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City, school officials talk about sacrificing LCE hardscape to create more field space in city

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The La Cañada Elementary School play yard, currently dominated by asphalt hardscape, is being eyed by city officials as a potential space to create a new joint use athletic field. But school officials are keen on keeping the popular play spaces intact.
(Sara Cardine/La Cañada Valley Sun)

Accommodating a growing number of field users — from youth sports teams to adult leagues — within La Cañada’s finite public space is a perennial challenge for city and school officials who manage such properties.

To compound the problem, acreage owned by La Cañada Unified School District and maintained by the city for community use could shrink as the district builds out school campuses over the next several years as part of a $149-million bond program.

One option on the table is to widen the field space at La Cañada Elementary School, for years dominated by hardscaping intended for basketball, tetherball and four square, to allow for team play outside school hours.

In a March 28 meeting of the Joint Use Committee, comprised of school and city officials, city staffer Arabo Parseghian said the district’s plans to replace asphalt at the campus this summer as part of a larger renovation project presents an opportunity to reimagine the area for wider use.

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A La Cañada High School boys’ lacrosse team was formed this year and practices at Hahamongna Watershed Park but is searching for a home field. Extending LCE’s existing baseball diamond northward would create a roughly 200-square-foot space large enough for that team and for U-12 soccer, Parseghian said.

“What’s ideal about LCE is the impact on the rest of the residents is actually pretty minimal,” he said of the field’s isolation from Foothill Boulevard and surrounding homes. He estimated the cost of the work would be around $60,000.

There’s just one fly in the ointment — La Cañada Elementary School doesn’t want to give up its hardscape, as that is what students use most when outdoors. LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said there are concerns on campus about the potential loss of play space.

“We definitely recognize the need for field and green space,” she said. “[But] we also have to look at impacts on the site. Teachers feel very strongly about it. The principal is keen on keeping it.”

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Todd Reynolds, president of the La Cañada Sports Coalition, said if the district’s plan to build a new pool at the high school impacts varsity fields nearby, field space will become even more precious.

“If they can’t play four square, they’ll find another game to play,” said Reynolds, who has young children of his own. “If that’s what we’re butting up against we’re going to have to have a stiffer conversation.”

Not wanting to cancel plans to renovate the playground area this summer, committee members decided to get more feedback from LCE staff and potential user groups before bringing the matter before the entire school board.

Cornishon Court resurfacing could begin this summer

The La Cañada Flintridge Public Works Department is finalizing bidding documents for resurfacing of the Cornishon Avenue tennis courts, a project that has been estimated to cost at least $140,000 and that would be paid for equally by the city and La Cañada Unified.

Officials first identified a need to fix the badly cracked courts in 2008, determining them a potentially costly liability, but only recently committed to a cost-sharing agreement.

The city is preparing to submit a request for proposals sometime this month. Once a contractor is selected, the exact scope of work and cost would be known. The resurfacing work is expected to take at least 30 days and could begin sometime this summer.

City asked to consider chipping in for joint use pool at LCHS

City officials could possibly discuss whether there’d be interest in chipping in for the cost of building a 50-meter pool at La Cañada High School and opening it to use by the wider community, after resident David Haxton initiated a request at the March 28 meeting of the Joint Use Committee.

La Cañada Unified plans to replace its current 33-meter pool under its bond program and has provided estimates of upward of $9 million for a 40-meter replacement, despite the sentiment of some residents who’d like to see an Olympic-sized version.

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“It’s an opportunity to give residents without pools swim lessons and other things,” Haxton said of his joint-use proposal. “The only opportunity for a city to have a pool is now.”

School board member Dan Jeffries said a 50-meter pool was more than what school teams required and would better suit public use. Outgoing Mayor Terry Walker said the matter would have to be brought before the City Council to gauge members’ appetite.

“It would be a big commitment for the city to make rashly,” she said.

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine


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