Venice: The Windward Plaza Children’s Playground located at 1 Windward Ave is set to be completely demolished next month. Photo by Amanda Heinke

Families who frequented a popular Venice Beach playground located at 1 Windward Ave near a Police Substation were distressed recently to find the location taped off by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

The playground identified by LA Parks as the “Windward Plaza Children’s Playground” was apparently slated for demolition due to deterioration, which according to a September 26 statement from Melody Valenzuela Gutierrez, LA Parks Senior Recreation Director, “posed a significant risk to those who used it, especially our children.”

Some parents, however, disputed that claim and noted little to no deterioration of the structures or equipment prior to the demolition, which commenced on September 25 when side facing panels on the structures were removed.

Families were equally puzzled by the compete lack of signage notifying the community that the playground would be disappearing. Gutierrez did not address that issue in her statement but clarified that “The Department’s decision to demolish the playground was made with the utmost concern for safety” adding:

“While the playground has been removed, we want to assure you that plans are in motion to install a new, safe, and enjoyable playground in its place. We understand the importance of this recreational space to our community, and we are actively working on securing the necessary funding to make this happen.”

This statement caused an outcry among locals who were shocked to learn that the city had proceeded with demolition before ensuring financing was in place for a replacement playground.

“I’m concerned that funding isn’t secured…how long is that going to take? What’s the plan? How much is needed? Can we do our own grassroots funding? I need a playground now, not 3 years from now … To take this away without a swift replacement is devastating to our community of moms,” said local parent, Amanda Heinke.

The next closest playground is at a location parents called “dangerous” and “unsafe for children” as it sits next to a public bathroom and fish cleaning station.

Located off Rose Avenue, the area is frequented by transients and homeless individuals who regularly use the facilities to clean themselves as well as their clothing, which they hang to dry on the playground fencing.

“People live in those bathrooms” says Heinke. “I cannot take my kid there, no way.”

The next closest playground on Venice Beach is frequented by transients and homeless individuals.

In their September 26 statement, LA Parks made no mention of alternate playground(s) but assured the community they would “provide updates as progress is made toward the installation of the new playground.”

A request for additional information made to the Department was not returned by the time of publication.

Westside Current, Special to the Daily Press