Culver City Observer -

Playground Issue Catches Council by Surprise

Mayor Says "We Made a Mistake"


By Lynne Bronstein

Observer Reporter

What might have been a routine procedure of passing Consent Calendar items one by one turned into a major discussion at May 11's City Council meeting thanks to an item dealing with a local playground.

The item, C-5 on the agenda, dealt with the Syd Kronenthal Park Playground Rehabilitation Project. The park was recently the subject of improvements by the R.E. Shultz Construction Services Company. The Council was ready to approve the work done when a number of people spoke in public comment about the item and it became clear that many residents were discontented with the park's playground facilities.

The project involved replacing the outdated playground equipment with sculptural elements that are both physically and mentally challenging; replacing the sand surfacing with 100% engineered wood fibar; incorporating an accessible ramp; and providing a path of travel to and from the parking area to the playground area that will bring the entire playground into 100% Federal ADA compliance.

But these improvements alone aren't what locals want to see for the playground. Speakers claimed that children under five are not supposed to use the playground equipment. There are currently many families with children under five who regularly use the park.

Some speakers remembered that Syd Kronenthal Park, formerly McManus Park, had once been a place they did not want to take their children to due to gang activity in the park.

"It's a safer place," admitted neighbor Irene Dorsey. But she regretted how the park project had gone through without prior notification of the changes and that the project had deprived families of young children of a decent place to play.

Several families had brought their children to the meeting. Toddlers hung on to the legs of their parents who stood at the podium. One mother began to cry as she spoke of the need for a safe place for very young children to play.

Parks and Recreation director Dan Hernandez reacted to the comments by noting that the problems with the equipment could be fixed but that the budget approved for the work is not sufficient at this time to make the changes.

Council member Jim Clarke expressed confusion with what the audience was saying. He asked if the issue was whether there was equipment suitable for one to five year olds, whether such equipment had been removed during the improvement project, or whether the equipment was there but was not ADA-compliant.

Staff replied that the playground did have equipment for young children but it was "small."

"We obviously made a mistake," concluded Mayor Mehaul O'Leary. "We missed a segment of the community."

The urgency of the comments caused the council to realize that a community meeting was needed. City staff will be coming back to council with a date and time for the meeting, which will be publicly posted. The meeting will include members of the Parks and Recreation Commission as well as council members and the public.

Item C-5 was then voted on as an item separate from the other Consent Calendar items. It passed as written.

O'Leary explained that it was necessary for the council to pass the item, to make it legal that the work done by R.E. Shultz Construction had been completed.


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