The artificial turf soccer field at the Mar Vista Recreation Center has become a hot spot for competitive soccer players from throughout Los Angeles.

Players descend on the soccer field, located at the west end of Mar Vista Park, 11430 Woodbine St., for games and practices throughout the day and even late into the night.

Mar Vista community members knew the $800,000 synthetic turf field would be a big addition to their neighborhood park, but for many residents, the field’s high popularity is largely unexpected.

With the rising usage of the soccer field since it opened in June 2005, some community members say the park is attracting not only more soccer players and fans, but also increased noise, trash, and alcohol and drug use.

Neighborhood youths who want to play on the field for fun have been displaced by teams from throughout the city that use the field for competitive play, residents say.

To some neighbors living near the 18-acre recreation center, the nature of the park has changed and it has become more of a “sports complex” than a neighborhood park.

Some Mar Vista community members have begun efforts to address issues related to the soccer field and park, and are exploring ways to limit the effect of park activities on the surrounding community.

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a Mar Vista resident, held a town hall meeting with representatives from the city Department of Recreation and Parks, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the City Attorney’s Office at Mar Vista Park Wednesday, November 29th, to address residents’ concerns about the soccer field.

Jim Combs, assistant general manager of the city Recreation and Parks Department, told the residents that Mar Vista Park is one of the department’s most popular parks.

“This park is one of the most heavily used and active in our system,” Combs said.

The park attracts visitors not only from Mar Vista but throughout the area because it is classified as a “regional park,” said Debby Rolland, superintendent of the Recreation and Parks Department west region.

“The park has a role in providing resources to a broader community than to just those who live near it,” said Jerry Hornof, Mar Vista Park Advisory Board president.

LAPD Officer Craig White said the park has very few incidents of crime, but some problems have occurred with people spraying graffiti and using drugs and alcohol.

The park is open daily between 5:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Park staff offices are open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

But residents near the park say that some users of the soccer field continue to congregate after the park closes and stay in the area until the early morning hours.

This leads to a heightened noise level during the night and issues of security at the park, residents say.

Among solutions proposed by the residents are to increase the number of park staff members to handle the large crowds and to hire security officers to patrol the park beyond the hours that it is open.

Some say that a main way to help control the activity related to the soccer field is to construct a fence that would surround only the artificial turf field. A fence would help control usage of the field as well as ensure that reasonable hours of use are enforced, some neighbors say.

A group of residents at the town hall meeting who were in favor of a fence said that it would be “esthetically pleasing” and would not affect the surrounding jogging path and open space in the park.

The group said that more than 80 residents have signed a petition supporting the installation of a fence.

Combs said the Mar Vista Park soccer field is the only artificial turf field of the Recreation and Parks Department that does not have a locked fence.

The city Department of Public Works installed a six-foot chain-link fence when the field first opened to protect its surface, but the city later removed the fence after residents complained that the fence subdivided the open space area on the west end of the park.

Other residents at the town hall meeting said that a fence was not the way to solve the issues regarding use of the field. Resident Steve Wallace said that if people are determined to play soccer late into the night, they would most likely be determined to jump a fence.

“I don’t think a fence is the answer,” said Wallace, adding that a solution might be to hire a security officer for the facility.

Mar Vista Community Council vice chair Tom Ponton agreed, saying that many residents are in favor of finding solutions other than a fence.

“Fencing may keep people off the field but it won’t solve the problems, because the problems will move outside the fence,” Ponton said.

Hornof, of the Mar Vista Park Advisory Board, said a fence surrounding the field might help restrict hours of usage but wouldn’t address other issues, such as increased trash and noise levels.

Ponton added that a fence would be a “waste of money” and also have aesthetic implications.

Money would be better spent on other programs and needs for the park, such as upgraded restrooms, Ponton said.

Among other solutions proposed by residents at the town hall meeting are the placement of a hedge along the fence on Woodbine Street and the installation of security cameras in certain areas of the park.

In addressing the concerns about the Mar Vista Park soccer field, Hornof said the community needs to devise a plan that will focus on the “full range of issues.”

Rolland of the Recreation and Parks Department said department officials plan to work with residents in an effort to come up with a solution for the park that is best for the community.

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