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L.A. city parks looking at deep cuts

February 10, 2009 |  9:06 am


While wading through this year’s budget problems, Los Angeles city officials have generally avoided significant changes to city services. But the city’s parks department is circulating a list of dramatic cuts they say may be necessary to cover its $6-million budget shortfall this year and expected reductions in next year’s budget.

The City Council is expected to discuss the list today. With possible shuttering of some recreation centers on the horizon, the memo from parks officials warns that the cutbacks will affect residents across the city. Maintenance at scores of sports courts and fields would be scaled back to once or twice a month instead of once a week. Some fields would be refurbished every two years instead of annually, and there will be less money for rodent control at athletic fields, such as those in Griffith Park.

At many city pools, officials are looking at slicing daily operations by two hours daily and closing some year-round pools on Sundays. Underused preschool and afterschool programs at sites such as the Pueblo del Rio Recreation Center in South Los Angeles and the Wilmington Recreation Center near the harbor could be cut back or eliminated entirely. Children’s playground equipment at some parks would be steam-cleaned less often and there would be less screening of sandboxes for dangerous objects.

In parts of Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon, officials are considering cleaning up less frequently after dogs in the off-trail areas — from every two weeks to once a month — and reducing trail maintenance. City workers would motor-sweep the L.A. River bikeway 35 weeks a year instead of weekly.

And at municipal golf courses from Encino to Rancho Park, there would be less repair of turf areas, less weed abatement and leaf removal and “reduced overall quality,” according to the memo provided to council offices. In Echo Park Lake and MacArthur Park Lake, the department has told council members,  they may have to shut down pedal boat operations in the winter and fall.

In a council committee meeting last week, Parks and Recreation Executive Officer Regina Adams said she couldn’t offer “exact details” about the timing of the changes, but warned that cuts would happen.

“The public is going to start seeing some changes in the services we provide,” she said.

Adams said the parks department has begun organizing facilities into “clusters” to monitor how much the buildings are being used — determining whether staff members could be shared at multiple sites and which facilities should be closed if budget problems worsen.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a budget committee member, said that before the council makes final decisions he wants to see a breakdown of how much money the city would save from reducing hours at recreation centers. With events from the Easter egg hunt at Point Fermin Park to the windsurfing competition at Cabrillo Beach on the list of potential cancellations, Rosendahl said council members and staff would have to aggressively pursue private donors. He noted that the Memorial Day Body Building Competition on Venice Beach was on the list of events that might be canceled, but city officials have already struck a deal with private sponsors to save the contest.

“Everybody looks at their own list with laser eyes,” said Rosendahl, who said he would focus some of his efforts on avoiding reductions in youth programs. “Frankly, prevention and intervention is much more cost effective than dealing with suppression.... I will constantly want to see as few cuts as possible. It is as much value to me as hiring cops.”

Among the facilities that could be closed are the L.A. Youth Athletic Club, Pueblo del Rio Recreation Center in South Los Angeles, the David Gonzalez Boxing Arena, the Panorama Recreation Center and the Crestwood Hills Recreation Center.  Senior citizen centers under consideration for closure are  Sepulveda, Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks and North Hollywood in the Valley.

-- Maeve Reston

Photo: Peggy Nguyen, an environmentalist with the Griffith Park Fire Recovery Task Force, and Rick Fisher, a landscape architect with the city of Los Angeles, look over Fern Canyon in Griffith Park in 2007. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times