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Parks and Recreation Commission Minutes December 12, 2005

Parks and Recreation Commission Minutes December 12, 2005

City Council Chamber
Monday, December 12, 2005
6:30 p.m.


Chair Swanson called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m.


Commissioner Spencer led the flag salute.


Present :

Kathleen Baier-Dalton, Virginia Han, Pamela Keller, George Miller, Craig Russell, Nancy Spencer, Neil Swanson

Absent :


Staff :

Ron Molendyk, Parks and Recreation Director; Parks and Recreation Managers Dave Alkema, Grace Carroll-Miranda, Alice Loya, Dannielle Mauk, and Judy Peterson; Stacy Michalak, Cultural and Events Specialist; Landscape Superintendent Dennis Quinlivan


There were no public comments.

CONSENT ITEMS (Items 1 - 2)

Commissioner Keller MADE A MOTION to approve the Consent Calendar and Commissioner Spencer SECONDED THE MOTION.

AYES: Dalton, Han, Keller, Miller, Russell, Spencer, Swanson
NOES: None

The MOTION CARRIED unanimously.


Recommendation to approve the Minutes of the November 14, 2005 regular meeting.


Staff recommendation to receive and file the Landscape Division November 2005 Monthly Report.



Director Molendyk noted the federal grant of over seven million dollars received by the City for Richman Park area infrastructure improvements and for low-cost housing, with one million dollars to be used for Richman Park renovations and upgrades. He said Parks and Recreation managers Dave Alkema and Judy Peterson were involved in the planning, and that Parks and Recreation landscape architect, Sandy Willis, had met several times with the landscape architect firm to ensure the plan was under budget and retained as much open space as possible. Director Molendyk added that staff had met with the Valencia Task Force and at a public meeting at Richman School November 22nd which Chair Swanson and Commissioner Keller attended. He said security lighting at the park and lighting of the fields at Richman School were the two main concerns voiced at the meetings.

Director Molendyk then introduced Parks Manager Dave Alkema, who provided a presentation with a proposed site plan for Richman Park, noting the improvements and problematic features as well as the mature trees, existing walkways and irrigation they will be trying to retain. Manager Dave Alkema said the play area and picnic area would be totally renovated because the style and location of the prior areas had encouraged gambling, drugs, etc. He also pointed out that staff had safety concerns at night due to the close proximity of the restrooms to the Valencia Center and the very poor lighting.

Commissioner Russell confirmed the position of the planned St. Jude clinic on the site plan, and asked if the City is now calling Valencia Community Center the Richman Neighborhood Center; Director Molendyk said "yes" because it was located at Richman Park now. Commissioner Russell asked if facilities could be renamed without going through a procedure, and Director Molendyk said, "If it made sense, I would say so." Commissioner Russell said he had never heard it called that before, and confirmed with Director Molendyk that Richman Neighborhood Center was the new name.

Commissioner Han asked if a new restroom would be built, and Manager Alkema said "yes," and that there would be two men's and two women's restrooms located near the new picnic area and drinking fountains. He said the boulders in the playground would be moved to Laguna Lake.

Manager Alkema noted that the play areas would be in more age-appropriate sections with other small park picnic areas. The new park entrance was shown and commissioners were told that new park signage would replace the old, decaying one. He pointed out the new walkways including one to the St. Jude Clinic, and new landscaping with new accent trees which will provide some color, and then opened the meeting up to questions. Commissioner Spencer asked if all the rocks would be removed, and Manager Alkema said "yes," because there were complaints about safety, the rocks didn't have a lot of play value, and it tended to flood in that area during rains. He said they would not be able to re-grade the area completely due to the budget, and would use the existing pump to pump water out when needed.

Commissioner Miller asked what the timeline was, and Manager Alkema said staff had a concept plan, Engineering would be sending out a request for proposal for architectural services about the first of the year. An architect should be on board in February with a design in two to three months which could be put out to bid in Spring. Given continually rising costs, he said staff is trying hard to contain costs and retain as much landscaping and walkways as possible so that when they receive the bids, important features won't have to be eliminated. Director Molendyk said the planned family picnic area was an important addition for the community for family picnics or birthday celebrations.

Manager Alkema said pre-fab single occupancy restrooms of high quality would be installed with two designated for men and two for women. However, he said women could use the men's restroom if needed as the toilets were single-occupancy. He said the group picnic area could hold about 20 or 30 people, but that there would be other smaller picnic areas in the park for others to use.

Commissioner Russell asked about a white area at the bottom of the plan, and Manager Alkema said it was a protected historic orange tree that's fenced in. Commissioner Russell asked about the intersection at the top right side of the plan, and Manager Alkema said they hadn't decided exactly what would be there, but it would be a focal point as people enter the park from the right corner. He responded that the beige-colored walkways on the plan would be concrete and not colored due to cost. Commissioner Russell asked about and received answers on some of the architectural features near the planned clinic and where the entrance would be. Director Molendyk confirmed that the Richman Center would not change other than having the expansion in the back.

Commissioner Han asked about the planned parking on school property, and was told that a separate agreement had been made between St. Jude and the Fullerton School District. Staff was unsure exactly how many spaces were available, but said the parking was for staff because it was expected that the neighbors would walk to the park. Director Molendyk added that the neighbors asked for additional lighting during the November 22nd meeting because the school campus is "extremely dark," and that one couldn't even see the fence six or eight feet ahead. The adjacent alleyway to the school was also mentioned by the neighbors as needing lighting.

Commissioner Han thought adding an access from Highland going straight to the clinic would be helpful; however, Manager Alkema said the planned walkway would serve both the clinic and a picnic area, and that aesthetically, the current plan was better and would not be that much longer of a walk. Director Molendyk said they couldn't have both sidewalks because it's a small park and they don't want to have too much concrete. Manager Peterson asked if the plan incorporated an existing walkway in order to save as much money as possible, and Manager Alkema concurred. Commissioner Spencer said that visually, the plan also flowed better without the additional sidewalk. She also asked how wide the sidewalks were, and was told they varied but the sidewalk in question would be eight feet wide which she felt was more than sufficient. Commissioner Swanson asked if the agenda item was an information item and was told "yes," and that while staff didn't mind getting input or making a change on an issue like the sidewalk, they didn't want to go back to the community, which had already approved the plan, and tell them that major changes were made to the plan. Manager Alkema added that some existing trees might have to be removed if the sidewalks were changed, which they are trying to avoid, noting that the trees were probably the most important feature of the park. Commissioner Han was provided assurances that the sidewalk was sufficiently wide to allow for pedestrians and wheelchairs.

Director Molendyk said various City departments and staff have been involved in the planning including Parks and Recreation's landscape architect, Maintenance, and the Fire Department, as has the neighborhood. If the commissioners approve the plan also, the Department can go ahead with a request for bids next month; however a major plan change would entail returning to the community which would slow the process down.

Director Molendyk reminded the commissioners of the School District's plans regarding the fencing between the Richman School property and Richman Park, saying that now the school district plan is to move the fence to the school property line. He said the Department was also asked to review lighting at the fields, so he and Manager Alkema met with Musco Lighting at the fields, provided information needed, and will be provided with a lighting plan and cost estimate, noting that it would be dependent on cost.

Commissioner Russell had concerns about expanding the Center into the fields, which might impact the ability to play sports on the fields and the athletic lighting. He felt it would be better to encroach onto park property rather than school property, especially if there was a commitment to provide lighting for the fields. Commissioner Dalton asked if the Center wasn't going to expand southwards into the park. Director Molendyk said they've always discussed encroaching on School District property, however, he agreed with Commissioner Russell that they did need to be aware of the various elements that needed to be coordinated and adjusted, e.g., fields, lighting, and school standards for building which require more costly and time-consuming measures including earthquake standards. Commissioner Russell asked if there would be a decision on the conceptual plan for lighting of the fields, and Director Molendyk said the plan would be brought back for discussion in January or February, and that any plan for lighting would be taken to the City Manager and back to the Commission prior to implementation.

Commissioner Keller asked when the School District said it would move the fencing, and Director Molendyk said it was fairly recently, in the last month, noting that the District will be adjusting the fencing at Orangethorpe School due to security issues. Commissioner Keller said she believed negotiations were still going on so fencing at Richman Park was probably not "a done deal."

Commissioner Miller said that, since the item was not an action item, he would recommend that the Commission approve the plan as presented with the recommendations from Commissioner Russell included.

Commissioner Dalton asked about the play area near the planned St. Jude Clinic. Manager Alkema said it would be a sand play area for very small children with small-sized equipment nearby with a shade structure. When asked, Manager Alkema said the other play areas would have wood chips. He agreed with Commissioner Dalton that sand might be a problem due to cats using it for a litter box; however, he said they couldn't afford to put expensive rubber in the play area and that cats also use the wood chips.

Commissioner Han MADE A MOTION to add another sidewalk to the south area of the park. There was NO SECOND.

Commissioner Miller MADE A MOTION to approve the plan as presented but with Commissioner Russell's suggestion to review how the School District fencing will impact the fields and lighting. Commissioner Russell SECONDED THE MOTION.

AYES: Dalton, Han, Keller, Miller, Russell, Spencer, Swanson
NOES: None

The MOTION CARRIED unanimously.

Manager Judy Peterson provided an update on the Cal State Fullerton Housing and Urban Development collaborative grant at Richman Park. She said the funds should be coming within the next few weeks, for which they had to complete a lot of environmental forms. Dr. Castro will be going to Washington, D.C. for contract negotiations, but it was believed they would receive the full $599,000 requested.

Manager Peterson said the addition will change the Richman/Valencia Center from 30' x 60' to 60' x 60' or 3600 sq. ft. Several programs would be added, staffed mostly by students from Cal State Fullerton or Fullerton College. One program would help parents make good educational decisions for their children, e.g. how to get their children into college and obtain scholarships. Another would help people understand how to get and maintain good credit with a goal of owning a home. There would also be vocational and career planning, safe neighborhood programs, a junior cadet program and other programs to impact gangs, and neighborhood improvement through landscaping and gardening. Other programs would include civic education as part of the ESL program, and how to apply for citizenship and prepare for the citizenship test.

Manager Peterson said the programs for the three-year grant were developed through a needs assessment done by the Valencia Task Force with the neighborhood which identified problems in the neighborhood including gangs, drugs, public safety, poor relationship with the Police Department, domestic violence, and crowded and poor housing.

Manager Peterson clarified for Chair Swanson that the expansion was related to the Richman Center, not the St. Jude Clinic. He thanked her for her presentation.


Director Molendyk introduced the Laguna Lake management program agenda item, saying that staff is asking for the Commission's approval of their recommendations, which could then be used to seek further funding, and could be shared with the other departments such as Engineering and Maintenance. He noted that the first phase of the Laguna Lake improvements was completed, which Parks Manager Alkema would go over, but that there were still two other phases which weren't budgeted for. Also, he noted that there was no lake management plan, but they have started on one. With assistance from Senator Ackerman's and the City Manager's office, he said they've begun stocking the lake. He said after Manager Alkema's presentation, staff would like Commission to provide input on the lake management plan.

Manager Alkema provided information on Laguna Lake, noting that he began working for the City last August, just as the lake was being filled. Since then, he was familiarizing himself with the lake, working on the needed grants, and learning about the engineering and maintenance facets. However, the key thing missing was a lake management plan which was necessary to maintain all the components of the lake and the five or six million dollar investment including engineering, landscaping, maintenance, future components, and public education. Manager Alkema said he believed Laguna Lake would be one of the nicest freshwater man-made lakes in Orange County. He said he and Director Molendyk developed a framework for a management plan to protect the investment made and protect those using the lake, and would like the Commissioner's opinion on the plan and if staff is going in the correct direction so they could develop it further.

Director Molendyk said the lake looks better, but there is already debris from reeds and eucalyptus trees. He said a lot of trees were taken out, but not all will be replaced because the neighbors have said they don't want a lot of trees blocking their view. He said the maintenance needs were above those a recreation leader or regular maintenance person could handle; the City would have to hire an expert who could assist in maintaining the fish and the relationship with Fish and Game. He also noted that the ordinances regarding fishing would have to be looked at to see how they affect the lake. Director Molendyk also noted the $2 million funding brought by Senator Ackerman through the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. He announced a lake rededication on Saturday, Feb. 25th at 10:00 a.m. which will include a fishing derby for the kids. Manager Alkema said there are 1,000 small catfish, bass and bluegill, and Director Molendyk said there would also be fish coming in from Los Angeles County.

Director Molendyk said they are working on bids for perimeter fencing in the public areas with one bid coming in at about $86,000. He said Engineering has done its part so now Parks and Recreation has to keep the ball rolling in the right direction.

Commissioner Miller said if there are fish in the lake, they need to start maintaining the lake now. Manager Alkema said he spoke with the lake engineer for Laguna Lake, and he said it will maintain itself for a "reasonable amount of time" including the equipment. He said Pixis, a water management company, could provide an interim management to ensure the equipment continues working. Director Molendyk said if the Council would approve it, they could hire a specialist, perhaps sharing his time with Tri-City Park. Until then, they would utilize an interim specialist at $2,000 a month to do cleanup and inspection once a week while the Department worked on developing the lake management plan. Director Molendyk added that it was important to keep a lake healthy because when a lake dies, dye might be added to try to improve the color, but it just makes it worse.

Commissioner Miller asked if the Department had the money to hire a specialist. Director Molendyk said there has been no allowance for the maintenance of the lake; but they are bringing this need to everyone's attention. Thus, if the Commission makes a recommendation to approve a plan, staff would share this with the City Manager.

Manager Alkema added that he wanted approval of the framework for a lake management plan before he spent a lot of time on a detailed plan that commissioners would object to; instead, he wanted to bring everyone along at the same time. Commissioner Keller asked how long the lake was there. No one knew exactly how long, probably "since the early teens," but it had been there a long time and was taken over by the City in the fifties. She asked how maintenance was done then, and Dennis Quinlivan said it was very basic maintenance with algaecide and a boat picking up debris, but the new equipment was more complicated. Director Molendyk said that with a multi-million dollar project, the investment needed to be protected through a maintenance plan and budget, which isn't currently in place. Thus, the Commission's role could be to advise City Council on this need.

Commissioner Miller asked if the lake manager was a fictitious person, and Manager Alkema agreed, saying he was willing to move the process forward. Commissioner Spencer thought it was a good idea to hire an interim person first to see how it goes. Director Molendyk said the lake manager would have to be someone who doesn't just maintain the lake, but understands how to manage the lake. He noted that with his and Manager Alkema's experience, if funding was provided for Maintenance and Parks and Recreation staffing and a contract, they would have twelve months to really understand the position and what kinds of problems to expect. Commissioner Spencer said that was a good plan. Manager Alkema said the Department can also research other cities with lakes to learn about their successes and mistakes, adding that the Department should also be able to get lake management plans from several cities through its lake management consultant.

Commissioner Miller said the lake management plan was a necessity but he was afraid the fishing derby would be laughable with three-inch fish. However, Director Molendyk and Manager Alkema said they would stock the lake with one-pound, eight to ten inch trout. Commissioner Han asked if the $2,000/month consultant fee would be reasonable or not, and Manager Alkema said he honestly wasn't sure either, but that that would be a learning experience as the consultant would help them better understand how the pumps work. After Director Molendyk described the aeration of the lake, Manager Alkema said the commissioners might want to visit the lake and get an overview of the engineering there. Commissioner Keller, while not disagreeing about the idea of a lake manager, had concerns about how to fund the lake manager, given the cuts that were needed and extra work shouldered by other staff. Director Molendyk said an additional staff wouldn't be considered right away, but suggested getting an interim lake management company on board until the plan is fleshed out and implemented. They could then decide whether to continue a contract or hire a staff. Manager Alkema said maintenance staff would still be needed. Director Molendyk said special staffing needs might be necessary, given the special needs of the lake.

Commissioner Keller asked about the plan, and the gate fees and concessions, and Manager Alkema said he put those in there to provide all possibilities since this is a "new" facility. Director Molendyk noted that Irvine Lake is concessioned out, and that all things must be considered in order to be able to manage and stock the lake. Commissioner Keller said she was against gates being locked during the day with fees charged, and Director Molendyk said the gate is locked in the evening only and opened in the morning.

Chair Swanson said he was embarrassed that he and the commissioners hadn't asked about the lake management before, and agreed that they must provide maintenance, and must now figure out how to get public support and funding for the management. Director Molendyk said there has been discussion about ensuring that any new projects should include a maintenance impact report. Chair Swanson said the Department would have the Commission's support on a lake management plan.


Cultural and Events Manager Dannielle Mauk provided a Power Point presentation on First Night Fullerton, noting that since First Night will be on a Saturday night, and the Rose Parade was moved to Monday, January 2nd, they expect to have even more people this year. As usual, it will be on January 31st from 7:00 p.m. to midnight. Manager Mauk noted the new events, including Soundbytes, a family band, on the Museum main stage at the Plaza, and the Neil Diamond tribute, Hot August Nights, at a new Wilshire and Harbor stage with tent.

At First Christian Church, there were will be an interactive drum group, Street Beat, while the Pomona and Wilshire stage will have a country western swing band, something First Night hasn't had in a while.

The Harbor Stage will have Chazz, the Amazing Juggler, South Harbor will have karaoke by popular request, and North Harbor will have the sold-out tethered hot air balloon rides. Main stage will have Sound Bytes, the Museum will have a magic show, and the Lewis and Clark exhibit will be free to the public. Spare Change will play at First Baptist, and there will also be roaming entertainers, interactive kids vendors, train rides, face painters, and hot dogs sold on Harbor. Kids Lane will have a moon bounce, bubble play, obstacle courses, and there will be many vendors and a fireworks finale at midnight.

Manager Mauk said First Night is already getting a lot of press with an interview scheduled with Real Orange and a listing on Channel 7's event calendar. She noted a new full-color program which will be sent to the commissioners with their invitations. Full-color posters will also be put in local stores and City facilities. Director Molendyk said they had a better budget for good paper stock, and Parks and Recreation will receive more credit this year. Manager Mauk acknowledged Cultural and Events Coordinator Stacy Michalak's great work on her first New Year's Eve event. Commissioner Russell asked about a stage on Amerige and Harbor, and, Manager Mauk said it would be a karaoke stage. Director Molendyk also pointed out the new search lights to help the public find the activities, and that 20,000 were people expected, versus the 15,000 from last year.

Chair Swanson asked how much a second balloon would cost, and was told it would cost $3,000 - $5,000, plus there might not be sufficient room for another balloon.


Director Molendyk noted that lighting would help meet some of the athletic field and recreation programming needs of the Department, so the Department is looking into athletic field lighting at several schools including Richman, Commonwealth and Ladera Vista. He said he toured the new 15,000 sq. ft., all-wood flooring gym with the elementary school district superintendent, and that staff was looking into it for possible City classes. Director Molendyk added that he would like to eventually have lighting at all Department facilities because the new energy efficient lights would pay for themselves.

Commissioner Russell asked how schools address the lighting issue, and Director Molendyk said the City generally pays for all the improvements while the schools would provide a use agreement. Commissioner Russell asked if schools would be prohibited from encroaching on fields for which the City provided lighting, and Director Molendyk said that that issue would be addressed in the agreement, but that the positive news was that the principal and school district are willing to consider lighting.

Director Molendyk said Administrative Manager Alice Loya is working on the Kiwanis agreement which should come to Commission in February 2006. Commissioner Russell asked if Kiwanis had already agreed to anything, but Director Molendyk said "no," saying that since it's the City's contract, the Contracts Review Subcommittee would look at it first, then the Kiwanis would look at it, and if the Subcommittee wanted other potential user groups to look at the proposed agreement, there would be yet another meeting.

Director Molendyk reported that Manager Loya was also working with the Fullerton Collaborative on a Memorandum of Understanding with Cal State Fullerton related to the $600,000 HUD grant which should come back to the Commission and Council. He also noted the Child Guidance Center agreement with the City, saying the lessees are looking forward to a revised agreement because they are down-sizing.

Director Molendyk said that demolition of the locker rooms at Independence Park was under way but the project is three weeks behind schedule due to having to acquire port-a-potties, handicapped-accessible portable showers and changing tents, all needed to allow FAST to continue operating during construction.

Director Molendyk said the Department is looking at better uses for its facilities, Independence Park being one of those under review. He said that the Farmers Market at Woodcrest has agreed to be relocated to Independence Park due to a parking issue at Woodcrest Park. Staff also wants to re-grade Independence Park to provide for a soccer field and better usage.

Director Molendyk wished all the commissioners Happy Holidays, saying he would see them on January 31st.


Director Molendyk noted that the St. Jude Clinic agreement had been approved by City Council, and that the information requested by Commissioner Russell was sent to the commissioners on why a project deadline, which appeared imminent, was extended. He said St. Jude received credit from the funders for starting the project on time, but was allowed to extend its completion time through Council approval.


Commissioner Russell said he wanted to look into Cal State Fullerton's agreement with the City, saying that the City paid for the CSUF sports complex, and wondered how much input the City could have on what happens there. He asked if the City could look into how CSUF utilizes its fields as it seems to be ignoring opportunities to bring people into the stadium which could benefit the City as well, e.g., 10,000 - 12,000 people could have come for a high school football game on the same weekend as the Fullerton Winter Festival. Director Molendyk said he would look into that, especially as the Department has $42,000 budgeted for CSUF fields.

Commissioner Keller said she visited the Teen Center at Garnet Neighborhood Center, and that it was a "wonderful thing," albeit small. Chair Swanson said he thought the commissioners had asked, at the last meeting, for a good time for a Commission visit. Commissioner Keller added that Coordinator Eddie Burciaga is doing a lot with a small budget, with many volunteers and donated items.

Chair Swanson noted that there will be a "changing of the guards" with two commissioners, Han and Swanson, possibly leaving at the end of the year. Director Molendyk read from a City Clerk memo that said Council will be making a decision on the new or re-appointed Parks and Recreation commissioners at its Jan. 17th meeting, so until then, the current commissioners would remain.

Chair Swanson asked that a schedule be developed so that commissioners could become more familiar with the many parks in Fullerton.

Chair Swanson adjourned the meeting at 8:22 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Ron Molendyk, Secretary