Update: May 18, 2010
Well, the shortened and moved batting cage is back up. I haven’t been able to get a view from the gardens of the affected residents. It does look lower and it was moved further away from homes. Jury is still out. The rest of the ball park is very lovely. I’ll keep you posted.
If there is one thing that really gets my goat is marginalization. Everyone has a voice and if they have something to say, we should take the time to listen. Have you ever noticed how older people are marginalized? They are talked over, around and through. It was very apparent to me when I joined my mother for her publisher junket at a book expo a few years back. At 70 she had written a compelling novel (Cryokid) that included the story of my life. I can’t tell you how many editors turned their attention to me and spoke as if she, the author, wasn’t even there. Now, at 74, my mother is a rabbinical student. When she is in class with her fellow students, she is considered a valuable team member. And outside of the classroom, she often finds herself dismissed.
Because of this hyperawareness, I can’t stand to see marginalization in any fashion. I am lucky to live in a lovely community in the San Fernando Valley called Encino Village (EV). It has historic significance in that it was architected by Martin Stern (who later garnered fame as the originator of the concept hotel…the MGM Grand), with lovely 1950’s style homes – most well-preserved. Designed to be a modern, efficient and quiet, family-friendly enclave, we all enjoy the privileges of living in this well designed community. It allows our kids to ride their bikes to and from each other’s homes, travel along the bike paths, enjoy gorgeous Balboa Park and best of all, has an active, vibrant neighborhood association. With fantastic police relations and an abiding respect for the safety and community orientation of the neighborhood, there are few places in the valley as sought after as a place to grow a family. And yet, EV and quite a few of the 460 or so homeowners are finding themselves marginalized in a battle to preserve the north end of our community.
We have experienced a really sad, really annoying disruption to this peaceful place — a well-known private high school’s (Harvard Westlake) baseball field “upgrade” has literally and monstrously [Ed. note: conceding that a commenter has made a valid point about my wording] included a very large, very high batting cage that has sprung up as part of an overall field renovation in the Army Corps property fields behind one block in the community. I’m including this pic, because no one would believe it if they didn’t see if for themselves, but this is the view from one of our resident’s home.
I would assume that part of the allure for this homeowner when they bought their home, was the unobstructed view they had of the San Gabriel mountains. Aside from completely destroying the view of the mountains, this structure greatly devalues these homes. But even worse is that the Encino Village Neighborhood Association (EVNA) has tried, in vain, to take part in the process from before any structure was ever built. No one knew what was happening until Francie Zamir, an EV resident, happened upon work being done on the field and was told the field was being upgraded. That upgrade has turned into a batting cage and structure that overwhelm the skyline because of their proximity to EV homes. One resident, Scott Vaughan, shared with me that “Home Plate is closer to a back patio on Bullock than it is to Second Base.” Now that can’t be right!
I’m certain I don’t have all the facts right in this very convoluted chain of events, but it does seem that there were no initial public hearings, and emails and letters are often ignored. Nor am I an investigative reporter ready to turn over every stone…but I do have opinion and in this instance it is a strong one. EV is being marginalized for sake of a batting cage.
Public officials (from councilman Greig Smith [who was going to ensure “no parking” signs were posted to alleviate traffic congestion in our ‘hood, although he was instrumental in getting a locked gate across one portion of the street adjacent to the ball field], to Brad Sherman to Barbara Boxer) seem to have stepped away from their initial involvement in helping find a fix to this insult on the community. The structure and batting cage (20’ tall!) are taller than most batting cages (around 14’) and it took the voices of a community to have the cage lowered from the initial 22.5 feet.
Sue Wilschke, an EV resident, received this response from Terri Kaplan, Chief, Asset Management Division, “The Mighty” Los Angeles District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
I have not responded to your April 2 email because my decision as to the batting cage, articulated in my letter of March 30, represents my “final decision” as the real estate Contracting Officer. The Sepulveda Basin, in addition to being a very large facility with many interested stakeholders and a variety of ongoing activities, is one of 14 flood control projects owned, operated, managed and maintained by the Los Angeles District Corps of Engineers. Regrettably, the totality of our workload does not allow me (or my staff) to individually address every concern raised by every constituent — particularly in cases like this, where I have issued what I believe to be an equitable decision, based on input from a variety of stakeholders including EVNA. Circumstances require that we turn our attention to the more overarching matter of administering the lease between the United States and Franklin Fields, Inc. This is particularly important because the matters that must be addressed and resolved are not confined to the one field being redesigned by Harvard Westlake School.
Hmmm. Is it just me? Or is EV being marginalized here? Ummm….yes. I think so. And I’m not pointing fingers…I’m just sayin’…
Everyone is hoping that the little David in EVNA will eventually silence. But after reading a few replies to one of our affected residents, Mary Marks, I’m adding my own squeak to the wheel (my own stone to the slingshot?) I’ve never met Mary. I don’t know how old she is or what she does. But she has been very diligent in communicating with Ms. Kaplan. She’s articulate, well-informed and makes compelling commentary. Last weekend there was a parking issue. Those attending the baseball games have designated parking not in EV. However many attendees parked in the streets of our community, creating just the type of congestion that was originally feared. Mary Marks informed Ms. Kaplan about the parking violations. This is the response she got from Theresa Kaplan:
I would like to illustrate to you how there are two sides to every story. You acknowledged in your message dated April 27 “Harvard Westlake had an event this afternoon attended by dozens, possibly over a hundred vehicles. I was gratified to see the efforts made by Harvard Westlake to mitigate the parking and traffic nuisance by closing the gate at Oxnard and Aldea, and putting up signs directing people to park in the lot at Franklin Fields.”
Yet I am informed that ON THAT SAME DAY, three times during the game, a gentleman from the house believed to be yours, came out at least three times yelling at the HWS security person who was manning the Oxnard gate — informing the Guard that he had no right to keep the gate closed. The Guard was in fact allowing people who wanted to use the park (not the ball fields) to park down at the end closer to the park.
As I have told you previously, parking restrictions on city-maintained streets are outside the Corps’ jurisdiction. So long as local ordinance does not prohibit or otherwise restrict parking, the Corps (as well as Franklin Fields, Inc, and Harvard Westlake School) can enforce parking requirements only within our own property boundary. Encino Franklin Fields, Inc and Harvard Westlake School have made a commitment to encourage their students, players, guests and families to park only in the on-site parking lots — however they cannot guarantee that people will comply, nor can the Corps mandate that they do so.
Mixed messages from the community, such as is described at the beginning of my message, will likely serve as a deterrent to any attempt to dissuade ball field visitors from parking on area streets.
TerriTerri Kaplan Chief, Asset Management Division “The Mighty” Los Angeles District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Except that Mary doesn’t have a man living in her house. And except that councilman Greig Smith had said he’d look into getting no parking signs put up in the areas of concern. Is it just me? Or was Mary just marginalized? I’m thinking…yes. And, again, I’m not pointing fingers…I’m just sayin’… that it is our fault that the baseball field is now affecting our community?
How is it possible that no traditional media has picked up this story? Surely a tiny neighborhood association fighting city hall has some appeal? The residents mentioned in this article are but a few of those who have emailed, called, sent in letters, showed up at meetings. In a short time from now, the field will be finished and then officials will say ‘…well…it’s already built. Not really fair to make the high school spend more money to retrofit the cages.”
Well, they aren’t finished building yet. Seriously, if this were your backyard, how would you feel? We have national and international problems that are very, very important. But surely there is some energy that can be allocated to local issues? In this economy, wouldn’t you think that the devaluation of community homes, in a market where they’ve already been devalued, is kind of serious?
Martin Stern, the architect who prized modernity and efficiency, would not be happy to see the ballpark in the backyard of his lovely Encino Village.