I take issue with the way Brennon Dixon portrays the City Council’s handling of pickleball during the budget session reported in his article of June 24, “Council clashes on budget priorities before final approval.”
Brennon’s article reports that the Councilmembers agreed to address community concerns regarding pickleball access “by allowing tennis courts to open one hour earlier at 7 a.m. and promised to restripe the courts at Memorial Park this summer.” The article gives readers the impression that the City Council is actually working to support pickleball players in Santa Monica. In fact, over the past several months, the Council and City Manager have done exactly the opposite, significantly restricting available court time and refusing to work with the pickleball community to provide sufficient access to play space within the city. This, after having canceled a hugely successful City run program that charged players for participating in open play several times a week which had been attended by hundreds of players.
I have been attempting to work with the City Council, and now former interim manager Lane Dilg, to address these issues on behalf of the pickleball players for many weeks without success. Your article fails to mention that the only courts with striping for pickleball in Santa Monica are at Memorial Park, also used for tennis. Up until this month, there was open play happening at Memorial Park every day of the week, from 8 a.m. to early afternoon, as well later afternoons and evenings. The demand for court time was such that people had to wait to get on a court even with 16 pickleball courts going most mornings.
All of that came to an abrupt end when the City Manager decided to schedule youth tennis camps at Memorial rather than other available tennis facilities, knowing that there was no other place for pickleball players to go.
This was part of an ongoing effort to reduce available time for pickleball that had begun months earlier when the city allowed Crossroads School and private tennis instructors to take over the Memorial Park courts most afternoons during the week.
The City Council and manager rejected our requests for funding for permanent courts in Santa Monica. We then asked simply for dedicated court time, even going so far as offering to stripe the courts ourselves (either temporarily or permanently), or to move to another location such as Ocean View or Marine Park. These suggestions were also rejected. Why? The program in Santa Monica has been run by volunteers who bring all equipment so that everyone can play since the City refuses to do so. Even assuming that the City could truly not afford to convert a few tennis courts to permanent pickleball courts (which we all know not to be the case as the Council saw fit to spend double the cost on a temporary ice rink), there was no excuse for the City Manager, or the Council, to reject any of our suggestions that would have enabled play time to continue at zero expense to the City. Unlike El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Inglewood, or Beverly Hills, the City of Santa Monica wishes to end pickleball play, not support it.
Fred Silberberg, Santa Monica