Endangered Nielsen Park Gets a 5-Year Lease on Life

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners, heeding public outcry over plans to raze the

Carl E. Nielsen Youth Park in Westchester, said Wednesday that it will renew the park’s five-year lease.

The park’s fate has been up in the air since early this year, when the city Department of Airports said it would not renew the lease, which expires next February. The airport had planned to pave over the park, using it for additional parking space and to lease to car-rental agencies. The Westchester-Playa del Rey Youth Foundation has used the eight-acre park next to LAX Parking Lot D free for 15 years.

Officials had proposed relocating the athletic facilities--two ball fields, dugouts and a concession stand--to a site of comparable size about two miles west in Playa del Rey. Although the department would not pay to build a new park, it would have donated the site.

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter held a joint news conference at the park Tuesday to assure residents that their objections have been heard. Airport officials said the new lease agreement will be signed within two months.


“This park has been a labor of love on the part of the parents and the children,” Bradley said. “You’ve won your case. We want you to enjoy this safe haven.”

The youth foundation has raised more than $250,000 since 1977 to build and operate the park, which serves about 2,000 young baseball and soccer players from Westchester, Playa del Rey, Inglewood and Ladera Heights. Park organizers met with airport staffers Monday over details for a new lease and to make plans for the park’s future.

“I have a great deal of confidence that we can continue to work with the airport commissioners,” said Frances Stronks, the foundation’s president. “They are showing a great deal of flexibility.”

Park organizers and the airport staff have agreed in principle that the park will be moved within the next five years to accommodate airport expansion, Stronks said. Airport officials have agreed to make the financial arrangements for replicating the existing facilities at an alternate site.


Donald A. Miller, deputy executive director of the Department of Airports, said airport staffers will study alternate sites in the next two months.

“There will be no interference with the youth programs,” Miller said. “They will have continuity. We will replace the function they currently have with no cost to them.”

Corporate donations will be sought from airport tenants to pay for a new park.