Pocket Park Not Big Enough for Everyone

The fight over park space has come to Valley Village.

Visitors to Valley Village Park, a four-block-long, one-block-wide swath of public green space, are complaining that soccer games are taking up too much of the park  and damaging the turf.

Eva Spencer, a 47-year resident of the neighborhood, said players' cleats have damaged the grass and games have spilled over onto the walking paths.

"They take every available space in a park that is about the size of a baseball diamond," Spencer said. "You have to change your walking style to look out for flying balls."

Spencer and other residents who prefer to use the park for leisure activities have complained that signs posted around the park's open space prohibiting soccer have not been heeded or enforced. 

Actually, according to the city, there is no longer a law to enforce.

The signs cite an ordinance that no longer bans soccer in open park spaces, said Charles Singer, superintendent of recreational operations for LA' s Department of Recreation and Parks for the valley region. The ordinance was modified in the wake of litigation, Singer said.

"If someone is concerned about the signs, they can call us and we will submit a work order to have them removed," Singer said. But without the signs, residents might be even worse off, he said.

 "It is a potential deterrent if the signs are up, less so if they are taken down."

Singer said he suspects expired signs are still posted throughout the city,and despite thousands of acres of parkland, "there is more demand than supply."

The modified law allows for groups to conduct games as long as they are not affiliated with an organized league, said Joe Tafoya, a field sergeant of the parks department.

Although the ordinance now permits recreational games to be held on park grass, there have been no changes to maintenance policy to keep up with the increased use.

"It is possible that with some budget cutbacks there is not enough labor to fix the turf, and in some places it does look like dirt," Singer said.

Singer said the department is considering installing synthetic turf to save on maintenance and compensate for decreased labor. But for now, Spencer and her regular park-goers will have natural grass, and all that it entails.

"What's the point of having a park made of dirt?" Spencer said.

Alfred Tutungi, director of North Hollywood Recreation, said he cannot control the wear and tear, but added that any remaining signs reflect an oversight by his department and should be taken down.

The department manages 15,717 acres of park space in the city, ranging from 1 acre to Griffith Park's 4,282 acres, said parks department spokeswoman Andrea Epstein. Seventeen new park projects are in the works, according to the department.

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