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A Letter from Councilman Mitch Englander about Chatsworth Park South

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

April 24, 2014 

Dear Friends:

As you are aware, Chatsworth Park South has been closed to the public since February 2008 due to the identification of lead and other contamination at the site. My office has worked closely with the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and City of Los Angeles, Recreation and Parks to ensure the clean-up moves forward as quickly as possible, while continuously communicating with Chatsworth residents via the Council District Twelve e-mail newsletter and bringing updates to the Chatsworth Coordinating Council and the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council. We have also held several informational community meetings to share updates on the status of the park. 

Some members of the community have expressed concern over the installation of a decomposed granite parking area. This area has been specifically designed to accommodate occasional overflow parking while ensuring contaminated soil will not come into contact with park users or parks employees. 

The Department of Recreation and Parks worked with the DTSC to prepare a Removal Action Plan (RAP) that proposes mitigation plans that would be required to open the site back up for the community. The DTSC-approved mitigation measures address contaminated soil by "capping" the contamination with clean soil, removing contamination from scrub and brush areas and preserves heritage trees. We were pleased to announce to the community that the RAP was approved in June of 2013. 

While working on the RAP the Department of Recreation and Parks created design documents modeled off of community recommendations for the park, after remediation, with the intention to preserve the current natural feel of the park.

In January of this year, we began preparing the site for mitigation by beginning tree removal on site as well as taking first steps to preserve heritage trees, so that we remain in compliance with DTSC requirements. We also held an additional three community meetings discussing the design of the park with the public. An appointed oversight committee, that included an appointee from the Rockpointe community, provided feedback on priorities for the park design moving forward. 

The Department of Recreation and Parks final design documents include a robust planting plan with two trees planted for every one removed. The design features accessible ADA-compliant paths, preserves an existing stream bed and incorporates bioswails engineered to attract fauna to the site. 

Returning Chatsworth Park South to use for the community is of the utmost importance to me. If you would like to contact my office with regards to this site, please contact Megan Cottier at megan.cottier@lacity.org or 818-882-1212. 

Sincerely,

MITCHELL ENGLANDER

Councilmember, Twelfth District


Rebecca Burns April 26, 2014 at 09:40 PM
In rebuttal to Councilman Englander’s letter of April 24 about Chatsworth Park South: The Councilman states the reasons for removing green space and installing a parking lot are: 1. To accommodate “occasional overflow” parking; and 2. Ensure contaminated soil will not come into contact with park users or parks employees. The Councilman’s assessments are in conflict with the facts: 1. As a Rockpointe resident living next to this green space for 25 years, I have observed that “overflow parking” is needed during events at the Hill-Palmer Homestead Acre - perhaps six to eight times per year. Parking on the grass has easily accommodated these needs, and this certainly does not justify building a permanent parking lot. 2. The Councilman’s own newsletter of January 14, 2014 stated that the area around the Hill-Palmer Homestead Acre had been found to be “safe and free of contamination,” which is the reason it has remained open to the public while the rest of the park has been closed. Since the California Department of Toxic Substances Control has allowed the public to use this space for almost seven years, why does the grass and soil now need to be removed? The Councilman’s plan to make this major change to Chatsworth Park South by installing a parking lot was never publically disclosed; it was buried in a few meeting notices that appeared on a couple of web sites and notice boards. The three community meetings held in January and February referenced by the Councilman where designs for the park were discussed were poorly publicized as well. Additionally, the rendering of the remediated park posted on the Councilman’s website does not reflect any changes to the existing green space. The five member committee appointed by the Councilman was comprised of a local business owner, a Rockpointe resident, a Board member from SSMPA, and two Chatsworth Neighborhood Council members who are each committee chairs with their own agendas. The Rockpointe resident attended the first of the three meetings, voiced opposition to the planned parking lot, but was unable to attend subsequent meetings where this plan was finalized. No attempt was made to replace this person with another Rockpointe resident nor have a proxy act in her stead. Through word of mouth communications, a few Rockpointe residents became aware of this plan in early April. They attended a meeting on April 15th with Councilman Englander’s staff and a Parks Department representative. During that meeting, Councilman Englander’s staff stated the primary reason for the parking lot was “parking on the grass during events killed the grass and damaged the irrigation system.” The secondary reason for the parking lot was to accommodate horse owners wishing to have a dedicated place to unload their horse trailers. When asked why the existing parking lot at the back of the park could not be used for this purpose, the councilman’s staff stated that a gravel parking lot is required because unloading horses on asphalt is “unsafe.” Apparently horses can walk on asphalt, but not be unloaded on it. While the Councilman indicated his attempts to communicate to residents via his email newsletter, many residents are unaware of this communications channel, and many other residents have limited or no computer access. The Rockpointe community at large became aware of the planned parking lot and our opposition to it in the Rockpointe Courier monthly newsletter circulated April 25th. We have obtained over 100 signatures on a petition opposing this misguided plan and waste of tax dollars. Respectfully Councilman, all residents in Chatsworth deserve a voice in this matter; don’t you represent the entire 12th District?
Ronnie Amromin April 28, 2014 at 06:18 PM
CLEARLY, A SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP IS PUSHING THEIR OWN AGENDA AT THE EXPENSE OF THE ROCKPOINTE CONDOMINIUM COMMUNITY RESIDENTS! I am a homeowner in the Rockpointe condominium community that abuts Chatsworth Park South. Those persons in favor of a parking lot RIGHT NEXT TO our homes do not live in Rockpointe! The suggested parking lot will CAUSE A DECREASE IN THE VALUE OF ALL ROCKPOINTE CONDOMINIUMS, CAUSE A VIOLATION OF OUR PRIVACY, CAUSE EXCESSIVE NOISE, CAUSE AIR POLLUTION FROM CARS AND OTHER VEHICLES, ALONG WITH MANY OTHER DISADVANTAGES. We are a strong community of 739 homeowners and will legally challenge this proposal if necessary. Our rights as homeowners abutting the park must be taken into account. We need to meet with those responsible for this decision and come to a mutually acceptable agreement that will work for all interested parties. Councilman Englander, please set up another meeting (I had no knowledge of the committee meeting referred to in Ms. Burns post.) I would be happy to attend as a homeowner representative of the Rockpointe condominium community where I have lived for the past 26 years.
Gail Johnson April 29, 2014 at 10:28 AM
Well stated, Rebecca! It was only 13 days ago that we learned about this plan to construct a multipurpose parking lot in Chatsworth Park South. The news was delivered, not as an invitation for comment from the City, but in the form of a petition from a concerned Rockpointe neighbor. We, too, are concerned. It appears that this project has been moved forward without effective outreach to the community it will affect. Homeowners have received no information via the monthly Rockpointe newsletter because the HOA has received no information to pass along. Thus, homeowners have had no opportunity to study and comment on the plan. We have been informed that this parking lot proposal has been discussed at three meetings of a local volunteer group but those meetings have not been publicized or detailed in any meaningful way. This simply is not right. Three days ago opponents of this project received and distributed agendas from the three meetings of the Local Volunteer Neighborhood Oversight Committee, minutes from the first two of those meetings, and a schematic design (proposed site plan) of Chatsworth Park South. The new parking lot is shown on the site plan without notation, and mentions of the lot in the minutes are cursory: “more information on the use of front parking area” and “ideas for the front parking area”. On page 13 of the Initial Study / Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Chatsworth Park South Remedial Action Plan Project dated March 2013, it states: “The proposed Project includes paving of an expanded parking lot adjacent to the existing parking lot. The proposed Project does not include demolition or modification of existing Project site structures or construction of new facilities (other than the additional parking lot) at the Project site.” Yet, on the proposed site plan, the exiting parking lot has not been expanded. For the thirty years we have lived in the Rockpointe community the “front parking area” has been a grassy area used infrequently, as needed, as a parking lot for special events at the Hill-Palmer Homestead Acre. The lawn has survived just fine. Even during the past six years of park closure, when there has been no watering, the lawn has survived. To replace this grass with decomposed granite would be a travesty. The remediation of the park has always been couched in environmentally-friendly wording, but decomposed granite is NOT environmentally friendly. Chatsworth is a windy area. The first wind will blow this gritty substance all over the Hill-Palmer Homestead and the homes in Rockpointe. The area will likely end up as bare soil. The secretive way in which this plan has been conceived has hardly been democratic. The residents of the affected community ought to be consulted and given a chance to voice their opinions.
Joel Amromin April 29, 2014 at 01:39 PM
I recently learned of the plan to replace a large section of grass near the entrance to Chatsworth Park South with a gravel parking lot. This lot has been promoted by and is primarily for the benefit of people bringing in horse trailers. This will significantly affect the quality of life in the adjacent Rockpointe residential development. It will interfere with views. It will pollute the neighborhood with the noise, truck exhaust, and horse excrement smells produced by this activity. It will also increase truck and trailer traffic on the approach to the park, which goes directly through the Rockpointe development. That will result in decreased property values for the Rockpointe residents and their homeowners association. As others have pointed out, there is no need to do this as part of the remediation program because the land was not included in the areas that needed remediation. In fact, it is currently open to the public for recreation and occasional special event parking. Those needs can continue to be met with simple grading and replacement of the grass with a sturdier turf better able to withstand the occasional use as a parking lot solely for special events. A gravel parking lot and ongoing regular use for equestrian activity are unnecessary and unwanted by the local community. Meetings and information regarding the plan were not well publicized. In fact, I don't know anyone who was aware of it. This is an example of special interests (equestrians) using government to take actions detrimental to the local community without adequately involving that community in the decision-making process. As a Rockpointe resident not adjacent to that proposed parking lot, I am fully opposed to it. My votes in future City Council elections will largely hinge on this issue that directly impacts my family and neighbors.

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