Proposed Expansion and Lighting at Viña Vieja Park

June 28, 2015

Note:

  • As of February 2015, this proposal is still under development by Pasadena Public Works.
  • It has not been formally presented to the community at large for comment, nor brought to the City Council.  We were told that it would not be presented to the community at large until the plan has been fully worked out, including agreement with Edison for use of their land.  We have heard unofficially from multiple sources that planning is still proceeding and it is getting close to being ready to present to the public.  (Here there is obviously a conflict between early disclosure raising expectations that cannot be fulfilled vs presenting a full baked plan to a community which may not agree with it but is effectively precluded from stopping it or making significant changes).
  • Our neighborhood has not received any updated details on the proposal since June of 2013, so the current details of the proposal could be significantly different then what is described below.  But comments by a few City employees indicate the basic outlines remain the same.

The Proposal

This concept drawing shows the proposal as of May 2013.

Summary:

  • What was to be a neighborhood park for local residents effectively becomes even more of a regional park.
  • Instead of closing at dusk, the park would be lighted up and remain open well into the evening.
  • The off-leash dog park is moved south and is lighted.
  • A fenced youth soccer facility including artificial turf and field lighting is built in its place.
  • A large amount of new lighted parking is added east of the new off-leash dog park.
  • Lighting is added to the current parking.
  • Vehicle access would be only from Orange Grove Blvd.  A signal would be placed at the entrance.
  • An additional restroom and a snack bar would be located between the soccer facility and the new dog park.
  • Walking paths may be extended down to the east of the new parking area.
  • The children's play area, picnic shelter, and walking paths would remain where they are.

Moved Off-Leash Dog Park:

  • A new off-leash dog park would be built south of the current dog park.
  • This location was slated for ice rinks in 2004-2009, but from the early 1990s it was part of the neighborhood park plan that was changed to the current park footprint in 2004.  This location was also specified to be a park in a 1967 master park plan for Eaton Wash.   The land is owned by the city.  It was deeded to the city by the Blatz Family in the 1930s for use as parkland.   (Exactly why is unknown, but the Edison transmission corridor came into being around the same time and it may be that it subdivided their land in a way that made this part not very useful.)
  • The new off-leash park would be about 2000 square feet larger then the current size, for 80,000 sq ft total.
  • The shape would be narrower, but longer, as it needs to fit onto the city owned land between the Edison lines and the protected oak trees next to Eaton Wash.
  • If the soccer facility and its parking are lighted, as proposed, then the off-leash area would also be lit, effectively extending its hours also.
  • One idea is to split the off leash dog area into three sections and then use only two at a time.  The closed section would rotate on a regular basis to allow the grass to recover.  (Currently the dog area is closed on Tuesdays to provide for recovery and maintenance, but it isn't enough.)
  • The new dog park would be built first and be usable before the current dog park would be closed for construction of the soccer facilities.

Youth Soccer Facility:

  • The area currently occupied by the off-leash dog park would be converted into a youth sized soccer field and half field soccer practice area.
  • There is not enough room for a full sized soccer field.  So it would be a size that is acceptable for youth leagues.  Typically 15 years old and younger.
  • There would be no spectator seating.  Parents or others wishing to sit on chairs would have to bring their own.
  • The soccer field would be lighted for evening use in fall and winter.  The justification is that soccer is a fall sport and it gets dark too early to have a useful facility without lighting.  Because it is a smaller field, the light poles would probably be about 60 feet tall.  (As a comparison, Victory Park has 100 foot poles).  City people claim field lighting installed now is much more efficient and directed downward so that it doesn't light up the sky and surroundings like the older lights do.
  • The soccer field(s) would probably be artificial turf.  Although very expensive, this allows them to be used all the time, without the rest required by grass.
  • If the field(s) are artificial turf, there would have to be a locked fence around them to prevent unsupervised usage.

Restroom and Snack Bar:

  • A snack bar and additional restroom would be located between the soccer area and the new dog park
  • The snack bar would only be open when staffed by volunteers during soccer events.

Parking:

  • Additional parking would be built under the Edison lines east of the new dog park and west of Avocado Ave.
  • Lots of added parking is necessary because it is needed both for teams playing/practicing and those coming and going.
    There are up to 18 players per team, plus coaches.
  • If the soccer field is lighted, then the parking would also have to be lit for safety and security.

Access:

  • Vehicle access would be from Orange Grove Blvd.
  • A traffic signal would be put at the park entrance on Orange Grove.  The neighbors to the north of Orange Grove have already been requesting a signal due to their difficulty getting across the street. Because of the street curve and traffic speed there has always been a safety issue for vehicles exiting and entering the park.
  • No vehicle (or pedestrian) access from the south was not in the plan as of June 2013.  It is not impossible that something could be negotiated with PCC to go through their lot, as was expected for the ice rinks project, but that wasn't anticipated.
  • The current pedestrian access would remain.  Additional pedestrian access points to the south are not planned.

Walking Paths

  • To the east of the new parking (but outside of the off-limits Edison wires "sag zone" where the high tension wires sag too low) an additional area of walking trail is proposed.  Similar to the eastern side of the current park.
  • It might include exercise stations at various points.
  • The area available for new walking paths involves a trade-off with the amount of new parking.

Neighborhood Concerns

  • Disruption of nice quiet neighborhood, especially in the evenings, by light and noise.
    • Soccer involves a lot of loud piercing whistles.  And it's not just an evening issue, soccer could start very early on weekend or other non-school mornings.
    • There undoubtedly will be demand for a loud speaker.  Currently amplified sound in the park requires getting a specific event permit.  Is a loudspeaker necessary for kids?  Can we ban their use?
    • Kids will be screaming a lot.  The dogs barking and squealing are bad enough now, but at least currently they are gone at dusk.
    • Parking lots tend to be really noisy.  In addition to car noises, there are car alarms and speaker systems.  In the current park, the car alarms are a major annoyance.  With soccer, it seems likely there will be more people sitting in their cars waiting and potentially cranking up their audio systems.
    • What has always been a dark area where residents can view the sunset or go to look at the sky will be all lit up.
    • The best the city can offer is that lights will be directed downward and turned off automatically a specified time after park closing.  And that park closing time is negotiable.  Other parks with lights typically close at 10 pm, but since the facility is aimed at children who should be going home to bed, it could be specified earlier.  8 pm seems totally reasonable.
    • Car lights in the parking lot could shine across into the houses on Avocado or backyards on Eaton.  The city has offered landscape screening or fencing that would ameliorate this, but it would also block views of what is going on in the park from outside.
  • Transportation
    • If the available parking is insufficient or, access to it is cumbersome, more people will park on Avocado Ave or Las Lunas Street and use the pedestrian entrance.  This would result in increased traffic through our normally quiet residential streets, reduce the parking available for residents, increase noise, and increase trash left behind.
    • With most of the parking as far or further away from the soccer facility as the pedestrian entrance, users will find it even more advantageous to park on our streets instead of using the provided bottle necked parking facility.
    • The amount of new parking was said to be negotiable, a trade-off with space for additional walking paths, but the basic location far from the soccer facility and even further from the entrance may make plenty of parking somewhat irrelevant.
    • A new traffic signal at the entrance on Orange Grove would create a new location for traffic to back up, increasing noise and pollutants for the residences to the north and east.  Also, experience with other signals indicates the signal will stop traffic on Orange Grove whether it needs to or not (for example, right turning car from the park is long gone but the signal changes to stop traffic anyway).
    • There is infrequent public transit (ARTS bus) on Orange Grove.  Access from Foothill will require walking around through our neighborhood.
  • Crime / Vandalism
    • Since the opening of the park's pedestrian entrance, houses on Las Lunas have seen an increased rate of burglary compared to the past and to other streets.  It seems likely that some of the increased foot traffic is casing houses, and also the entrance provides ingress and egress to a relatively unmonitored area.
    • With a park facility attracting a much larger number of people from throughout the city and region, some of whom will be waiting around without much to do, we can expect more trouble.
    • Concerns it could become "like Villa Park" - crowded, a traffic nightmare, noisy, vendor carts throughout, attractive to criminal elements.
  • Maintenance
    • The much larger park, with much heavier usage, will require a lot more maintenance.  Maintenance in the current facility has often been insufficient.  It is one thing to have sufficient one-time funding to build a park, but there must also be sufficient on-going funding to maintain it properly.
  • Landscaping/Screening
    • There should be some landscaping along the western side of Avocado rather then the weeds.  A tall hedge or 6 foot fence have been proposed by city staff.
    • Landscaping along Avocado should be adjacent to the sag zone also.
    • Design of landscaping along Avocado should take into account, and preserve as possible, the existing mature trees and plantings.  It doesn't have to be one uniform look.
  • Historic Resources
    • The grapevines that were planted by six long time area families during the park opening ceremonies should be preserved.  The grapevines, located just to the north of the current dog area, were planted to represent the history of the area, our neighborhood, and the families who founded it.    (Viña Vieja = old vineyard.  The area of the park and at least the northern portion of our neighborhood was a vineyard in the early part of the 20th century.)

History of the Proposal

March 2012

  • We were first informed the city was considering locating a soccer field in Viña Vieja Park in March of 2012.  Council member Gene Masuda invited the Presidents of our Association and Daisy Villa (other side of the wash) to a meeting with him and City Manager Michael Beck to discuss the subject and get an initial idea of neighborhood concerns.  Council member Masuda said he'd just learned about it the prior week.  The City Staff had clearly begun looking into the possibility some months prior.
  • We were told that Viña Vieja park came under consideration because a well developed plan to put youth soccer fields on County Flood Control land on the north side of Sierra Madre Blvd had recently fallen through after the Flood Control District determined that they need to expand the adjacent flood control basin and therefore that location can't be made available.
  • There was already millions in funding available for use at that location which would be used on this location instead.  Those funds include a large county grant and developer fees for recreation improvements paid to the city for developments in East Pasadena.  Those fees must be spent in East Pasadena within five years of payment or be returned to the developers.
  • In looking around for an alternative site, of course the area south of the dog park popped up.  It is vacant.  It is substantially city owned land zoned for open space and dedicated parkland.  It is not directly adjacent to homes (although the backyards of homes across the wash on Eaton Drive are not really very far away).
  • At the time of the meeting with Mr Beck, the City had only done a very quick analysis of the possibility.  Edison had not been approached yet, but Edison had recently told the City that it intends to cooperate much better in management of its right-of-way land holdings.
  • At that time, primary access from Foothill through the PCC parking lot was the preferred route.  As had been planned for the previously proposed ice rinks on the property.  A brief discussion with the PCC President had been positive in nature and indicated there might be interest in some kind of joint use.
  • At that time in early 2012, the idea was to put a regulation size soccer field and a smaller practice field south of the existing dog park.  Parking would be to the east under the Edison wires.  A small storage building and restrooms would be between those fields and the dog park. There would be no spectator seating. The fields would be artificial turf, lighted, and fenced.
  • The quick analysis the city had done showed that fitting a full regulation field on the widest portion of the city land (southern end, just north of the water well) would require the field to lap over onto some of the Edison land.  The relatively flat portion of the city property is just not wide enough.  The oak trees and the slope down to the west cannot be used.

September 2012

  • Although we did not learn about it until May of 2013, by the fall of 2013 the City had discussed it with Edison and learned there was no way soccer fields would be allowed to extend under the high tension wires.
  • As a result, the concept had been changed to move the dog park into the narrower area to the south and put the soccer facility in its place.
  • It is unknown if there was any discussion with PCC, but access to the facilities from the south had been eliminated.

May 2013

  • We learned via a concerned citizen who had happened to hear about it that the plan had changed the prior fall.
  • We subsequently learned that neither POOCH, the dog park advocates, nor the city's Parks and Recreation Commission had been informed of the possibility of moving the dog park.

June 2013

  • After a request by Council member Masuda, the City sent City Engineer Dan Rix to discuss the current state of the plan with us.
  • We were informed it would be at least 3 to 5 years before anything happened because there currently was no funding.  The grant funding that had been available had been spent elsewhere before its time ran out.
  • The very rough estimated cost at that time was $5 million.
  • He gave an outline of the process as:
    • The first big hurdle would be to get Edison's approval on a plan.  Revisions would likely be required by Edison.
    • After that, the concept project would go to the City's Parks and Recreation Commission.  They might make revisions.
    • Then there would be a Community Meeting to discuss the project.
    • Then it would have to go through the environmental review process and engineering work.
    • Then the funding would need to be found.
    • He didn't mention the City Council needing to approve anything before everything is in place to do it.  (It seems like they should need to hear about it and approve going forward before huge amounts of staff time are dedicated.)

November 2014

  • Approached at the Council District 4 Community Meeting, City Manager Michael Beck confirmed that the project was still in process and said it was getting near to being ready to present to the community.  He said he would discuss scheduling a meeting with Council member Masuda.
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