WESTLAKE : Residents Push for Police Substation
The wheels are turning slowly on a city-sponsored project to establish a police substation and community service center in the boathouse on the MacArthur Park lake--turning too slowly for some local residents.
Last week, the Westlake Neighborhood Watch group began a letter campaign, urging city officials to press for speedy completion of the long-promised project that began with the renovation of the boathouse by the Department of Recreation and Parks last summer.
“It’s been several months now,” said Tom Coyle, who heads the Neighborhood Watch group. “We’re seeing more drug and gang types trickling back into the park, and we know this is going to have an impact on our neighborhood.”
The hang-up lies in the construction of a proposed 10-space parking lot for the substation, city officials say. Police used the boathouse as an informal temporary post until Metro Rail construction forced them out three years ago. But their need for a parking lot was not expressed until plans to turn the boathouse into a permanent police facility took shape earlier this year.
A small asphalt driveway that exists near the boathouse would not be sufficient to accommodate the flow of traffic in and out of a full-time substation, said David Bachman, a senior lead officer for the Police Department’s Rampart Division.
Rampart officers are working with Councilman Mike Hernandez’s staff in hopes of acquiring the desired parking lot, but the issue first has to go before the Recreation and Parks Commission before any real progress can be made, said David Marquez, a field deputy for Hernandez.
Although the parking lot issue is not yet on the Recreation and Parks agenda and no estimate has been made of what it would cost, officials from that department are not altogether optimistic about the proposal.
“We initially contacted the police about coming into the park and renovated the boathouse for them,” said Manuel Mollinedo, assistant general manager for the Griffith-Metro region of Recreation and Parks. “We really tried to accommodate them. But then they began asking for a parking lot for the substation. Who is going to pay for it? I don’t have the money in my budget.”
Marquez said that Recreation and Parks would probably have to pay for grading and construction inside the park, and money for cutting the curb along Alvarado Street for driveways might come out of the Department of Public Works.
He acknowledged that Recreation and Parks funds for MacArthur Park are limited, especially considering that the department is spending money on the seismic reinforcement of a former Fire Department training center, also located in the park.
Mollinedo said his department offered that building to police last year for use as a park substation. But before it could be occupied, the department was notified by Building and Safety that reinforcement was needed.
He said he would be willing to again offer police the building--which has ample parking space--in lieu of the boathouse once reinforcement work is complete in six to nine months.
The city might consider this option, Marquez said. In the meantime, Rampart police are making an effort to deter crime in the area by implementing a new mobile substation for MacArthur Park, Bachman said. The trailer, which can accommodate up to 10 officers, will be set up in various locations around the park beginning next week.