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Sports Club Plan Goes to Council in Culver City

April 09, 1989|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

The Culver City Council is expected to decide Monday night whether it wants to buy and operate a defunct sports club as a public recreational center.

At issue is the fate of the Westside Sports Club at 4901 Overland Ave. It closed its doors in September after barely breaking even for several years.

The owner of the property wants to demolish the deteriorating center and build 30 luxury townhouses. Nearby residents, who have complained for years about traffic, parking and noise attributed to club members, support the project.

Townhouse Project

But the Culver City Parks and Recreation Division wants the city to buy the 2.4-acre center for much-needed recreational facilities. The city, which is facing a $2-million shortfall in the 1989-90 general fund budget, commissioned a study in December to determine how it could purchase and operate the center as a public recreational center.

The council is expected to decide the matter at its meeting Monday at 7:30 p.m.

The Planning Commission last month approved the townhouse project without commenting on the proposal to maintain it as a sports center. The townhouses all would be about 2,000 square feet with three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. The project would include a pool and some other recreational facilities.

Mitch Chupack, project manager for property owner Richard K. Ehrlich and his Montoro Development Corp. in Redondo Beach, said he is surprised that the city is interested in maintaining the center as a sports club.

First, he said, the center has operated as a sports club since 1971 with four or five different operators without much success and with much criticism from neighbors.

Second, with the city facing money problems, Chupack said he does not believe it could come up with the funds needed to purchase the property.

The city's appraisal of the value of the site was not made public, but Chupack said he believes it is worth at least $5 million. He said the price could climb as high as $9 million, if residential zoning of the property is considered. It is now zoned for commercial use.

"I just don't see how the city could afford it," he said.

Chupack also said it's ironic that, after reaching agreement with residents after all these years of fighting, the city would want to keep the sports club open.

"There has been a long history of the club not getting along with the neighbors," he said. "We have come full circle with the residents. We now have a good working relationship."

Neighbors Favor Housing

Les Greenberg, who lives on the 10700 block of Farragut Drive adjacent to the center, said he and many of his neighbors want the club out.

"We are very much in favor of the townhouse project, and we are very much against the center remaining as a sports club," he said.

Greenberg acknowledged that the city needs recreational facilities, but said this site will not meet the needs.

"We are not getting any open space from this facility," he said. "In addition, we have found out that, of the last 582 club members, only 182 had Culver City addresses. Why should the taxpayers of Culver City have to pay for a health club for 182 yuppies?"

Greenberg also questioned whether the center could break even.

"It is going to be a money loser," he said.

Options Undisclosed

The city's feasibility study on the center was not available late last week, but Robert Norquist, assistant to the city chief administrative officer, said the study will offer options on how the city could purchase and maintain the center on a self-sustaining basis.

Norquist would not reveal any of those options, or how feasible they are.

He said the city is looking at the Westwood Recreation Center, run by the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department, as a model of what could be done with the Westside Sports Club site.

The city of Los Angeles spent $5.4 million to build the state-of-the-art recreation center that city officials say rivals private sports clubs. The center, at 1350 Sepulveda Blvd., includes an indoor pool, two gymnasiums, classrooms, a child-care center and courts for tennis, racquetball and basketball.

There are fees for some of the activities, such as $1 for swimming and $8 for racquetball, but the center is not designed to pay for itself, according to Recreation and Parks Department spokesman Al Goldfarb.

Self-Sustaining

The center in Culver City probably would have to pay for itself for the city to operate it, Norquist said.

Despite the money involved, Culver City Human Services Director Syd Kronenthal, who oversees the parks and recreation division, said more recreational facilities are needed in the city.

Kronenthal has noted that the city in the past has lost golf courses and stables to commercial development and that existing recreational facilities are overcrowded.

Despite the city's poor financial condition, Kronenthal is still pushing for the purchase of the sports club.

"I would be less than a good public official if I said we didn't need it," he said.

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