HomeCity Government NewsLCF in a Pickle Over Popular Sport

LCF in a Pickle Over Popular Sport

First published in the Aug. 18 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

Dozens of community members flocked to La Cañada Flintridge’s City Hall chambers Tuesday, and it had nothing to do with the housing element or a proposed residential development being on the agenda.
The item of interest was pickleball, a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis and has been a controversial subject in many municipalities, including LCF.
After hearing arguments on both sides of the issue from residents, the City Council all but committed to a permanent site for pickleball enthusiasts and reluctantly advised staff to move forward with planning for two courts at Mayors’ Discovery Park while searching for alternative areas in the city that would be better suited for active sports.
Though LCF staff will continue to work on a plan for pickleball courts at Mayors’ Discovery Park, council members stressed that it is not a certainty that the project would move forward to design and construction.
Arabo Parseghian, the city’s division manager who has spearheaded the project, informed community members that space is limited in LCF and Mayors’ Discovery Park is the location that would least impact the community.
“I want to emphasize that it’s least, it’s not no impact,” he said. “As a community that is pretty much developed, there’s not really a good place to have new facilities like pickleball courts or recreational courts like fields.”
Three of the council members, Mike Davitt, Terry Walker and Kim Bowman, favored having two courts at Mayors’ Discovery Park and preserving the park for other recreational uses such as gatherings and picnics.
“I am supportive of the activity,” Davitt said. “I think there’s a need in the community. I think that in my mind the two-court option has the least financial impact to us and I think it’s a responsible thing to do while also trying to preserve the park.”
Mayor Keith Eich said that the park was meant to serve as a passive, recreational space and not as an athletic facility, and believed that the city should explore the possibility of purchasing property and making that a pickleball facility.
“To me, it’s a passive park, and turning it into a really active park is scary to me,” Eich said. “I think that wasn’t the original intent.”
Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gunter echoed his colleague and said the courts don’t belong there.
“I don’t think putting active sports, of which pickleball is one of them, at Mayors’ Discovery Park is an appropriate use of that city asset, and so I would not support doing more studies on it,” he said.
LCF staff hired a consulting firm earlier this year to conduct a sound study and determined that the noise from having two or three courts would be compliant with the city’s noise ordinance.
In February, council members voted 5-0 in favor of designating Mayors’ Discovery Park as a permanent location to play the sport. However, concern over financing has now sprung up because the estimated cost of the project nearly doubled in only six months due to inflation.
A two-court project is now estimated to cost $560,000, and Parseghian said the significant increase is due to the economic climate as well as the size of the project. Designing and developing three courts would cost $765,000 and four courts, which is now unlikely, is expected to cost nearly $1 million.
The city put out a request for proposal for design work and only received one response.
“There are a lot of public works out there in the community, and many of these consultants want to allocate their resources to those bigger projects where they could make more profit out of it,” Parseghian explained. “So again, it puts the city in a peculiar position because of the scale of the project.”
Grants from the state and county could offset costs by $590,000, but the majority of those funds must be spent by 2024 and city staff is unsure whether or not they would be able to meet the deadline.
Parseghian said that the council must come to a decision by October as to whether it will move forward with project at Mayors’ Discovery Park or terminate it because it could lose the grant funding.
Gunter did not share Parseghian’s sense of urgency, assuring stakeholders that there will be other opportunities to receive funding for projects in the future.
“There are grants in the past, there will be grants in the future,” Gunter added. “This is quite a good one, but I don’t want us to think, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s this one and it is now.’”
The city has considered other sites for pickleball courts but those ideas were shut down for various reasons. Hahamongna Park is owned by the city of Pasadena, which was not interested in such a project. Some stakeholders suggested the fields or tennis courts on Cornishon Avenue, but the facilities are already heavily used and the La Cañada Unified School District was not interested in such a project. Parseghian said he would reach out to the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club to see if they are open to the idea of utilizing part of their parking lot for pickleball play.
Pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in nation, has been somewhat controversial in cities because of the noise associated with play, and there is concern from residents and council members that the sport would bring more traffic to Mayors’ Discovery Park.
Davitt said the park parking lot is heavily used during youth sports seasons, and that he has “no interest in having another use take precedent over that.”
For Bowman, the issue isn’t so much developing pickleball courts but investing in development of different recreational spaces for LCF residents. He suggested that revamping the facilities on Cornishon Avenue would very much benefit everyone.
“I don’t see this as an ‘or’ discussion; I see this as an ‘and’ discussion,” he said. “We need pickleball, and we need more green space. And there are ways to do that that include pocket parks and an eventual reconsideration of the Cornishon area. I think there’s a lot of future opportunity to redevelop the center of our community to include more fields and green space.”
At the moment, pickleball, a sport that is popular among senior citizens, can be played in LCF at Glenhaven Park and the local YMCA, but times and spots are limited, and local athletes, even young ones, are hopeful of having a site dedicated to the game they enjoy.
“Pickleball is a multigenerational sport, which means I can play with my friends as well as my parents and my grandparents,” Samson Ross, a 9th grader at La Cañada High School, told the council. “I am the leader of a 20-or-more student group that plays pickleball. We have a lot of civic pride and would love to be able to play pickleball in our hometown of La Cañada.”


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