Members of the Del Rey Park Task Force say they continue to receive support for their effort to create recreational park space at the site of the former U.S. Postal Service Marina Processing and Distribution Center on Jefferson Boulevard near Playa Vista.
But some local environmentalists say they have devised a more financially-achievable plan with a comprehensive solution to local community desires.
The Postal Service closed the Marina Processing Center, 13031 Jefferson Blvd. in the Del Rey area, in mid-July to consolidate operations into the larger Los Angeles Processing Center.
The potential sale of the 20-acre Marina Center property has sparked the interest of a diverse group of potential buyers, including various developers and the Del Rey Park Task Force, which is comprised of Del Rey residents seeking to create a park.
One of the latest possible purchasers to offer a proposal for the site is a group of local environmentalists, including Robert van de Hoek and Marcia Hanscom, who are interested in the property’s prime location adjacent to Ballona Creek.
“It’s right next to the Ballona Creek,” said Hanscom, executive director of the Wetlands Action Network. “It’s a very important parcel of land because of the proximity to the natural environment of the title estuary.
“The more natural spaces we have adjacent to that ecological treasure the better.”
Postal Service plans to put the property up for sale have been delayed until at least the middle of September, after Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl asked postal officials for a month-long delay in the sale.
The property has received a conservative appraisal of about $35 million, but Postal Service spokesman Larry Dozier has said that when the property is put on the market “it will go for what the market will bear.”
The effort to delay the potential sale even further has received support from many other local elected officials, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villa-raigosa, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.
Both Rosendahl and Villaraigosa wrote letters to Boxer, requesting her support to seek a six-month delay of the sale in order to allow the public the opportunity to find funding needed for the purchase.
In a letter Friday, August 19th, addressed to U.S. Postmaster General John Potter, Boxer wrote:
“If the sale was delayed for at least 180 days, the public would be better able to complete the process and present a bid that compensates the Postal Service fairly.”
Natalie Ravitz, press secretary at Boxer’s Washington, D.C. office, said Boxer’s staff has not yet received any official response from postal officials regarding the delay request.
While potential purchasers await an answer on the requested delay, both Del Rey Park Task Force members and local environmentalists are pushing their respective proposals for the site and seeking support in their effort.
The Del Rey Park Task Force seeks to acquire the 20-acre property and preserve it as active open space, to include what they say are greatly needed recreational fields for youth sports.
The Del Rey Park Task Force also would like to include a passive open space area on a stretch along the Ballona Creek and a community center building to hold community meetings.
But Hanscom and Van de Hoek — representing environmentalist groups Wetlands Action Network, Ballona Institute and Sierra Club — said the property presents an opportunity to add more environmental space to the Ballona Creek area.
“Having nature in the city is a good thing because it makes the cities livable,” said Van de Hoek, a conservation biologist with Ballona Institute.
If the property were to be preserved as open space, it would add to the 575 acres in the Ballona area already designated as a state ecological reserve by the state Department of Fish and Game, he said.
“The bigger the area the more animals and nature it can support,” Van de Hoek said.
While the environmentalists see acquisition of the postal property as an opportunity to add more natural space, they say they also understand that there are other community needs to be met, including the recreational space desired by the Del Rey Park Task Force.
Environmentalists Hanscom and Van de Hoek have proposed creating an “Eagle Sports Park,” which they say combines a comprehensive mixture of community desires, including open space, recreational space and a community building.
“I think it’s fitting all of those needs,” said Van de Hoek.
“It serves the citizens of the city and helps nature and wildlife also.”
The environmentalist proposal divides the 20 acre-property into eight acres for natural open space, eight acres for sports fields and four acres for a community building and park headquarters.
The eight acres of natural open space would include freshwater and alkaline vernal pools nearest to the Ballona Creek, as well as rare and endangered plants and flowers.
The four-acre community building would be a part of the current Marina Center retail postal facility on Jefferson Boulevard that might be salvaged.
A native plant nursery would be included at the western corner of the property and a native plant garden at the eastern corner.
The eight acres for sports fields at the proposed park would allow for three regulation soccer, baseball or softball fields.
About 138 parking spaces would be created in the median on Alla Road.
But Chris Nevil, member of the Del Rey Park Task Force, said the Eagle Sports Park plan is far different than the Del Rey Park Task Force and community’s vision for the property.
“Our vision for that property is to have a place for kids and families to play and engage in healthy athletic activities,” Nevil said. “An athletic complex is what we envision.”
Del Rey Park Task Force members have said recreational facilities in the community are extremely scarce, so a “vast majority” of the proposed park should serve a recreational purpose.
The community has strongly supported the effort for a recreational facility at the site, as nearly 2,400 people have signed the Del Rey Park Task Force petition, Nevil said.
“What the community wants is sports fields,” he said.
Other supporters of the Del Rey Park Task Force plan include county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles Police Department Pacific Community Police Station Capt. Bill Williams and the Del Rey and Mar Vista Neighborhood Councils.
Although the Del Rey Park Task Force proposal has always included a passive open space area at the edge of Ballona Creek for activities such as picnicking, the plan does not include as extensive a natural open space area as the eight-acres proposed by Hanscom and Van de Hoek, Nevil said.
But the environmentalists say that the purpose of their proposal is to allow for sports fields and nature to coexist.
The Eagle Sports Park plan would allow children to have a place to play sports and also learn about the environment, Van de Hoek said.
“It is really a great thing for kids growing up to be able to go between sports and nature,” he said.
Hanscom and Van de Hoek say their park proposal is also more financially achievable, primarily through funding from the California Wildlife Conservation Board.
Hanscom said the Wildlife Conservation Board has funding available to purchase land and the environmental aspects of the Eagle Sports Park plan may inspire the board to fund the park.
The Wildlife Board may be the only realistic funding source in the amount of time available, she said.
Other possible sources of funding include the mitigation fund of the Port of Los Angeles and the California Coastal Conservancy, she said.
In order to convince the Wildlife Board to fund a plan for sports fields, the environmentalists propose to move the Playa Vista Little League fields along Culver Boulevard to the Eagle Sports Park.
The move would free up contiguous land at the Ballona Wetlands and give the community access to sports fields currently being used only by the Playa Vista League, Hanscom said.
But Nevil contends that the environmentalists’ plan of moving Playa Vista Little League fields to the proposed Eagle Sports Park would create a net gain of “zero additional athletic fields for the community.”
While Hanscom and Van de Hoek say their proposal is financially possible, Nevil says the Del Rey Park Task Force continues to search for viable funding for its proposed park.
Possible funding options mentioned by Del Rey Park Task Force members have included a low-cost lease of the property to the city, county or another entity, as well as grants from the state and federal government.
The Del Rey Park group has also considered the possibility of a bill introduced by State Senator Wesley Chesbro, which awaits passage by the state Assembly and might provide a $3.8 billion bond measure for parks and coastal areas.
Both the environmentalists and Del Rey Park Task Force members plan to continue seeking support for their effort until the time comes to present a proposal to the Postal Service for the purchase.