As the Dodgers pitched their neighbors on what the team called a pilot program to reopen a fifth gate at Dodger Stadium, community members Wednesday evening expressed skepticism that the team would ever consider closing the gate once it opens back up.
The Dodgers plan to open the Scott Avenue gate Friday, for the first time since 1996. Although they had intended to use it as an exit and entrance, Dodgers Senior Vice President Howard Sunkin said it would serve only as an exit gate during a trial period.
Sunkin agreed to the concession before about 75 people at a meeting of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council. He rejected another proposal -- that the Dodgers keep the gate closed for day games -- but did agree to work with the community on establishing carpool discounts and public transit options.
A council committee approved a motion opposing the reopening of the gate -- a vote not binding on the Dodgers -- and plans to follow up with City Councilmen Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes, who represent the neighborhood.
The Dodgers agreed to close the Scott Avenue gate more than 10 years ago after neighbors argued that fans had overrun the residential area surrounding the stadium. Sunkin said Wednesday that the team would pay for traffic officers and barricades to keep fans on Scott and off side streets.
But resident Pete Lassen said: “I cannot believe you will provide the level of control along Scott Avenue that would be absolutely necessary for this -- quote -- pilot program to work. I say ‘quote’ because I believe it’s a pilot that will become a reality.”
Sunkin said the Dodgers would evaluate the decision at the All-Star break in July, considering neighborhood feedback in the process.
The team plans to use the gate at games with projected attendance of 40,000 or more, which this season, Sunkin said, is 70 of 81 home games.
With Dodger Stadium designed to funnel cars through five gates, he said, the team must open them all to accommodate record attendance and the accompanying traffic.
Residents expressed concern that the Dodgers are implementing the change unilaterally and on short notice, providing the community with little time to respond.
The team announced the change Tuesday, after the first homestand and 72 hours before it takes effect.
Christine Peters, chairwoman of the neighborhood committee, said fans troubled by the crowded stadium lot and the $5 hike in the price of parking have begun to park on side streets and walk into the stadium.
“Street parking already has become an issue because of the increase to $15,” she said.
Peters said she is willing to consider the pilot program but questions its potential effectiveness.
“If it means we’re going to take 10,000 people out of the stadium and stuck in our neighborhood, it won’t make a difference. Right now, it’s just going to get them stuck on Scott Avenue.”