The WNC is making progress in regards to cleaning up Runnymede Park. As a result of the WNC’s actions over the last few months the City has stepped up to the plate and is starting to address stakeholder concerns at the park.

Late last month several members from various agencies met with Councilmember Zine’s Field Deputy to review the park and the WNC’s requests. On October 11, 2005, several Board members had a chance to meet with several high level representatives of various agencies regarding the park in an informal get together after the Board meeting was canceled.

As a result of our focus the LAPD Vice and Bike squad has spent a combined 30 hours over the last week and a half at the park. Officer Crosby from the West Valley Division announced that the Vice unit made two arrests for gambling and one for public drunkenness. The Bike squad made another three arrests for gambling. He commented that this is a tremendous effort and focus on this park that is unusual and it’s had a positive impact.

Acting Chief Park Ranger, Albert Torres, commented that they are also committed to cleaning up this park. Chief Torres said he has requested the Recreation & Parks to add additional signage at the park with the 24 hour hotline for stakeholders and park goers to call to report problems. The Rangers have committed to responding as soon as possible to the reports. He cautioned there are only 24 Rangers serving all of Los Angeles and a number of support personnel. While they can’t guarantee immediate response (it depends on where the Rangers are at the time of the call) they will respond and follow up on complaints.

Chief Torres pointed out that resolving the problems at Runnymede will take a partnership between the residents and the various city agencies. Chief Torres continued by saying his focus is to look at the trends as well as address the immediate concerns. He urged residents and park goers to report problems. The more data he has to see trends the better he can allocate resources and work with other agencies to get the resources that are needed.

Recreation & Parks had two representatives in attendance. Superintendent X and Laura Bauernfeind. Ms. Bauernfeind said the park is increasing the sign postings in both English and Spanish listing restrictions against moon bouncers. They will also be posting new signs with the Park Ranger’s number as well. She also announced that they will be adding additional trash cans throughout out the park.

One of the main requests the WNC made in it’s motion from earlier in the year was to reduce the number of picnic tables in the park. Ms. Bauernfeind said that Recreation & Parks did consider the request but felt that they number of tables was warranted. She explained that the decision was based on the belief that the families that use the park would have a bigger benefit if they were left. She commented that this should encourage family usage.

WNC President, Mr. Popowich, questioned the logic of leaving the tables. He asked, “What am I supposed to say to the stakeholders when they ask why we can’t get the tables removed?” He went on to ask at what point the stake holder’s desires matter to the City. He pointed out that the WNC has held meetings where we had over 30 stakeholders asking for the benches to be removed. He also spoke about his own observance of gambling and how they use the tables, describing in detail the gambling operation. He stressed that we have to present results to these stakeholders.

Superintendent X committed to reviewing the issue again. He asked for an opportunity to have his staff look at the park this week and see if they can present a compromise proposal on the number of tables. He confirmed that they will consider reducing the tables. X will report back to the Board with a compromise by the next regular Board meeting. He also stressed that this was an opportunity to get the community to work to resolve their issues.

Mr. Popowich said, ”the WNC and City have struggled for several months to get this problem addressed.” He went on to say that he was thankful the City was able to stay and talk to them and said he feels, “this is a new beginning and the start of what looks like a good working relationship.”

The WNC will continue to focus on this problem and is still planning to have a Winnetka Night Out at the park once we can ensure we have enough stakeholders who are willing to assist in arranging the event.