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Parks and Recreation Commission Minutes November 14, 2005

Parks and Recreation Commission Minutes November 14, 2005

City Council Chamber
Monday, November 14, 2005
6:30 p.m.


Chair Swanson called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m., noting that Director Molendyk was not attending the meeting tonight and that Administrative Manager Alice Loya was the Acting Director. He added that Commissioner Han and Commissioner Miller were also unable to attend the meeting.


Commissioner Russell led the flag salute.


Present :

Kathleen Baier-Dalton, Pamela Keller, Craig Russell, Nancy Spencer, Neil Swanson

Absent :

Virginia Han, George Miller

Staff :

Parks and Recreation Managers Dave Alkema, Grace Carroll-Miranda, Alice Loya, Dannielle Mauk, and Judy Peterson; Landscape Superintendent Dennis Quinlivan; Landscape Supervisor Phil Kisor; Neighborhood Center Coordinator Eddie Burciaga; Parks and Recreation Instructors Tim and Matt Anderson


There were no comments from the public; however, Acting Director Loya noted a letter from Chris Heusser regarding the new gate at Mountain View Park, a copy of which was placed before each commissioner.

Commissioner Russell left the dais.

CONSENT ITEMS (Items 1 - 3)

Acting Director Loya noted the change in the agenda format with the inclusion of consent items. She said any consent items could be pulled for further discussion if the commissioners so wished. Commissioner Dalton MADE A MOTION to approve the Consent Calendar and Commissioner Spencer SECONDED THE MOTION.

AYES: Dalton, Keller, Spencer, Swanson
NOES: None
ABSENT: Russell

The MOTION CARRIED unanimously.


Recommendation to approve the Minutes of the October 10, 2005 regular meeting.


Staff recommendation to receive and file the Landscape Division October 2005 Monthly Report.


Staff recommendation to approve and accept a memorial bench donation for Laguna Lake Park.



Family and Senior Services Manager Judy Peterson introduced Eddie Burciaga, Neighborhood Center Coordinator and acknowledged the many volunteers who help at the Garnet Neighborhood Center. She lauded the many programs and activities at Garnet Center being provided through just Coordinator Burciaga and some part-time staff hours. She said he would be presenting two of Garnet Neighborhood Center's latest projects and that several volunteers would be recognized for their efforts.

Coordinator Burciaga provided a Power Point presentation of the Garnet Neighborhood Center, noting that he has worked with many groups, but particularly Solidarity which provides the most volunteers and residents from the neighborhood. Coordinator Burciaga highlighted the types of services provided by staff and through in-kind services to improve quality of life issues in the neighborhood including drugs, vandalism, trash and traffic safety.

The first new program Mr. Burciaga presented was the Teen Center. He asked the parents who were involved to stand up and be recognized. He said the Teen Center was started in a garage with a $1,000 personal donation from Eddie Ceballos who volunteered and also got others involved. Mr. Burciaga also acknowledged the owners of Pacific Utility, who are providing electrical wiring, desks, and built-in cabinets as well as labor for the Teen Center. He acknowledged the volunteers, including two young men, Matt and Tim Anderson, who are part-time City staff now, but have been volunteering and providing their own funds for two years. Mr. Burciaga noted that the main goal of the Teen Center was to keep teens off the streets and away from drugs and gangs.

The second new program introduced by Coordinator Burciaga was the Parents' Committee. He said the parents meet with staff on at least a weekly basis or whenever needed. The parents also assist with field trips and the after school programs and as neighborhood committee members. He also acknowledged the eight parents who are on the committee whose names were listed on the projector screen, noting that the Teen Program has 35 teen participants per week although they already have 50 signed up. Coordinator Burciaga said they average 80 volunteer hours per week, 542 hours since January, 39 registered volunteers, and 19 active volunteers weekly.

Chair Swanson asked where the garage was located, and was told it was on the Garnet Center property. He asked when a good time was to visit, and Coordinator Burciaga suggested every Thursday, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m., adding that the Police Gang Unit Sergeant was coordinating with and very support of the Center. Chair Swanson commended Coordinator Burciaga, the volunteers involved and their hard work.

Commissioner Keller thanked Eddie very much for the Teen Center, saying that while there were many programs for "little ones," there was really a need for teen programs, and commended and thanked the volunteers, including in Spanish.


Acting Director Alice Loya gave a short summary, saying that with the exception of new Commissioner Pam Keller, the commissioners have toured the golf course. She said American Golf Corporation operates the Fullerton Municipal Golf Course, and that the City doesn't just lease the facility, but it shares in the revenues, too. She reminded the commissioners of the losses suffered by American Golf due to the last rainy season. She then introduced the representatives, Brian Bode, Regional Director for Orange County of American Golf, and Brian Yourstone, general manager of the Fullerton Golf Course.

Brian Bode introduced himself and noted that American Golf has been in Fullerton 20 years and runs both Fullerton Municipal Golf and Coyote Hills Golf Course. He provided a Power Point presentation of the various courses owned by American Golf throughout the nation, noting that they own nearly 200 courses. Mr. Bode then provided slides of the storm damage and renovation process at the Fullerton Golf Course, and the final result. He also showed slides of the storm damage last February and areas of the course which were totally submerged and, again renovated, and a new fence installed near a walkway.

Commissioner Spencer asked if there was similar damage at other Southern California courses, and Mr. Bode responded "yes," at Paradise Knolls in Riverside. Commissioner Spencer asked if there was anything that could be done to prevent the damage again, or if it was just the location. Mr. Bode agreed that it was the location, saying that there were five or six courses in Southern California impacted, but that Fullerton was probably the worst because it was in a flood plain. He noted that there was over $1 million in damage, but hoped that the last storm was the 100-year storm.

The commissioners thanked Mr. Bode, and Chair Swanson said he'd been out at the golf course since the renovations and that it played well although it hadn't helped his game.


Parks Manager Dave Alkema said that he received a call from a resident three or four weeks ago regarding a potential hazard from a baseball backstop at Hillcrest Park very close to a picnic shelter and playground. After viewing the site personally, and seeing the close proximity of the backstop next to the playground shelter and reviewing the information provided by the playground safety consultant, Manager Alkema said he felt there was a potential hazard which could harm park users. In addition, since the City has been notified of the hazard, allowing the backstop to stay might be interpreted as facilitating ball play there. Thus, Manager Alkema recommended that the backstop be removed and asked for the Commission's concurrence.

Commissioner Russell said he was shocked to see the issue again, and was concerned that now, the Parks and Recreation Department will be going around park to park taking all the equipment out. Manager Alkema agreed with Commissioner Russell that the backstop had been there a long time. Commissioner Russell said he was suspicious of a phone call from a resident suddenly calling to complain about the backstop.

When asked, Acting Director Loya agreed the backstop has been there a long time, prior to the new play equipment, but that the backstop used to be further away from the playground areas because the playground area was where the new parking lot now is. She then asked Manager Alkema to put a color copy of the area in question on the overhead projector. He described the field measurements taken and how the backstop does not protect the picnic area from balls going in that direction, with no trees to protect the area. He added that playground safety consultant Gary Gershon's report on the Fullerton Sports Complex said that any area within a 100-foot radius of home plate would be an extreme liability and hazard. Manager Alkema showed how the first quarter of the picnic area was within the 100 foot radius and encompassed the entire playground. A 200-foot radius, which was approximately the area of a softball field, would take in the entire picnic and play area.

Commissioner Russell asked if the proper standards were being applied since the prior sports fields evaluated were official ball fields while the Hillcrest field only has a backstop. Manager Alkema said a reasonable person would see the backstop and consider that it was supposed to be for ball play, just as someone who sees the picnic shelter would consider it for picnicking or someone would see a playground and want to play on it. Commissioner Russell asked if a backstop had to be taken out if it didn't protect people 100% of the time, and asked if staff thought no one would play ball there if the backstop were taken out. Manager Alkema responded that, while there might still be ball play even when the backstop is taken out, the City would not be providing an atmosphere for or encouraging ball play. Commissioner Spencer asked if there were regularly scheduled games, and was told "no."

Commissioner Keller said she had the same concerns as Commissioner Russell, and asked if the City was going to go to all the parks, looking for all the hazards, using as an example the steps to the Hillcrest bathroom which had "old stone stairs" and asking if they would have to be replaced due to a potential danger. She asked how far this issue would go, noting that this was probably a Risk Management issue but that she would err on the other side of the "let's be nervous about everything" philosophy. Noting that she and her children and their friends have gone to Hillcrest Park many times without ever seeing a ball going into the picnic shelter or seen a problem. She said she saw a difference between an organized ball game with balls flying all over versus a pickup game, saying she was concerned about activities being taken away, given the obesity rates in the community.

Commissioner Spencer asked if Risk Management was consulted, and Manager Alkema said "no." Commissioner Spencer said it might be a good idea. Chair Swanson agreed with commissioners Russell and Keller, saying the City was setting a precedent, and that the recommendation was a "knee-jerk" reaction, given that there was just one person complaining regarding Hillcrest, and only two at the Sports Complex. He said he wasn't being callous, but thought there was some implied risk at the picnic area.

Commissioner Russell had concerns about removing the backstop, saying that there was a greater chance of injury without the backstop because people are aware of the site as a ball field and will continue to utilize it without the safety of the backstop. He said the backstop protected those waiting their turn to bat, and also negates the need for a catcher, saying the ball will be rolling and rolling. In addition, without a backstop, there would be a catcher somewhat close to the batter and those waiting their turns to bat wouldn't have protection, increasing the risk of injury from a ball. He said he would be opposed to moving the backstop, wasn't sure the standards provided earlier would apply to just a backstop, and that he would want to know that before making a decision.

Commissioner Spencer asked if there were similar situations with backstops in other parks. Manager Alkema said he went to the Hillcrest site due to a resident nearby complaining of a potential hazard, saying staff didn't go out looking for a problem. Chair Swanson asked whether Ford and Chapman parks wouldn't have a similar situation with backstops and playgrounds nearby. Commissioner Spencer noted that there are places without any backstops, providing the example at the Senior Center where a team was practicing nearby and she was worried about herself or her car getting hit. Chair Swanson reiterated Commissioner Russell's comments about the backstop providing a measure of safety if a bat gets loose, for example. He said at Amerige Park, everyone knows there are certain places they should and shouldn't park (due to balls), saying this was part of playing baseball. Commissioner Spencer agreed.

Commissioner Dalton concurred with the other commissioners, saying they are creating a problem where there hasn't been one, and that more study needs to be done before the backstop is taken out. She pointed out that a backstop has been in that location probably 40 or 50 years. She felt that the City "was trying to anticipate every single, tiny, inevitable problem that could occur in the world and stomp it out," saying there was already too much of that going around.

Chair Swanson asked for further discussion; there was none.

Commissioner Keller MADE A MOTION that the Commission not approve the staff recommendation to remove the softball/baseball back stop at Hillcrest Park. Commissioner Russell SECONDED THE MOTION.

AYES: Dalton, Keller, Russell, Spencer, Swanson
NOES: None

The MOTION CARRIED unanimously.


Cultural and Events Manager Dannielle Mauk provided a Power Point presentation on the Museum renovations, saying that they are about 95% complete with just a few minor details to resolve. She noted the original goals and objectives of more restrooms, improving the design of the kitchen and auditorium access, allowing for expanded and more efficient programs, events and concerts, improving the efficiency of Museum operations and greater programming flexibility, and space for the new Leo Fender exhibit.

Manager Mauk showed slides of restrooms which are now accessible from the outside, double doors to the storage, new full-service kitchen, sink, refrigerator, ice machine, work storage room with sink, and a locked storage area. She noted the extra security to protect the collections and against vagrants. She also noted the permanent Fender Collection at the Fender Gallery, opening April 22nd, saying the original exhibit would remain for two years, with educational programs and concerts to complement the exhibit. Chair Swanson complimented Manager Mauk on the improvements and thanked her for her presentation.


Parks Manager Alkema made the presentation, and reminded the commissioners that City Council rejected the Nicolas and Chapman park restroom replacement but accepted construction of restrooms at Lemon Park.

Commissioner Dalton asked about unisex restrooms to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, and asked Manager Mauk if that was looked into. Manager Mauk said that was being taken into consideration, and Commissioner Dalton recommended they have unisex restrooms since they would be in a very visible area with lots of people and there are not enough restrooms for women.

Manager Alkema pointed out the restroom renderings for Nicolas Park, which were pre-fab and could be used as unisex although they were designated as "Men's Family and Women's Family." He said men were a little messier than women, and that his landscape architect, Ms. Sandy Willis, convinced him not to go unisex. He noted that these were single restrooms that could be locked without concerns about who else was in the restroom.

Manager Alkema called the restrooms "bullet-proof" and easy to maintain, and that the Building and Facilities Supervisor, Rick Stock, really liked them; however, Council didn't like them. Chair Swanson asked if Union Pacific Park didn't have pre-fab restrooms that had to be replaced because they didn't stand up well. Acting Director Loya said she wasn't sure. Manager Alkema said pre-fabricated buildings "have really come a long way," and that quality-control is superb with concrete block mounted on a concrete pad, and roofed with fixtures already installed, so that restrooms facilities are only out of commission one or two weeks rather than months.

Manager Alkema provided a rendering of the Lemon Park restroom, noting the architectural details, and said that a similar restroom built at Fairview Park in Costa Mesa garnered very positive comments. He said women especially felt very safe, and that the restrooms were easy to clean, were well-ventilated and well-lit, and expected the same from the Lemon Park restrooms. He then asked for questions, and Chair Swanson said he had several. He commented on the high cost of the restrooms, saying although there was donated labor at a restroom built a few years ago at Chapman Park, he was astounded that that cost was one-quarter of the current ones. Manager Alkema agreed that construction costs were extremely high, but that that was the current state of affairs, and that it was only going to get worse with climbing costs for materials, fuel, transportation and labor. Chair Swanson asked for the restroom site which Manager Alkema said would be between the park and the fields, north of Maple Center, adjacent to a walkway.

Commissioner Russell said although they joke about restrooms, restrooms were very important, and asked if the Commission had been asked about this project. Acting Director Loya said it was presented as part of the Capital Improvement budget. Commissioner Russell expressed concern that the Commission didn't get what it wanted on the restrooms, and that of the three parks, Lemon Park was the least important, in his view and experience, while Chapman and Nicolas were a higher priority and that they got the most complaints on those two parks. He said he would have liked the item to come to Commission first so it could have made adjustments and made different priorities before Council made its decision, adding that he wasn't sure that Council had as much appreciation for the parks as does the Commission. He expressed disappointment that Commission was not able to make a recommendation.

Acting Director Loya gave a background on the restrooms, saying the project was approved by Commission a while ago, and then went to City Council. However, Council didn't like the costs coming in for the design, and said they were ridiculous, directing staff to come up with a less expensive design. Acting Director Loya said staff came up with "design/build" to reduce costs and sent the item back to Council which decided on only Lemon Park because it was "heavily used" due to the spray pool, and that the only restrooms are inside Maple Center. Thus, at Lemon Park, the City would be building a restroom that wasn't there before, whereas Nicolas and Chapman parks already had restrooms that were only to be renovated. Acting Director Loya said the Council was not happy with the costs for any of the restrooms, but did understand the need for restrooms, which it said would be resolved with porta-potties.

Commissioner Russell said he just didn't understand how staff decides to bring or not bring items to Commission, given how important restrooms were to the Commission. He said the Commission would have liked to have seen the item prior to going back to Council so it could have provided input, too.

Commissioner Keller agreed with Commissioner Russell that she would have liked to have had input on this issue. Commissioner Spencer asked if it was easier to get the funding for the restrooms at Lemon Park, and Acting Director Loya said they had grants. Manager Alkema agreed, saying they had grants for the restrooms at Chapman and Nicolas, but was able to transfer the funds to Lemon Park, so the City didn't lose the grant.

Commissioner Spencer asked why Council decided against the other two restrooms. Acting Director Loya said that from her understanding, it was because Lemon Park would have a new bathroom while Chapman and Nicolas would be replacing restrooms which already exist, and Manager Alkema said Council suggested that Chapman and Nicolas could be renovated although he said they were "very old structures."

Commissioner Keller said she had a different impression, asking the others to correct her if she was wrong. She felt that Lemon Park was a separate agenda item from the other two parks, and was probably approved because it was considered first at $214,000, but when the other two restrooms were considered together at $519,000, Council decided this was too much money, and said to use porta-potties instead. Acting Director Loya said she could see how Commissioner Keller saw it that way.

Commissioner Spencer pointed out that grant money was available for Chapman and Nicolas; however, Commissioner Keller and Manager Alkema responded that there wasn't money for all the improvements. Commissioner Keller asked if the $172,000 had to be used for renovations or for a completely new building. Manager Alkema said that rather than risk losing the grant money or discovering that a renovation would be too costly, staff decided to transfer the funds to a project Council had already approved.

Commissioner Dalton asked about the $214,900 cost noted on the agenda, and Manager Alkema explained that on top of that amount, there would be administrative, contingency and inspection costs, too. Commissioner Dalton asked how much money was set aside in the Capital Improvement Projects for the three restroom projects. Manager Alkema said he didn't have that information available, and Commissioner Dalton then asked how much money is still left in the CIP budget for the restrooms since they would still have to do renovations. Manager Alkema agreed that was still possible, but said they needed outside consultants to determine the extent of the repairs needed, e.g., there may be major plumbing problems that need to be addressed.

Commissioner Dalton asked about the replacement of fixtures a few years ago, and Acting Director Loya said it was still necessary because the conditions were "deplorable." She said if the City doesn't use the funds for this project, the funds would go back to the Park Dwelling Funds and staff would have to determine where to spend it next year, although the money couldn't be used for anything other than the Chapman and Nicolas restrooms unless they obtain Council approval.

Commissioner Dalton asked why there were major plumbing problems all of a sudden, and Manager Alkema said there have been problems all along, although there may be a problem with trees maturing and producing root problems and displaced sewer lines.

Chair Swanson asked, for the record, why Council didn't consult the Commission on the final decision on the restrooms when they had more knowledge about the parks and restrooms than Council, i.e., why Council didn't "utilize us for what we're here for." He also asked why Chapman and Nicolas were "lumped together" while Lemon was separate, and Manager Alkema said it was probably due to the grant being written for Chapman and Nicolas parks.

Commissioner Russell asked if the $519,000 project cost for Nicolas and Chapman parks would have been less the $172,000 due to the grant, and Manager Alkema said "yes." Commissioner Russell asked if Council, when it made its decision, didn't know that the $172,000 in grant funds could be transferred to Lemon, and it was only afterwards that Manager Alkema "did this miraculous thing" of getting the grant funds transferred to Lemon Park. Manager Alkema said he was correct.

When Commissioner Russell asked, Acting Director Loya agreed that the cost for building the Nicolas and Chapman restrooms would have been less than building Lemon's restrooms if the grant was factored in. Commissioner Russell wondered why Council did what it did, especially since there have been many Commission discussions about restrooms, including conflicts on whether neighborhood parks should have restrooms or not. And yet here, a decision was made to put in a new restroom as opposed to fixing two "dilapidated" restrooms. Acting Director Loya said it was noted that Commissioner Russell would like similar issues to go back to Commission; however, it was Council's direction that the item go directly back to them, and that next time, staff would inform Commission. Commissioner Russell said he wanted it noted that Commission wants this item to go back to Commission so it can do what it's supposed to do since Council appointed them, and that this was the Commission's job.

Chair Swanson asked about use and need at Lemon Park outside of the Senior Center. He was told that, besides the spray pool, there were afterschool programs, softball and baseball, and that Lemon Park was a very busy park. Chair Swanson asked if the use between the three parks was compared, and Acting Director Loya said they didn't know if this was done, but they could find out. Chair Swanson said this was another example of Commission knowing what to ask and look for, that that's why it was here, and suggested that it be given a chance to do so. Chair Swanson thanked Manager Alkema for his presentation.


Acting Director Loya explained that Commissioner Han was absent because her mother passed away, and that Commissioner Miller was absent because his wife was ill.

She noted that the Bastanchury Park dedication was really nice, acknowledging the work of Manager Grace Miranda and her staff and the excellent turnout.

She then discussed the Parks and Recreation meeting with Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton School District regarding the CSUF HUD grant recently awarded for Richman Park for the Richman (Valencia) Neighborhood Center, and the Memorandum of Understanding to be written with details still to be ironed out.

Acting Director Loya asked Manager Alkema to talk about the Richman Park renovations and school/community meetings on November 7th and November 22nd. Manager Alkema said staff attended a community meeting at Richman Park with the Valencia Task Force, providing a sneak preview of the renovations. He said a more in-depth presentation will be provided at the November 22nd community meeting, and he invited the commissioners to attend. Manager Peterson noted that the Richman Park item would be going back to Commission after getting public input.

Manager Peterson then spoke on the Independence Park locker rooms, saying the project was supposed to begin today, and that a decision was made to keep the pool open rather than closing down for four or five months. However, she said that portable showers and locker rooms would be needed during the renovations, and that the portable shower building was still in use by another organization, thereby delaying the project until December. She said the main goal was to complete the project before summer, that there were 110 construction days, and that they had a pre-construction meeting last week. Manager Miranda said staff has made a purchase order for the architects, Crane Associates, to develop the conceptual design of the Tennis Center into working plans, and that this item would also go to Commission. The commissioners thanked the staff for "a great update."


Acting Director Loya reiterated the Council decisions to approve the Lemon Park restroom and to reject the restroom renovations for Lemon and Nicolas parks, with Chair Swanson clarifying that the written description of those City Council agenda items were Parks and Recreation/Engineering recommendations from staff rather than Commission. Acting Director Loya agreed.


Commissioner Dalton referred to the letter addressed to Commission from Chris Heusser regarding the gate at Mountain View Park, asking that it be agendized at "our earliest convenience," saying that there was "obviously an issue here." She reminded the commissioners that this issue was brought to them a while ago due to neighborhood complaints about noise late at night, and that hours of operation and signage were discussed with a decision for dawn-to-dusk park hours. She said it was appalling to gate a passive park without getting more information. Commissioners Keller and Russell agreed with Commissioner Dalton. Commissioner Dalton asked for a history of the park, saying she didn't understand the police report terminology, and asked that someone from the Police Department provide information on who is making the calls, the number of calls and the nature of the calls, saying there was a difference between two neighbors making complaints and 50 complaining. Manager Loya said, due to the holidays and time constraints, the item might not be on the Commission agenda until January or February; and Commissioner Dalton said that was fine.

Commissioner Russell asked that staff provide information on the St. Jude Health Clinic. He noted that Commission was told of an imminent deadline of June 2005 for funds to be spent, but now he was reading in the Fullerton Observer that the clinic wouldn't be built until Spring of 2006. He asked if the money wasn't spent yet, why it wasn't, and said he didn't like the idea of the item getting "pushed through" Commission due to a deadline, and then just languishing. Commissioner Russell said that all he asked for on projects he approved of or didn't approve of, was that what he was told was reality. Commissioner Spencer said she asked about this a month ago, and heard it was being held up in Development Services. Commissioner Russell asked why the fence between the school and park wasn't built yet, too. Acting Director Loya said she wasn't sure, but that she would find out for the commissioners.

Commissioner Dalton MADE A MOTION to adjourn the meeting. Commissioner Keller SECONDED THE MOTION. The meeting was adjourned at 8:00 p.m.