It was not too long ago that White Point in San Pedro seemed destined to become an oceanfront state park and nature preserve.
State officials liked the idea. City officials liked it, as did civic and environmental groups. One community activist declared that a state park at White Point would be "the highest and best use of a rare coastal resource."
But a loosely knit band of sports advocates--bolstered by a strong sentiment against overnight camping that was essential for the state park--appears to have altered White Point's future.
After eight months of bitter public debate, the White Point Citizens Advisory Committee voted 9 to 4 Wednesday night against giving the 102-acre city-owned parcel to the state. Instead, the committee will recommend that the City of Los Angeles develop it as a city park.
Most of the park would be for so-called passive uses, such as picnic areas and nature trails, but the committee also recommended devoting a small portion of the park to sports fields. The committee will meet again in two weeks to make a final recommendation, and to consider other proposals, including means of obtaining funding for development of the park. The city has said it has no money for White Point.
An aide to Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores declined to comment on Wednesday's vote, saying the councilwoman wants to wait until the committee's work is completed. Flores, who with Mayor Tom Bradley appointed the committee, has said she would abide by the community's wishes, and her view is likely to be accepted by the mayor and City Council.
Surprised at Vote Total
Georgiann Rudder, who heads the Pacific Region of the city Department of Recreation and Parks, said she was surprised by the lopsidedness of the vote.
Although she said she has no idea where the city will get the money to develop the park, she added: "I haven't turned down any parkland yet. If the committee wishes it to be an L. A. city park, it will be an L. A. city park."
Wednesday's vote represented a compromise between those who have been working on the state park proposal for more than 10 years and the relatively recent demands of local youth groups who united last June in an effort to claim 35 acres of White Point for a sports complex.
"Neither group saw it that objectively," said Jerry Gaines, the committee's chairman. "It boils down to the fact that it's not suitable for a major sports complex and it's not suitable for overnight camping."
There are still hard feelings on both sides. But where the state park advocates see the committee's recommendation as defeat, the youth coalition sees victory.
"I think it's a loss for San Pedro," said Goldie Otters, a committee member who has worked on the state park proposal for a decade.
"As far as the fields on the property are concerned, I think there's only one word for that and that's greed on the part of a very small percentage of people," Otters said. "They may or may not get fields there, but I certainly will oppose it as hard as I can."
Mike Lansing, spokesman for the youth coalition, also complained of greed but for different reasons. He complained that those who favored a state park refused to compromise and did not try hard enough to change state officials' opposition to developing ball fields at White Point.
"They probably could have had the state park there if they weren't so greedy," Lansing said.
Lansing said he was pleased with the committee's recommendation. "In all honesty, when we were asking for 35 acres it's like anything else--you ask for the moon and hope you get part of the star."
Story of the Coalition
In part, the story of what happened at White Point is the story of the youth coalition. It goes back to late 1986, to a debate over another park: the former Martin J. Bogdanovich Recreation Center.
Like White Point, Bogdanovich park was a former military installation that had been deeded to the City of Los Angeles. Both deeds carried reversionary clauses that allowed the military to reclaim the land.
A few years ago, the federal government tried to reclaim 50 acres of White Point Park for military housing. But the city wanted White Point for a state park.
So the two sides reached a compromise: the 22-acre Bogdanovich park, along with 13 acres of White Point, would be returned to the military. In exchange, the government would lift the reversionary clause from the remaining 102 acres of White Point, thus clearing the way for it to become a state park.
The deal was negotiated in late 1986, and the land was turned over in April of last year. The citizens committee was later appointed to study the future of White Point.
Local youth groups were incensed at losing Bogdanovich. Last June, the groups organized into the San Pedro Youth Coalition and demanded that one-third of White Point be set aside for a sports complex.
The coalition waged a grass-roots campaign, talking to church groups, school principals, business leaders and others. They passed out leaflets and circulated petitions.