Residents of the Mar Vista community who are pushing for an improvement plan centering on the artificial turf soccer field at the Mar Vista Recreation Center say they want to ensure that the field is not only protected but remains accessible while the park is open.

Some Mar Vista community members have expressed concern in recent months about issues related to the soccer field and park, as well as the effect of park activities on the surrounding neighborhood.

The artificial turf field, located at the west end of Mar Vista Park, 11430 Woodbine St., has been considered a hot spot for competitive soccer players from throughout Los Angeles since it opened in June 2005.

But some residents say the park has attracted not only more soccer players and fans, but also increased noise and trash, and alcohol and drug use.

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.

Residents living 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, some neighbors say.

The resident complaints prompted Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to organize a town hall meeting on the issues late last year.

As a result of the town hall meeting, Rosendahl called for a community working group to be formed that would address the various concerns and make recommendations for improvements.

In the months since the town hall meeting, the working group, which included Mar Vista Community Council vice chair Tom Ponton, compiled a list of proposals for the park, some of which were incorporated in a plan by Ponton titled “Blueprint for a better Mar Vista Park and Recreation Center.”

The blueprint plan, which includes 15 recommendations and is intended to resolve the issues of the soccer field, was supported by the Mar Vista Community Council at its meeting Tuesday, March 13th.

“I think it settles quite a few concerns but I don’t want to stop there, because there are other issues, like lights and security cameras,” Ponton said of the blueprint.

A main recommendation under the plan is that the current six-foot-high chain-link perimeter fence be removed and a new ten-foot-high perimeter fence be constructed around the soccer field, 20 feet from the artificial turf.

Some residents have said that a new perimeter fence would help control usage of the field and ensure that reasonable hours of use are enforced.

Another primary proposal is that “openings should be provided for public and maintenance access” but no locked gates should be installed until the city Department of Recreation and Parks provides a comprehensive plan for how any future gates would open during the set park hours.

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, according to the department.

Among the various blueprint recommendations are the establishment of set hours of operation for the soccer field, the posting of signs, the installation of a net above the fence and the planting of a hedge near the northern side of the fence.

Other recommendations are that restrooms should be open when park facilities are open, the Mar Vista Community Council should allocate $15,000 toward jogging trail improvements, and private security services should be contracted to patrol the park hourly.

Mar Vista Community Council member Ken Alpern, who said he voted against the blueprint only because he wanted more time for the community to review it, added that he supports the various proposals for park improvements.

“It’s an excellent blueprint,” Alpern said. “I think it’s a great start.”

Some residents at the Mar Vista Community Council meeting March 13th said they are in favor of the improvement plan, including the installation of a new perimeter fence, because it will help protect the field and keep people away when the park is closed.

But they said they also want to ensure that the field stays publicly accessible to players while the park is open.

Sharon Commins, chairman of the board for the youth Pacific Coast Soccer Club, said she supports having a protective fence but is “concerned about maintaining public access” with the installation of locked gates.

“It’s critical that we maintain free-play hours, because it’s a public park,” Commins said.

Other community members said they are afraid that locked gates would prevent adult and youth players, who come from other parts of the city, from using the soccer field when they want to play.

“We do not need locks,” resident Stephen Cummings said. “We do not need to divide the community between who is in and who is out.”

Resident Raahi Reddy added, “We don’t want to lock people out of this park.”

Department of Recreation and Parks officials said Mar Vista Park is classified as a regional park because it attracts visitors not only from Mar Vista but from throughout the area. Commins said the park issues concern not just Mar Vista residents but people throughout the city who use the soccer field.

“This is not a local neighbors issue, it’s a regional issue,” Commins said.

Del Rey resident Chris Nevil, who has been active with park issues in the area, said the Mar Vista Park field is about “inclusion, not exclusion.”

Mar Vista Community Council members said they would not support the installation of locked gates at the field until the Department of Recreation and Parks creates a plan on how the gates would operate during the park hours.

Jim Combs, Recreation and Parks assistant general manager, said the department will put together a plan for the use of the field gates that will identify who is responsible for operating them and when they will be open.

The blueprint plan for park improvements includes some thoughtful recommendations, Combs said.

“In general, it’s well thought out,” Combs said.

The Department of Recreation and Parks plans to review the various plan recommendations with Rosendahl’s office, he said.

In addition to supporting the blueprint plan proposals March 13th, the Mar Vista Community Council also voted to support the creation of an ad-hoc Recreation and Open Space Enhancement Committee that will further study future needs of the Mar Vista community related to the park.

Ponton said the committee will deal with “long-term strategic planning” for the park, and will include representatives from various community groups, such as the Westdale Homeowners Association, the Mar Vista Neighborhood Association, and sports group stakeholders.