First published in the Oct. 20 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Much to the relief of several La Cañada Flintridge residents, the reign of pickleball players over Glenhaven Park will soon come to an end as the City Council decided to discontinue a pilot program that allowed local enthusiasts of the sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis to play in their hometown.
With the city taking additional steps toward converting the skate park on Cornishon Avenue into a pickleball facility, the council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to terminate the program at Glenhaven Park by Oct. 28. However, the panel put the city’s plan to restripe the court for tennis use on hold and requested that LCF staff investigate implementing sound mitigation measures at the park, leaving open the possibility of pickleball returning to Glenhaven in the future.
The city converted the lone tennis court in the park located at 1918 Parkdale Pl. into pickleball courts last year as the game rose in popularity among locals, especially the senior community. Despite limitations to the hours of play, the sport became a contentious issue with surrounding neighbors complaining about the noise.
Several of the residents living near the park attended Tuesday’s meeting and pleaded for council members to end the program because it has affected their everyday lives and health.
“Pickleball creates no less damage than the water torture, but you refuse to listen to the neighbors who have reported headaches, ringing of the ears, lack of sleep and everything that comes with it, and the inability to work from home,” said Danielle Meeker, a resident who lives near the park.
Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gunter said he didn’t feel comfortable continuing a program that was initially implemented as a pilot to gather information and later changing the use of a park.
“I feel like it’s disingenuous to local residents and the rest of the community to say that we’re doing one thing and then we do something else,” Gunter said. “I don’t think there’s any more to learn in the next year, and [let’s] commit as quickly as we can to get the [conversion of the skate park] running and put time and energy to get that.”
Councilman Kim Bowman expressed concern over the sound study that conducted by the city last year and the fact that one of the noise receptors used exceeded the ambient noise level by three decibels.
“We have an objective sound study saying that we’re violating noise rules that we have put in place, and to my mind, while there is a large public policy interest in having pickleball in the city, I’m having a difficult time weighing that against the impacts to this particular portion of the city in this neighborhood,” Bowman said.
Terry Walker agreed with her colleagues and said that pickleball players have other options, such as playing at the local YMCA Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and Sundays at the basketball court on Cornishon Avenue, while the residents have nowhere else to go.
“These people don’t have the luxury of moving to other houses,” she said.
Councilman Mike Davitt, who along with Mayor Keith Eich opposed the motion to terminate the program, took a more practical approach and broke down the hours of usage permitted by the city and stated that pickleball players are only allowed to play three hours a day, Monday-Thursday, for a total of 12 hours a week. Tennis players are allowed to play for 49 hours each week, and there are 112 hours of “basically darkness [during which] no one uses the courts,” he said.
“There’s no consensus or non-consensus among any of our councilmembers that want to cause harm to our community … but I do think that there has to be some kind of reasonable expectation that if you had an active park …. there’s going to be noise,” Davitt said. “I am comfortable letting the program continue the way it is for 12 hours a week. I mean, it seems pretty minimal to me.”
Eich echoed Davitt’s opinion and added that he didn’t hear loud noises such as “aggressive yelling” that some of the residents claimed. He suggested that city staff explore the option of adding some material to the court that would mitigate the sound, especially if it can be repurposed to be used at the facility on Cornishon Avenue should it be converted to a skate park.
A few pickleball players attended the meeting to express their support for not only the conversion of the skate park to a pickleball facility but also continuing the program at Glenhaven Park.
“It’s a park; we should be able to play there anytime we want,” Mary Carney said during the public comment period. “I could go there with my dog every weekend, and it could bark for two hours and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. … I just think it’s extremely selfish that they can’t share this city park with a large group that just wants to use it a couple of hours a day during the week.”
The city did take another step forward in repurposing the skate park Tuesday with all council members approving a supplemental Joint Use Agreement between the city and the La Cañada Unified School District and giving City Manager Mark Alexander authority to finalize the details of the agreement with Superintendent Wendy Sinnette.
Alexander said the agreement may require a few modifications to address some concerns brought up by the district. He anticipates the district will vote on the matter during a Governing Board meeting on Oct. 25, and should the agreement be approved, the city will then submit their plans to Los Angeles County and the state to possibly receive grant funding that would offset the cost of project.
“I trust our city manager and city attorney to work through any of the little details on these three things,” Eich said. “I’m excited about this and love to see it move forward.”