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Culver City Critics Blow Whistle on Park Basketball

COMMUNITY CORRESPONDENT

When the weather heats up, so do the basketball games in Veterans Park as dozens of men, teen-agers and even a few women fill the air with rainbow jump shots, acrobatic drives to the hoop and the rhythmic thump of the ball on concrete.

Increasingly, however, park neighbors complain that the two courts, which they say sometimes attract more than 50 players at a time, have become a source of irritation as peaceful afternoons are shattered by the din of foul language and booming car stereos.

The Culver City Council is expected to consider in early June a recommendation from the Human Services and Park Commission that basketball be banned at the park until the council acts on a proposal to hire park rangers to control abusive language and noise. The recommendation passed on a 3-2 vote.

The commission also recommended that the city hire a consultant to find another site in the park for the courts, which sit near the corner of Culver Boulevard and Coombs Avenue, about 100 feet from neighboring houses.

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If the council agrees with the recommendation, it would be the second time since 1982 that basketball has been banned from a Culver City park because of neighbors’ complaints.

“The major problem is the fact that the courts are located too close to the residences,” said neighbors Linda and Tom Buday, who moved into their house on Coombs Avenue in 1988.

Spectators double-park in front of their driveway, players play their stereos too loud and “the language that filters over is just atrocious,” Linda Buday said.

Hiring park rangers will not solve the problem, Tom Buday said. “If (a ranger) is standing at the basketball courts and someone’s yelling, he’s not going to be able to stop him. It isn’t a manageable problem because that’s part of the game.”

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Their neighbor, Tracy Thomas, agreed that the courts need to be moved, saying that although building the courts near the houses may have been fine in the 1940s, “it’s an inappropriate location for the ‘90s for the way people act and play.”

Human Services Director Syd Kronenthal said the basketball courts in Culver City parks were deliberately placed near houses so they could be monitored by neighbors and would not be taken over by drug pushers, abusers or other anti-social elements.

He said that park rangers, who would have the authority to carry arms and arrest people, could properly control the noise and foul language.

Moving the courts, however, would be almost out of the question, he said.

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“Where would they go?” he asked, saying that there is no place to relocate them without displacing another facility such as a softball field, tennis courts or a children’s play area. Because of the precedent set by the 1982 decision to close the basketball courts at Fox Hills Park, which was prompted by similar neighborhood complaints, the prospect of losing the courts altogether worries Kronenthal.

As condominiums and apartments are built and open space dwindles, he said, the city should be doing everything it can to preserve and increase its recreation facilities.

“I’m afraid if we retract any of (the facilities), we’re going to end up with greater social problems,” he said. “I contend that I would much rather hear the noise of basketball courts than no noise and the next thing you hear is the sound of car stereos (being ripped) out.”

Culver City resident Tom Wright, 40, a regular basketball player at the park, echoed Kronenthal’s thoughts.

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“We need to have a park area like this so that young men can run off some steam,” he said. “If they can’t burn off their energy here, they’ll burn it off somewhere else.”

Another regular player, Culver City resident Arnold Rodriguez said he doesn’t think the neighbors have reason to complain.

“If they buy a property here, near a park, they should know what they’re getting into,” said Rodriguez, 32. “We pay our taxes, we deserve a place to play.”

Kronenthal said the 1982 closing of the basketball courts at Fox Hills Park may have contributed to the woes of residents near Veterans Park, because players from the densely populated Fox Hills area were forced to drive elsewhere to play ball.

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“Studies we have taken show that a good portion of the basketball players (at Veterans Park) are from Fox Hills,” he said.

Human Services and Parks Commissioner David Hauptman, who voted against the ban on basketball at Veterans Park, said the basketball courts should be “kept open at any cost.”

“Just because we have a problem with some players, do we have to punish the 99% who are good?” said Hauptman, who was joined by Commissioner Patricia Hadley in dissent. “Today’s kids need every form of positive recreation that’s possible.”

But neighbors say they are not against basketball, just the problems the crowded courts are attracting.

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“It could be that we’re wrong and what we live through is something that should be expected for someone living next to a park,” said Tom Buday. “But we don’t think so.”


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