City Council Decision to Extend Closure of WeHo Park Upsets Its Users

Those areas colored green would be closed until at least September 2021.

The City Council last night voted to continue to keep West Hollywood Park closed in order to expedite completion of the second phase of the park’s redevelopment.

It was a decision that angered some regular users of the park, including members of WeHo Dodgeball and those who regularly swim at the park’s outdoor pool. It also raised questions about whether the city will be able to accommodate the 2021 LA Pride Festival, which takes place in the park.

The city broke ground on the second phase of the redevelopment in January 2017. It was expected then to be completed in three years. (An earlier estimate was that it would be completed in April 2019). However, the city now has been estimating that Phase 2 won’t be completed until May 2022.

At the Council’s May 4 meeting, Councilmember John D’Amico noted that the entire park has been closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus there and suggested the city take advantage of that closing and expedite construction. The city had planned to stage construction of various parts of the park so as to always leave some parts of it open to the public.

The Council’s decision on Monday night will leave the entire park closed until Phase 2 is completed. Steve Campbell, director of the city’s Facilities and Recreation Services Department, said that would allow the park to reopen in September 2021, 250 earlier than under the current plan.

Members of WeHo Dodgeball objected to keeping the park closed after the COVID-19 pandemic in order to expedite construction.

WeHo Dodgeball game in West Hollywood Park (Photo by Matt Baume)

“That would leave the WeHo Dodgeball community (as well as Los Angeles Volleyball Organization (LAVO) and several other community groups) without a home for over a year,” said Jake Mason, founder of WeHo Dodgeball, in a post on its Facebook page

“For a lot of residents, WeHo Dodgeball is where they came out, met their friends, their husbands, their wives, decided to stay in LA, found a community to battle their addiction, and just found their home. This is more than an adult sport league, this is a community that has also given so much back to the city we love.

“When the park was being planned, we attended and spoke at every council meeting. We were given several assurances that they would not tear down our home until we had a new one.

“This virus has already ravaged our community and taken the sport we love away from us for most, if not all of this year but if the City of West Hollywood ravages us as well then we will not be able to survive or come back from this.”

Maurice Pilosof, who describes himself as a regular user of the pool, called into the City Council meeting on Monday night to object to the closure. Pilosof suggested the city put in place penalties for the contractor if it doesn’t meet its deadlines.

Christopher Street West (CSW), which stages the annual LA Pride parade on Santa Monica Boulevard and festival in West Hollywood Park, has announced that it must postpone the physical event this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  CSW has been able to use substantial parts of the park during construction in the last two years. CSW President Estevan Montemayor told WEHOville that he had only recently learned of the proposal to close all of the park.

2016 LA Pride festival in West Hollywood Park

 “As we look to 2021, we will work with the city and seek their guidance on how we can best produce a historic in-person festival and parade that will honor 50 years of resilience and Pride in Los Angeles,” Montemayor said in a statement to WEHOville.

City Councilmember Lauren Meister asked whether WeHo Dodgeball’s twice weekly games could be played in Fiesta Hall I Plummer Park. She also suggested the city reach out to hotels to see if users of the West Hollywood Park pool might be able to swim there.

Steve Campbell said that it might be possible for the city to put up an inflatable plastic structure in West Hollywood Park to house the dodgeball games.

The second phase of the park redevelopment includes demolition of the current auditorium and swimming pool and construction of an aquatic and recreation center with two rooftop swimming pools and a multi-sport court, small and large dog parks, expanded green spaces, new children’s playgrounds, an AIDS Monument and a $3 million grand staircase.

At the ground-breaking ceremony in January 2017, City Manager Paul Arevalo said the overall cost of the first and second phases of the redevelopment of the eight-acre park would be about $150 million.  The city now estimates the costs of both Phase 1 and Phase 2 will total $177.5 million, or $22.2 million an acre.  Phase 1 included the construction of West Hollywood Library and the adjacent five story parking structures.


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Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

With a few temporary modifications, Fiesta Hall could easily be converted into a venue for WeHo Dodgeball as Council member Meister suggested. Indeed her suggestion reflected an innovative approach that seemed lacking from staff or other Council members. While closing the park will cut about 230 days off the construction time and will have some savings, there was a lack of reasonable notice and outreach before this recommendation was put on the City Council agenda. So much for transparency and community participation. Lastly, I would love to see West Hollywood Dodgeball televised.

Real Dose
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Real Dose

No. Nothing will save money or cut time off of construction. Ship sailed on that. The only thing that could be done is to make things “less worse,” as this mess is already a year-and-a-half late and many, many millions over budget. For some reason, City Council isn’t getting to the core of why/where it’s been mismanaged. Or why hundreds of thousands in additional attorney fees were asked for. True that LM is the only one who voices anything meaningful about that.

James Francis
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James Francis

I share and agree with the sentiments of Johnathan. This so call community cultural and recreational hub will not accomplish its goal but rather achieve status where events will cater to those that want photo opps on Instagram or for private events to take place in addition to pacific design center. Also does a Park, facility, gym, and community center have to cost close to $250,000,000 million dollars?! What about investing 100 million in affordable housing trusts could have been better used these past 20 years so everyone on fixed incomes can have a unit in any old or new… Read more »

L Tracy
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L Tracy

Someone should remind them that all swimming pools, public and those in multifamily buildings and hotels, are supposed to be closed at present by order of the County Health Officer, as Heilman pointed out at the last meeting.

Ham Shipey
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Ham Shipey

West Hollywood needs to be retired…….return to the City of Los Angeles.

Roger Thompson
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Roger Thompson

LOL it was never part of the City of Los Angeles .

Oh no
Guest
Oh no

yes it was prior to being incorporated. I know I grew up there when it was LA

Art
Guest
Art

Never was part of the city–it was unincorporated county!

rick
Guest
rick

It was part of the unincorporated County of Los Angeles, not the City of Los Angeles.

:dpb
Guest
:dpb

The area of West Hollywood was part of Los Angeles County. That is why we rented the Los Angeles Sheriff department initially when the area of West Hollywood became a City in 1984. We were never part in LA City.

Reality Check
Guest
Reality Check

Spoiled selfish kids who think they have a right to dictate to public officials the best route for the rest of us.

Roger Thompson
Guest
Roger Thompson

Amen ! They are users/rental customers of the facility using it to make LOTS of money for himself! Just because the organizer will now loose money on his business venture because he will have to pay more for other non public subsidies gyms he’s all up in arms.

will
Guest
will

some think it’s corrupt, incompetent, arrogant, egomaniacal public officials who think they have a right to sink millions into vanity projects without public transparency and accountability, then ask for more money over and over because they don’t know what they’re doing. everyone has an opinion.

:dpb
Guest
:dpb

That’s the thing, really – the longer timers on the City Council and in City Hall – including Durand and a Heilman starter with the very best intentions, it’s once they stayed in leading positions too long they succumbed to the $$$$$. And nobody paid attention.

Vigilant
Guest
Vigilant

Hard to understand the timing and execution of this project, aside from the budget overages. During its inception and design, one of our city council members was involved as a Project Manager at UCLA Capital Programs and previously as a Planning Commissioner in Weho. Since it appears to be his expertise, reading the resume one might believe there would be some particular relatable insight into this project. What’s going on?

will
Guest
will

that’s what everyone seems to be wondering… who is (mis)managing this project?

Alan Strasburg
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Alan Strasburg

Expediting the completion still has it eighteen months behind original schedule. Maybe we didn’t pay enough? Surely at $22.2 million an acre we could/should hope for better? The Empire State Building was completed in 410 days, which is less time than remains on the new so-called “expedited” completion timetable on this cost overrun laden, already way behind schedule, municipal Taj Mahal. Adding insult to resident injury, the plan now fully closes the park until September 2021. I can’t wait to see Le Grand Escalier!

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

In fact, the Residents have cause for legal action against the City Management and the City Council. Residents who use that park are being affected (damages) by the City for not allowing the use of the park. Only a lawsuit filed will bring out the truth in the discovery process, (people under oath telling us the truth) To this point in time, the City has not made an effort to mitigate the damages suffered by closing the park. Social events , sporting events, or just plain use of the park for quality of life has been severely damaged. Limiting people’s… Read more »

Roger Thompson
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Roger Thompson

DAMAGES!?!? LOL the Dodgeball owner is using the public facility to make a profit! Using it as a business. Go pay market rate for a gym instead is using taxpayer funded parks for his business!

Jonathan Hong Dowling
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Jonathan Hong Dowling

$177.5 million for a park??? Ridiculous! Imagine how much affordable housing could have built for that amount of money.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

Something is not right. They are able to build a one billion dollar resort in Las Vegas in one year. There needs to be an independent audit of this project. Someone needs to follow the money. Find out what is taking so long. The devil is always in the details. Unfortunately, there is little to no transparency regarding spending in West Hollywood. The forces in play have gotten used to Residents not questioning the City spending. The entire project and every dime spent should be made public. The contractors involved in this project need to be investigated too. This is… Read more »

Oh no
Guest
Oh no

don’t forget about the ridiculousness of the automated parking garage on Sweetzer and how much that unnecessary cost was