Potrero: No Opening Date Yet


In jest, the Palisades News invited readers to submit their best guess when the long-delayed Potrero Park would finally open to the public.

The park, located just below the baseball fields at the Palisades Recreation Center was first proposed in the 1960s—after 38 homes slid into Potrero Canyon. Park construction began about 1989, but ran into various problems in the early 2000s.

Once a funding mechanism was put into place (by the sale of stabilized lots around the canyon), filling and grading of the canyon resumed in earnest in 2011. Former Councilman Bill Rosendahl said that the park would open in 2016.

In late 2013, everything came to a standstill.

Norman Kulla, Rosendahl’s senior deputy, had told the News that the project stalled when a neighbor raised objections and had filed a lawsuit over grading. But when Kulla retired a year ago, he said that everything was in place for the project to continue.

On May 4 at the Park Advisory Board meeting, the City’s Bureau of Engineering’s Robert Hancock gave the newest timeline as, “We’re working on it.”

What’s the current hold-up? According to Director of Communications for the Bureau of Engineering and Department of Public Works Mary Nemick, “The design for the park is nearly complete. The Bureau of Engineering is working with the Department of Water and Power, Caltrans and the Coastal Commission. The DWP is designing the power services for the project and the Coastal Commission is reviewing the project plans. The design and approvals need to be completed before the project can be advertised for construction.”

Although there were prior plans, it seems that there was an engineering miscalculation.

According to Hancock, the dirt needed for fill, stored near the base of the canyon, is about 125,000 cubic yards short. (A cubic yard of soil weights about 1.3 tons.) He thinks he has located dirt from another site that could be used for grading, but that will mean hauling will need to resume, possibly later this year.

But before that, the Coastal Commission must approve the plan for the passive recreation park, which will be landscaped with riparian plants.

“We’re hoping to get that [approval] in June,” said Hancock, who added that the City will be required to ensure access to the beach from Potrero Canyon across Pacific Coast Highway.

That would require either a tunnel under PCH, a crosswalk across the six lanes of traffic or a pedestrian bridge. At that location, the bridge appears to make the most sense. Initial estimates for bridge construction are $6 million. “The Bureau of Engineering is working to fast-track the bridge,” Hancock said.

Park construction can once again go forward when the Coastal Commission okays the plan, the dirt is found, bids are placed and grading resumes. The money from the sale of three homes/lots that are currently in escrow must go into the Potrero account and one additional home has to be sold.

A special fund was set up by Kulla for Potrero that can be used only for the park. The current account has $24 million.

Hancock said the projected park cost is now $30 million (not including the bridge) and that the City cannot award bids until it has all the funds.

A restroom will be built below the lower tennis courts to satisfy ADA requirements. Additionally, 25 parking spaces will be added at the Rec Center. Some will be cut into the traffic island in front of the old gym. This requirement came through the completed Environmental Impact Review.

The entire project will be surrounded by a six-foot fence, so homeowners on the rim will not have access unless they go through the two gates that will be located by the Rec Center. The park will open at dawn and close at dusk.

Newest timeline? If grading resumes in November, that will take a year. The landscaping, which will include 1,300 trees, will take another year.

So by late 2018, the park may be opened. PAB Board member Lynn Hyland asked if Hancock had a “Gantt chart.” Hyland explained that it was a project management software program that helps coordinate input from various groups and manages deadlines.

Hancock shook his head and said there are too many uncertainties about when something could happen.

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