Sure, it might disrupt some baseball and softball games, but the people who use Carl E. Nielsen Youth Park are a lot less afraid of the rain these days.

That’s because the old dirt parking lot at the park, which used to flood and create a muddy quagmire for cars and cleated little athletes, is now beautifully paved.

Westchester Playa del Rey Youth Foundation, which operates the park under a lease from Los Angeles World Airports, the city department that operates Los Angeles International Airport and the city’s other airports, faced major fines from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) if it did not pave the Nielsen Field parking lot.

Once that word got out, companies and individuals quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

Jim Slater, Playa Vista’s director of off-site construction, took on the daunting task of serving as project coordinator for the parking lot paving project and along with several other Playa Vista employees — including Randy Johnson, Sibyl Buchanan and Cliff Ritz — dedicated countless hours to making sure the project came off without a hitch.

John Ziegler, an architect with the design and architectural firm of AC Martin, took the conceptual plans for the project and turned them into working drawings for the city.

Neighbor Robert Mogck routinely stopped by the park to clean up and take on odd jobs during the course of construction, while another neighbor, Bob Neiwirth, coordinated the final design work and helped obtain city permits.

Glenn Stronks of the Youth Foundation, a nonprofit group sponsoring organized sports for youths, was also on-site almost every day to make sure the project was moving forward on time and under budget.

And through it all, David Kissinger, Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski’s deputy for airport relations, helped smooth the city process.

“This was an absolute model for how a community can come together and accomplish a project that benefits a whole lot of kids,” said Mike Arias, who helped seek out donations to the project as the youth organizations director of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey.

Arias joined Miscikowski Saturday, March 19th, in cutting the ribbon on the new parking lot and thanking all those who made it possible.

Arias said there was no budget for the construction, valued at more than $150,000, so he and Youth Foundation leaders were pleased to find a volunteer way to make it work.

“I’m proud to say that no money from the various youth athletics programs that use Nielsen Field was used,” he said.

“We wanted to make sure that all the money raised by AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization), baseball and softball could still go to the things they need, like balls and uniforms.”

In addition to in-kind donations from companies like Playa Vista, Parkwest Landscape, Northwest Excavating and RTRI Consulting, the project received significant cash donations from the Westchester Vitalization Corp., the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey and Catellus.

Nielsen Field is an important institution, as more than 2,000 kids participate in organized sports at the site every weekend, and it is one of very few sports facilities in an area with high demand.

In fact, some kids were unfortunately turned away from AYSO soccer last year due to lack of space.

NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL DONATIONS — The Neighborhood Council of Westchester/-Playa del Rey, in addition to donating $24,000 to the Nielsen Youth Park project also doled out some serious donations to a variety of other worthwhile projects during a special meeting Wednesday, March 16th.

The Westchester Streetscape Improvement Association received $25,000 to help fund a final report that details the community’s goals for Sepulveda Boulevard. The report will be used to seek additional funding to make the public’s vision a reality.

The organization held three interactive workshops last year in which members of the community voted on what they would like to see along both the residential and commercial sections of the street.

The Neighborhood Council also donated $1,000 to the Cowan Avenue Nature Center to help put on its annual Concert for the Canyon fundraiser. The fundraiser is scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 1st, and will help raise money to continue the center’s nature education program for children.

Finally, the Neighborhood Council voted to provide $7,500 to Music West to help fund future theatrical events for children in the community.

“We were very happy to give this money to a number of great organizations in our community,” said Neighborhood Council president Gwen Vuchsas. “These are all deserving organizations, and we know the money will help them achieve their individual goals.”

NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL ELECTION — The annual election for the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey will be held over two days — Monday, April 4th, at the West-chester Woman’s Club, 8020 Alverstone Ave., Westchester; and Wednesday, April 6th, at the CenterPointe Club, 6200 Playa Vista Drive, in Playa Vista.

Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. each day.

Before the election, however, voters can meet candidates at a Candidates Forum at the West-chester Senior Center at 8740 Lincoln Boulevard at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 31st, which is also the final day for voters to register as stakeholders and vote in the election.

Unlike previous years, the Neighborhood Council is requiring all voters to register by March 31st in an attempt to reduce confusion and smooth the process on election days.

To register as a stakeholder, simply visit the Neighborhood Council Web site at

www.ncwpdr.org and download, complete and send in the appropriate form.

The Web site also has information about how to run for a seat on the board, a list of board candidates and more.

IDENTITY THEFT

TASK FORCE — The West-chester/LAX-Marina del Rey Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Marina del Rey Community Advisory Committee and the Marina del Rey Courtyard by Marriott will offer a free presentation about the nation’s fastest-growing crime — identity theft.

Presented by Lt. Ronald D. Williams of the Sheriff’s Department’s Identity Theft Task Force, the event is open to the public and will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14th, at the Courtyard by Marriott’s main ballroom, 13840 Maxella Ave., Villa Marina Marketplace.

This informative presentation is a must for people interested in learning more about how to protect themselves from identity theft.

Information, the chamber office, (310) 645-5151.

BALLONA LAGOON —Recently, the California Coastal Commission approved the city’s permit for the rehabilitation of the west bank of the Ballona Lagoon, which will include habitat restoration and the installation of a walking path.

The staff report had called for the path to be as far away from the lagoon and its habitat as possible, which essentially caused it to be as close as five feet from some residences, and also called for the installation of four lagoon overlooks with benches on Union Jack, Voyage, Westwind and Yawl Streets.

However, after adjacent homeowners expressed concerns about these recommendations, the coastal commission members voted to approve the project with the city’s original route for the path, which would be halfway between homes and the lagoon, and removed the four overlooks, due to security concerns.

“I am thrilled that it looks as if we may be able to move ahead with the project and create the beautiful, natural and native restoration with improved public access of the west bank in the very near future,” said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski.

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