HomeCity NewsCity, District Deadlock on Pickleball Project

City, District Deadlock on Pickleball Project

First published in the Dec. 8 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The proposed pickleball facility on Cornishon Avenue remains in limbo as the city of La Cañada Flintridge and the school district remain in a stalemate on the project.
The two entities began discussing the conversion of the seldom-used skate park and basketball facility on Cornishon into a joint-use pickleball facility since City Council gave LCF staff the green light to pursue the project in late September. The skate park is big enough to accommodate as many as three courts for community members to play the popular sport that combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton.
However, because of the joint use agreement between the city and La Cañada Unified School District regarding local facilities, the project cannot move forward until both parties agree on the plan.
“It’s a frustrating situation,” Councilwoman Terry Walker said during a meeting Tuesday. “We’re trying to do the right thing for the town. We know there’s a need for pickleball … but as you’ve noticed, we don’t have a lot of vacant land and what we do have is in neighborhoods, and so it’s very difficult. And the staff has spent an inordinate amount of time going out researching areas and trying to find the right fit for our community.”
The city is seeking grant money to help pay for the pickleball facility, but the state requires a 30-year tenure to ensure that the project remains intact. Should the project somehow change or the contract be voided in those 30 years, the city would have to pay back the grant money, and LCUSD is hesitant to agree to such a commitment because of the financial risk.
“We’re talking about potentially a state grant of over $400,000,” City Manager Mark Alexander told the City Council.
To allay the district’s concerns, the city’s last proposal reduced the financial responsibility of the district after periods of time. It would require that LCUSD be responsible to fully repay anything that the state might claw back from the city should the agreement be terminated within the first 15 years. After 16 years, the district would only be responsible to repay 50% of the grant money, and liability would continue to decrease as more time passes.
Councilmembers Kim Bowman and Rick Gunter expressed interest in moving forward and having the city bear the financial risks.
“It’s worth the risk to provide pickleball now on the Cornishon courts,” Gunter said.
Bowman echoed Gunter and added that he would like this project to bring up a broader discussion about the area. He doesn’t want the pickleball courts to be a “wasted effort” only to have the facilities repurposed 10 years from now.
Alexander reminded the City Council that should it allow the district to have it its way and LCUSD opts out of the agreement within 30 years, the city would lose additional funds on top of the grant.
“It’s not just $400,000. It’s $400,000-plus,” Alexander said.
Arabo Parseghian, the city’s division manager who has spearheaded the pickleball project, said he has discussed with the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge regarding space, and they were open to the idea of an outdoor or indoor court.
The council was more open to the idea of an indoor court but remained committed to the skate park and asked LCF staff to continue working with the district on agreeing to terms.
While Bowman felt the situation could strengthen the relationship between the city and school district, Mayor Keith Eich, who is on the Joint-Use Committee and often discusses issues about facilities with LCUSD representatives, couldn’t help but express some level of frustration.
“I personally feel like we’re the giving tree with the school district,” he said. “We pay for crossing guards for the public schools; we don’t do that for private schools. We pay for school resource officers; we spend millions of dollars maintaining their fields so that we can use them a few hours each weeknight for our community groups.
“I appreciate what Mr. Bowman said, but I think they’re the ones that keep coming back and asking for more and keeping score. I feel like we keep putting our community hat on with them, and we’re not getting it reciprocal from them, and it’s frustrating.”
The Joint-Use Committee, which includes LCF staff, city councilmembers, LCUSD staff and Governing Board members, continued the discussion at a meeting Thursday morning, and the city is hopeful that the school board will approve of an agreement at its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13.


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