Council grapples with pickleball noise at Lang Park

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Reduced Hours, Quiet Paddles and Alternate Locations Among Potential Solutions 

Reduced court hours, quiet paddles and studies into alternative locations are some solutions the Laguna Beach City Council will implement at Lang Park to fulfill the high demand for pickleball courts while addressing noise complaints from Vista Aliso residents, a retirement community located next door to the three pickleball courts at the public park in South Laguna.

Pamela Grimes prepares to return a serve from Diane Russell at the Lang Park pickleball court. The Vista Aliso senior housing community sits just behind the green Acoustifence. Clara Beard/LB Indy

Originally a tennis court, the council approved its permanent conversion into three pickleball courts in November 2022 after a temporary trial run in 2017. Around the same time, the city began noise studies after residents began to complain, eventually installing an Acoustifence to help mute the sound.

“After the fencing was put up, we did see a reduction in the decibel level between six and a half and eight and a half decibels,” said Michael Litschi, Laguna Beach transit and community services director, at the Jan. 23 city council meeting. 

To help soften the effects on residents, city council will reduce the court’s hours by 30 percent starting March 1. 

The Lang Park pickleball courts will be closed Mondays, open Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays – 8 a.m. to dusk, Thursdays – 8 a.m. to noon, Fridays – 8 a.m. to dusk, Saturdays – 8 a.m. to dusk and Sunday – 9 a.m. to dusk.

“Even though I’d like the park and the pickleball courts to remain open as they are now, I think this is a fair compromise,” resident and pickleball player Monica Simpson said at council meeting.”I’m okay with the reduced hours, but I think a lot of people will be upset about it. It is heavily used, and the need has increased since 2017.”

The city will also purchase 50 “OWL” paddles, a new quiet paddle technology released last November that USA Pickleball says “delivers a hertz level below 600 and a decibel level below 80.” 

“For comparison, industry-standard pickleball paddles register 1,100 to 1,200 hertz and a near-harmful decibel range of 85 plus when striking a ball,” according to a release from the national governing body.

The quiet paddles and balls, which the city will sell at cost to pickleball players, will be mandatory in all city-sponsored pickleball classes, and the city will promote their use at Lang Park. 

Susana Cruciana looks out from her Vista Aliso residence toward the Lang Park pickleball court from her patio. Clara Beard/LB Indy

The City Council has requested staff to explore other locations for pickleball courts, including Moulton Meadows Park at the far northeast end of the park bordering the County property, Alta Laguna Park on the grass area behind the existing pickleball courts, resulting in four tennis courts and nine pickleball courts, converting a third existing tennis court at Alta Laguna Park to three new pickleball courts, resulting in three tennis courts and nine pickleball courts, and the inland side of Aliso Beach Park. 

Council approved $80,000 from the General Fund to be used for the environmental analysis of these potential locations. 

Finally, city staff will work with Vista Aliso’s property manager to see if multi-pane windows can be installed to help muffle the sound of pickleball play. 

Susana Cruciana said she and her neighbors at Vista Aliso are grateful to the city council for digging deeper into the pickleball noise issue; however, despite the ongoing studies and mitigation efforts, the consistent and loud “pop, pop” of a wooden paddle slapping a plastic wiffle ball is still plaguing some residents, many of whom are retired and live on a fixed income.  

“For the past two years, I’ve been standing on my deck, on the sidewalk and the decks behind me, taking decibel readings. Pickleball has overwhelmed my life,” said Cruciana, whose small second-floor terrace overlooks the Lang Park court. 

Cruciana asked council to convert the court back to tennis and move pickleball play away from residential homes. 

“Even if the hours are shortened, our agony is only shortened by a few hours,” she said. “Pickleball doesn’t belong 25 feet from anyone’s residence.” 

She added that the California Civil Code Section 3480 defines a public nuisance as “affecting an entire community, or any considerable number of persons or individuals.”

“I think the big issue for me is not just the pickleball and the noise, but the lack of respect,” said Patrick Cannon, who also lives at Vista Aliso. “It’s a profound lack of respect for the people who live here. You won’t find a pickleball court in the United States that is just 25 feet away from residents. You never will.”

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