LAX- FAA Denies Buffer Zone Land for Park Use

Thursday, February 10, 2005
FAA vetoes use of airport-owned site for youth soccer, softball
The Marina del Rey (CA) Argonaut

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently rejected a proposal for community-funded soccer and softball fields on vacant airport property in Playa del Rey because of “revenue use policy,” said Donn Walker, FAA spokesman at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Walker said that even though the property is a buffer area for the airport and no use is planned, if the FAA doesn’t receive funds from the lease, the agreement can’t be approved.

Walker said that the FAA had made one exception in previous years, but didn’t “want to set a precedent,” because once the land was in use, it would be “almost impossible to regain it.”

That exception was Carl E. Nielsen Youth Park at 6000 Will Rogers St., Westchester.

The Youth Park was leased by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) – the City of Los Angeles entity that operates LAX and other city airports – to the nonprofit Westchester Playa del Rey Youth Foundation in 1984 and was dedicated February 23rd, 1984.

The park is currently home to the Westchester Little League, the Westchester/Playa del Rey Girls Softball League, and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).

Last year, LAWA officials reached an agreement, pending FAA approval, with the Westchester Playa del Rey Youth Foundation to establish a new six-acre parcel in Playa del Rey for athletic fields with a 15-year no-cost lease.

The parcel is bounded by residences and by St. Bernard High School, at 9100 Falmouth Ave., and Westchester Parkway.

A girls softball field and a minimum-size soccer field were planned for the new athletic field.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote to the FAA administrator of airports, asking the agency to “revisit its decision to reject the proposed new park in Playa del Rey,” said Edgar Saenz, local Waters representative.

Waters advocated for the addition of new athletic fields as “a legitimate and allowable function under federal regulations, citing the youth foundation’s success and the potential community-serving use of the field.”

The property for the proposed new park was acquired 30 years ago by the city airports department and is vacant and surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

The youth foundation would have developed and financed the athletic field at no cost to the airport department and would have built and operated the field, said Saenz.

“Personally, I am very disappointed in the FAA’s decision,” said Saenz.

The playing fields wouldn’t interfere with secure and safe airport operations, and “wouldn’t cost the airport a dime,” said Saenz.

Saenz said the land is not planned for development and should be put to good use for the community.