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SEAL BEACH : Residents' Opposition Stalls Park Project

May 31, 1994|SHELBY GRAD

At the edge of Edison Park, the thick green grass suddenly gives way to a patch of dug-up earth roped off on all sides by bright yellow construction tape.

The land was supposed to be home to a "beach" volleyball court complete with a sandy surface. Instead, the court remains unfinished, a testament to a neighborhood divided over what to do with its only park.

Residents who live next to the park fear that the volleyball court will attract loud players who will disrupt the area's peaceful atmosphere.

They took their case to the City Council earlier this month, presenting bags full of softballs, baseballs, Frisbees, golf balls and other objects they said had come flying from the park into their back yards over the years.

But others in the College Park West area--especially younger couples with children--said they have a right to use the park and make improvements.

After hearing from both sides, the council sent the issue back to the parks commission for new hearings. The council is expected to make a final decision on the park plan in a few months.

The controversy began innocently enough last year when a group of College Park West residents got together to discuss ways of upgrading the 30-year-old park.

The group quickly discovered that the cash-strapped city had no money to pay for improvements. So they began holding a series of fund-raisers that netted about $8,000--enough to build the volleyball court.

That's when problems began. The court construction got the attention of residents whose homes back up against the park. And they didn't like what they saw.

Resident Robert Reince complained that the park's basketball court already attracts loud players whose shouts can be heard from his cul-de-sac.

He also complained that police rarely patrol the park and that people hop over the fence and use the field when the park is supposed to be closed.

Adding a volleyball court would only exacerbate the problem, he said.

Other residents said that they no longer use their back yards for fear that they'll be hit by flying balls and other objects from the park.

They also complained about a lack of lighting, which they said makes the park an easy hiding place for burglars.

Proponents of the volleyball court said they sympathize with the residents' concerns about crime and flying balls. But they insisted that the improvements will not worsen the situation.

"We agree with a lot of their complaints," said David Sloan, 32, who headed the park improvement committee. "When we started to do this, we wanted to do a lot of things like adding lights. But there is no money anywhere."

Sloan, who grew up in College Park West, disagrees with residents who said the park is noisier today than ever before.

"This neighborhood used to be full of kids," said Sloan. "For the last five or 10 years, it has kind of laid dormant because there haven't been as many families here. But now a new generation of people is moving in. And the noise is picking up a little."

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