Pacific Palisades Park Advisory Board Nixes Seven Arrows School’s Parking Request

By Sue Pascoe

At a special meeting on Nov. 2 at the Palisades Recreation Center, the Park Advisory Board (PAB) denied a request by Seven Arrows Elementary School to pay for 22 daytime parking spaces at the park.

The Seven Arrows proposal would have yielded about $23,000 this year for the Recreation Center, which could have been used for repairs, re-refinishing the gym floors or put towards a new playground.

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Seven Arrows, located on nearby La Cruz, leased parking spaces for its staff members in the 881 Alma Real building in prior years, but that option ended this fall.

At the October PAB meeting, Seven Arrows Athletic Director Frank Kirkwood said the school didn’t think it would be fair to residents to have teachers park in the neighborhood, so the teachers have been taking a school-financed shuttle bus between lower Temescal Canyon Road and La Cruz.

Seven Arrows proposed paying the standard permit parking at the Rec Center for 22 spaces (at $2 a day) from 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. on school days only. (There are 95 public spaces at the park, eight handicapped spaces and three staff spaces.) That money could go directly to the City.

The school has budgeted about $30,000 for staff parking this year, and if the Rec Center were to be available (after paying the permit fee) the remaining $23,000 would be donated to the park and stay at the park.

“We’re trying to be good neighbors,” said Seven Arrows board member Todd Sammann. “We would use the money we’ve allotted [for the shuttle] to be used here. If we don’t get the parking, we’ll still be fine.”

Seven Arrows spends between $12,000 to $17,000 annually on permits to use the Rec Center for physical education.

The PAB consists of 13 community members appointed by Park Director Erich Haas. Members are volunteers, and the board follows the Brown Act.

After hearing Seven Arrows’ proposal in October, the board notified the community via local newspapers and social media. About 30 people attended the Nov. 2 meeting, and most were against the proposal.

“This is no time to be giving away, for sale or otherwise, public parking,” one person commented.

“I’m concerned about the precedent this sets,” another said. “I think it opens up a Pandora’s Box.”

Yet another person pointed out that park patrons often can’t find parking right now and that someone should enforce the posted parking restrictions.

Haas told the audience that his staff reports to him that “by 8:15 a.m. the front half of the parking lot is full,” yet few people are actually on the park grounds. The gyms don’t open until 9 a.m.

“This parking lot is being used by non-park patrons for free parking,” Haas said. “They’ll park and then walk into that building [881 Alma Real].”

One resident said the teachers should take public transportation. Another woman reminded her that those living on a teacher’s salary can’t afford homes here and live in distant areas.

One person asked, “How important is that money [$23,000] to the park? Is there other money in the future?”

The money is important, according to Haas. “I’ve been turning in job orders for two years to clean the beams.” There may be funds in the future if County Measure A passes, but right now there is no guaranteed income source, and no funding source to clean or repair existing problems at this Rec Center.

For example, the windows in the small gym have been broken for years and have not been replaced. The playground is 30 years old and out of compliance.

Someone suggested that Haas, on behalf of the park, approach the American Legion and the Pacific Palisades Woman’s Club for donations. Another person suggested that someone should lead a fundraising campaign for the park.

Before voting on the proposal, the board weighed the audience comments with the 33 emails it had received earlier.

“I would like to advise Erich not to go forward with the motion at this time,” said Bob Harter, who was acting as chair in the absence of Mike Skinner.

The board turned down the parking request and $23,000. “We represent the people,” one board member said. “If residents want parking more than improvements, we do what they want.”

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