Tuesday, August 22 , 2017, 10:18 pm | Fair 65º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Ball Bounces Against Beachfront Basketball Court Proposal in Santa Barbara

Parks & Recreation Commission deadlocks over competing renovation plans for Cabrillo Ball Field

The Cabrillo Ball Field — where Cabrillo Boulevard, Milpas Street and Calle Puerto Vallarta come together along the Santa Barbara waterfront — may soon see some changes toward its west end, near the Chromatic Gate. Click to view larger
The Cabrillo Ball Field — where Cabrillo Boulevard, Milpas Street and Calle Puerto Vallarta come together along the Santa Barbara waterfront — may soon see some changes toward its west end, near the Chromatic Gate. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The drive for a basketball court near the beach hit a full-court press in Santa Barbara last week when three members of the Parks & Recreation Commission balked at a proposal to build a court on the eastern end of the waterfront.

Three of the appointed commissioners — Ed Cavazos, Jim Heaton and Mark Rincon-Ibarra — backed one plan to redesign the Cabrillo Ball Field, located at 800 E. Cabrillo Blvd. where Cabrillo, Milpas Street and Calle Puerto Vallarta come together.

The proposal includes a junior high school-sized basketball court, a small fitness area and open space.

But three other commission members — LeeAnne French, BeeBe Longstreet and chairwoman Lesley Wiscomb — swatted down that concept.

Instead, they supported an alternative with fitness stations and play areas — and no basketball courts.

“I am just fighting for the neighborhood,” Rincon-Ibarra said. “The Eastside is totally neglected. Having something like this nearby is just a wonderful idea.”

The city’s Parks & Recreation Department has proposed a $1 million renovation of the five-acre Cabrillo Ball Park, across the street from The Fess Parker as well as the beach. The site is currently home to a softball diamond, restrooms, bleachers, lights and the Chromatic Gate art sculpture.

The park also is a hangout for homeless people who congregate there at all hours of the day and night. The city has long wanted to clean up the area and turn the waterfront property into a destination for tourists and locals alike.

After internal staff talks and public meetings, the city has proposed three options:

» A basketball court

» An adult fitness and play area

A $ 1 million renovation has been proposed for the Cabrillo Ball Field, at 800 E. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara, but the city’s Parks & Recreation Commission was unable to agree on a single plan for the overhaul. Click to view larger
A $ 1 million renovation has been proposed for the Cabrillo Ball Field, at 800 E. Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara, but the city’s Parks & Recreation Commission was unable to agree on a single plan for the overhaul. (Courtney Jane Miller rendering)

» A combined fitness and basketball court

The city also plans to install a 300-foot home-run fence on the ball field, and remove nine trees around the park’s perimeter. Twelve trees would be planted in their place.

The basketball court is proposed toward the west side of the property, across Calle Puerto Vallarta from The Fess Parker’s banquet and conference rooms. Citing noise concerns, hotel officials have opposed the court, which would be open from sunrise to sunset.

The fitness and play area plan would include 10 exercise stations with stainless steel bars for stretching and other strength and conditioning exercises, along with play mounds where children could romp. The exercise stations would include QR codes that people could scan with their smart phones to learn how to use the equipment.

The basketball court opponents on the commission said they weren’t “against basketball,” but that the Cabrillo Ball Field is the wrong location.

Santa Barbara residents have been pushing for beachfront basketball for decades. The late architect Barry Berkus, at one point in the early 2000s, designed basketball courts on the beach side of Cabrillo. Community opposition sank the idea, and the proposal never got off the ground.

Wiscomb said noise form the courts would not be good for The Fess Parker’s business.

“I am very concerned about the noise level from the basketball court with the hotel right there,” she said.

Wiscomb said the fitness area would be used by many more people.

Under one scenario for a new-look Cabrillo Ball Field, a junior high school-sized basketball court, a small fitness area and open space would be added to the five-acre property. Click to view larger
Under one scenario for a new-look Cabrillo Ball Field, a junior high school-sized basketball court, a small fitness area and open space would be added to the five-acre property. (Courtney Jane Miller rendering)

“I just see much more vibrancy in the fitness and play option,” she said.

“When you provide these positive activities you take away some of the more negative influences.”

Cavazos was puzzled over the concerns about noise.

“The noise you are going to get at a basketball court that size is minimal,” he noted.

He said there’s already a cacophony of sound from street traffic, the railroad tracks, the ocean and softball games.

“You can’t tell me that the noise is going to get out of control there,” Cavazos said.

Rincon-Ibarra agreed, noting that the hotel built tennis courts on its own property and no one complains about them.

Longstreet said she didn’t think the Historic Landmarks Commission would approve a basketball court at the site, so there was no need to waste further time and money studying the proposal.

“​Aesthetically, the basketball court just doesn’t work for me,” she said. “It looks crowded.

“I really like the spread of the fitness equipment. I like the look of the fitness equipment against the Chromatic Gate.”

Longstreet said the basketball court should be located on the beach side of Cabrillo, in a parking lot.

An alternative plan for Cabrillo Ball Field includes 10 fitness equipment stations, play mounds and open space. Click to view larger
An alternative plan for Cabrillo Ball Field includes 10 fitness equipment stations, play mounds and open space. (Courtney Jane Miller rendering)

She also took exception to Rincon-Ibarra’s assertion that the city neglects the Eastside. She said Franklin School and Santa Barbara Junior High School have basketball courts, among others.

Jill Zachary, the acting Parks & Recreation director, was noticeably dejected at the commission’s inability to make a recommendation on which plan to pursue. At Wednesday’s meeting, she reminded the commissioners that the next step is to take the project to the Historic Landmarks Commission. It’s that panel’s role to look at the design of the project, and the commisson’s job to recommend the use.

Without a consensus, Zachary will now take both of the favored plans to the Historic Landmarks Commission and ask them to comment on each. The commission voted 6-0 to move proceed with that tactic.

Heaton said the combined basketball and fitness area was the best solution. Even if it takes more time, he said, the city should support a way to build both.

“I don’t want to make a decision because we think that’s what’s most likely to go through quickest,” he said. “I want to do it the best we can.

“We have a space here that can be used actively and I think we need to seize that opportunity.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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