City Reaches Tentative Settlement: Baseball Field for Griffith Park

Friends of Griffith Park and others surrounded a Sycamore tree in 2014 they did not want destroyed for two youth baseball fields. A new tentative agreement in a lawsuit with the non profit and the city would build one ballfields and not disturb the tree. Photo: Allison B. Cohen

Members of Friends of Griffith Park and others surrounded a Sycamore tree in 2014 they did not want destroyed for two youth baseball fields. A new tentative agreement in a lawsuit filed by the non-profit against the city of Los Angeles would build one ballfield instead and would keep the tree. Photo: Allison B. Cohen

LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously February 2 to agree to a tentative settlement regarding the construction of a youth baseball field in Griffith Park.

The settlement still must be approved by the city’s Recreation and Parks Board of Commissioners and, if that five-panel board is in agreement, again by the full Los Angeles City Council.

The City Council approved in 2014 the construction of two youth baseball fields adjacent to the Crystal Springs picnic area. But the city’s actions were contested with a lawsuit filed by the non-profit Friends of Griffith Park and the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust.

Yesterday’s tentative settlement approval instead offers that one larger baseball field be constructed at a location further south from what was originally planned. This new iteration, a variation on one of City’s earlier proposals, would require the relocation of 56 picnic tables and a children’s play area but would mean a Sycamore tree, aged at about 100 years, would not be disturbed. As with the initial project, any removed trees at the new site would be replaced at a 2:1 ratio. The settlement also requires American with Disabilities upgrades for a nearby restroom and the mitigation of six other issues, which were not disclosed.

Friends of Griffith Park President Gerry Hans did not respond to a request for comment on deadline.

Los Feliz Neighborhood Council (LFNC) Recreation Representative Mark F. Mauceri, a long-time champion of restoring youth baseball to Griffith Park, said he was pleased local kids and their parents won’t have to trek across town to other neighborhoods to play baseball.

“If the city is going with the larger one-field option, it’s going to be a great improvement for Los Feliz and the entire city having the ‘Griffith Park Yards’ nearby. The Los Feliz Neighborhood Council had been adamant that one right-sized field was the way to go, so this is really good news.”

Nearly three years ago in May of 2013, Mauceri, acting on behalf of the LFNC, authored a detailed letter pointing out to former City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, the now scrapped two-field plan was too small for what the area’s kids needed. Seven months later, Mauceri again reiterated the same concern via a letter to other city officials working on the project, specifically stating: [I]t would be better if we constructed one field of age appropriate proportions rather than two [smaller] fields. . . to adequately accommodate kids ages 10-14.” LaBonge’s and now Councilmember David Ryu’s District 4 includes Griffith Park.

“Credit goes to David Ryu and his CD4 team for seeing it wasn’t a ‘LaBonge pet project’ as its opponents claimed, and finding a perfect compromise, although we could have got here a lot sooner. LaBonge was a polarizing figure when it came Griffith Park,” Mauceri said. “A lot of time and money was unnecessarily wasted getting here, but the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council is going to work to see every penny possible winds up out on that field.”

Prop. K, which was approved by voters in 1996 to create and fund recreational programs in the city for “at risk youth” will fund the project.

According to baseball field design specialists, larger ballfields can be configured for younger children as well as those entering middle school, which Mauceri and others have argued are more likely to be of an age being truly “at risk.” The previous plan for two small fields, designed for younger children, can not be so configured.

A number of baseball fields once existed in Griffith Park but were removed in the 1950s for construction of the 5 Freeway and never replaced.

Other terms of the settlement include the city paying Friends of Griffith Park and the charitable trust’s legal fees, which amounted to just over $34,000.

The settlement comes just two weeks prior to the next scheduled court hearing on the matter, February 17.

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