plants like lemonade berry and California sagebrush and learn about the park's history as a Nike missile site.

Both Lansing and Malloy claim they speak for the majority of San Pedro residents.

And their views highlight a sharp debate within the community: whether to develop White Point as a city park that would provide San Pedro youngsters a place to play, or to give it to the state, which would turn White Point into a natural preserve attracting Californians from all over.

White Point Park is a 115-acre parcel, shaped roughly like a triangle, on a bluff along the southern coast of San Pedro. During World War II, Americans of Japanese descent who lived there were relocated and interned, and the Army took control of the site.

The Army built coast artillery sites and bunkers on White Point during the 1940s; sometime around 1957 a Nike missile battery was built there. The Nike base, along with an Army Reserve facility, was deactivated in 1976.

The Army deeded the park to the city in 1978, although the city has since returned about 13 acres to the Air Force for military housing. Except for the former missile facilities, the land has been vacant for years and is closed to the public except on special occasions.

On Oct. 7, hundreds of San Pedro residents are expected to show up at Peck Park for a public hearing to decide White Point's future. The hearing is sponsored by the White Point Citizens Advisory Committee, a 14-member panel appointed by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and harbor area Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores. The group is expected to deliberate for several months before making a recommendation on what to do with the park.

Because the committee expects a large and emotional crowd, it has already set up ground rules for the hearing: Those who speak will be determined by random drawing, and each speaker will have three minutes.

Said committee Chairman Jerry Gaines: "It's a very high interest issue and we are setting up for 400 chairs. We picked the biggest facility we could. There is no clear consensus in the community that I'm aware of."

Malloy agreed. "I never thought there would be such a division of opinion as there is about this piece of property," he said.

Earlier this month, the committee published a 78-page report detailing, among other things, the biological, archeological and military history of White Point. The report is available to the public through local libraries.

The report, while drawing no conclusions, outlines four options for the now-vacant 102-acre parcel. For each, the study considered how the park would be managed, finances, impact on the environment--including traffic projections and how wildlife would be affected--and how each option would fit in with other recreational facilities already available to San Pedro. The options also specify what would happen to Royal Palms State Beach and White Point County Beach, two rocky coves at the base of the bluffs.

The options are:

Leave all three sites as they are and not develop a park.

Leave Royal Palms as it is, and build a public golf course on White Point and the county beach land. Although this is a little talked-about option, Gaines said a developer did approach the committee with a proposal for the golf course. The developer, who spoke only on the condition that he not be named, said he would build the 18-hole course with private money and lease the land from the city.

Leave the beaches as they are and build athletic facilities, to be managed by the city, on part of White Point Park. Lansing, director of athletics for Mary Star-of-the-Sea High School and a spokesman for a coalition of youth groups in San Pedro, said his group is "demanding" that 35 acres of White Point be set aside for athletic fields, a track and a parking lot.

Create a state park out of all three sites. Malloy, as well as some homeowners who live near the park, favor this option, saying the state has more money to maintain and protect a park than the city. They believe the state would do a better job controlling problems caused by gangs, which they said have taken over the two beach areas.

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