Does the Wet Suit You

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That’s the Way the Ball Bounces

By JJ Gaspaarotti

Tennis players using the public courts adjacent to the Festival of Arts were recently served a two day notice that the committee, controlling the operations of the festival grounds, was having a meeting in a back room at city hall to consider the future of those courts. It soon became apparent that the committee had already settled on the future of the courts. Just like a Joni Mitchell song, they want to pave over the courts and put up a parking lot…and a warehouse.

Folks have played tennis on those courts since they were deeded to the city, as part of the gift of the festival grounds, by James Irvine back in 1947. This land was to be for the exclusive use of a temporary summer art festival and a public park during the rest of the year. No commercial activities were provided for.

That isn’t what is going on now. Today the entire festival grounds seem poised to become a Weddings R Us venue. Nuptials are contemplated all over the grounds.

This situation should matter to us all, even if you don’t play tennis. It is the perfect example of our misguided city government acting for the benefit of tourist visitors at the expense of Laguna residents’ needs.

As a recent appointee to the Supreme Court could tell you, “If you spend all your money on law books, you’ve got nothing left for beer.” This is a simple example of the allocation of resources. For us it means, if you spend all your money on Village Exits and snow cone-shaped tile art works to entertain visitors, you’ve got nothing left for the resident’s needs. The $11 million in capital improvements for the Village Exit and the regular operating costs to the city for our visitors last year totaled close to $30 million.

Some of the tennis players believe they’ve secured a secret deal for new tennis courts and a snack bar, if they’ll keep their mouths shut about the land grab in the canyon. They’ll quickly find themselves in a long line of broken promises. The vast sums the city is spending on visitors has resulted in a huge backlog of unfunded recreational facilities already promised to Laguna’s residents.

Where’s our swimming pool, our skateboard park, our public vegetable garden, and our senior center full of exercise equipment, not city offices? These are a few of the promised resident-serving amenities that haven’t been delivered. Perhaps this tennis court land grab will become the rallying cry for Laguna’s residents to take back their town.

 

J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Regarding “Some of the tennis players believe they’ve secured a secret deal for new tennis courts and a snack bar, if they’ll keep their mouths shut about the land grab in the canyon.” The Laguna Beach Tennis Association is committed to transparency and not using a path that the Irvine Bowl Policy Committee seems comfortable with. There are exploratory reviews with City staff of close by lots in the “plan B” event that the City council approves a takeover of the tennis parcel. The plan B is far from being secured and we hope that this happens only as a last resort if the majority of City council members feels that they have no choice but to give away the existing tennis courts for essentially nothing in return. We are impossible to shut up given social media and group dynamics. We also share gathered public domain documents on the cloud with those interested in the detailed facts.

    With regards to “Where’s our swimming pool, our skateboard park, our public vegetable garden, and our senior center full of exercise equipment, not city offices?” While most of the tennis players aren’t cool or young enough to use a skate park, we consider the needs of other Laguna residents. To be specific, we posed a question to assistant city manager on November 26 via email about a potential site in Laguna Canyon. The tennis court users are neither snobby nor mean nor selfish as some private establishment would like Laguna residents to believe.

    “… we know the city is looking for a place to put a swimming pool and this lot would fit that purpose as well. Why should tennis be prioritized?”

    Ms. Johnson shared the City’s position that “city staff regularly evaluate vacant parcels throughout the City to see if they are viable sites for uses or facilities that may meet the needs of the community such as a community pool, skate park, parking, affordable housing, tennis and pickleball courts, permanent open space, etc.” She also provided additional details about why a specific lot can only accommodate at 25 meter pool which was apparently did not meet the requirements desired by pool supporters.

    Ray Tang
    Laguna Beach Tennis Association

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