Burbank Parks Board Rejects Sports Complex in the Hills

Times Staff Writer

The Burbank Parks and Recreation Board on Thursday rejected plans for an $8-million sports and tennis center in the Verdugo Mountains at an emotional eight-hour hearing marked by disputes about the effect such a facility would have on traffic and noise in adjoining single-family neighborhoods.

The board voted 3 to 2 to go along with a staff recommendation that Stough Park Family Sports Center not be built until the environmental impact of the center and other planned recreational facilities in the Verdugo Mountains is determined.

Steve Starleaf and Associates, which wants to build the center, is expected to appeal the decision before the Burbank City Council next month.

More than 300 people attended the board meeting at John Muir Junior High School. The meeting was repeatedly interrupted by applause from residents on both sides of the debate.

Property Values

Many in the audience felt that the center would ruin the hillside, commercialize city parkland and reduce property values.

"I'm not against the concept, and I think it's a great idea," said Carol DePhillip, who has lived in the hillside area for a year. "But this should not be up there. If we go up there and tear down the hillsides, we will never be able to get them back. It's an unnecessary destruction of nature and wildlife."

But other residents said the center was needed and posed no danger to surrounding neighborhoods.

"There is obviously a great interest in tennis in Burbank and not enough programs or courts available," Georgette Bishop said. "It's a shame that once again, a few people with a not-in-my-back-yard philosophy are trying to kill such a wonderful opportunity for our community."

Regional Center

Starleaf had hoped that the facility would become one of the largest of its kind in Southern California, as well as one of five regional training centers of the United States Tennis Assn., the official sponsor for national tennis athletes.

The center would include 30 tennis courts, a center court for 2,000 spectators, swimming pool, clubhouse and an 8,000-square-foot luxury restaurant.

Several homeowners earlier this year had voiced similar complaints about a summer concert season at the Starlight Amphitheatre, which is near the site of the proposed sports center. Protests forced cancellation of the season.

Parks and Recreation's staff opposed the tennis center because it would be built in an area where other traffic-generating projects are located or being considered.

In addition to the amphitheater, the area includes DeBell Golf Course, the Castaway restaurant and Wildwood Canyon Park.

Parks and Recreation Director Richard R. Inga said the city plans to improve parkland in the area, and the Castaway has announced intentions to expand the restaurant, both of which would increase traffic in the area.

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