City Council Advances Pickleball Pilot Program at Glenhaven Park

Photo by Keira Wight/Outlook Valley Sun
A tennis player volleys against the backboard at Glenhaven Park, which has been earmarked for a temporary, mixed-use pickleball and tennis pilot program. City Council denied an appeal of the program on Tuesday.

Following a lengthy public hearing and discussion, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council on Tuesday voted to uphold an earlier decision by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission to implement a pilot program allowing for a mixed-use pickleball and tennis court at Glenhaven Park.
The city received 83 public comments via email voicing support for and opposing the matter, as well as submitted, signed petitions opposing pickleball use at the park. Residents living in close proximity to the court in question spoke publicly, some giving emotional addresses in a bid to dissuade council from forging ahead with the pilot program at Glenhaven, known as the city’s smallest and most remote park.
Ultimately, council voted 4-0 (Mayor Mike Davitt was absent from the meeting) to deny the appeal of the Parks and Recreation Commission decision on March 10 to implement a pilot program for both pickleball and tennis at the standalone court, located at 1918 Parkdale Place. However, in a bid to compromise with neighbors opposed to it, council did shorten the length of the allowed pickleball activity during the pilot program to two months from the initial three months. The city also agreed to hire a sound engineer to conduct a study and gather data during the program, which will measure and compare the decibels during pickleball and tennis play, as well as noise in the park during non-game time.
The city has not yet set a start date for the pilot program.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, and can be played indoors or outdoors with two to four players. Four pickleball courts can fit on one regular-sized tennis court, allowing for up to 16 players, and is seen as a low-impact activity suitable for all ages. The game has quickly gained popularity, especially among older residents, and the Parks and Recreation Commission has conducted 11 public meetings on the matter since 2018.
When weighing their options, council members lamented the division in the community over the sport, with so many resolute “pros” and “cons,” and recognized sympathy for both sides of the debate.
“In all my years on council, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a public hearing with so many opposed and so many for an issue as this one,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Curtis.
Councilwoman Terry Walker, meanwhile, expressed hope that the pilot program might bring some new opportunity to residents living near Glenhaven to learn about pickleball, but emphasized that the pilot program is temporary for now, and not a permanent fixture at the park.
“The discussion tonight was very compelling and heartfelt,” she said. “This is one of those tough times, where no matter what decision the council makes, we’re going to make our constituents unhappy on one side or the other… We’re just doing the best we can to do what’s right for our community as a whole.”
The pilot program will allow for two pickleball courts at Glenhaven Park sports court on Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2-6 p.m. The LCF Pickleball Association has committed to placing and taking down the 3-foot-high nets during those hours.
Those opposed to the pilot program at Glenhaven cited concerns regarding speed, traffic and parking on La Granada Way, with a few residents opposed to the only access road becoming “a giant parking lot.” The park is also surrounded by Parkdale Place and Glenhaven Drive, although non-permitted parking is not allowed on residential streets.
Other opposition came from dedicated tennis players, who noted that there are not enough tennis courts in town and that those wishing to play must already wait long periods for a turn. Also, pickleball court lines are different, meaning temporary markings will be added to the existing court surface, causing confusion among tennis players.
Noise concerns were also cited by appellants during the hearing. Pickleball is a louder sport than tennis, as the ball’s strike has a higher pitch and “percussive popping sound that is more appropriate in a larger park or recreation center, not next door to residential homes,” wrote Ibrahim Alnasser, on behalf of homeowner Danielle Meeker, in an appeal cosigned by 38 appellants.
The appeal also stated: “We feel that the motions adopted were created in a rushed and incomplete manner leaving many questions unanswered. Critical decisions were made such as the number of pickleball courts and the hours reserved exclusively for pickleball without a proper and detailed analysis of the potential negative impacts to the residents and community members who regularly visit the park, playground, and the tennis court itself.”
Meanwhile, local park resident Nalini Lasiewicz submitted evidence from an acoustical engineer consultant to help exemplify the noise impact of the sport, combined with an increased number of people on the court. She also noted that the current pandemic situation is a terrible time to embark on a data gathering public program, which would disturb all those working and learning from home.
“Glenhaven is truly a haven for working families with small children; it’s a tiny pocket park, parents teach their children tennis on that court, seniors and life-long tennis players use it seven days per week,” she said, adding that while she understands the “city is responding to a very enthusiastic call for pickleball courts, and for good reason — between Burbank and Altadena there are no public pickleball courts in the Crescenta Valley.” However, she emphasized that Glenhaven, in particular, “is a very poor location for pickleball.”
Lasiewicz also pointed to the other locations considered by the Parks and Recreation Commission, noting that a larger park would be more appropriate.
Councilmembers expressed concerns regarding the appellants’ arguments, noting they will be taken into consideration as part of the pilot program study. However, they said, they had to side with the work the city commission had undertaken in their nearly three-year study on the matter.
“I’m inclined to trust the process,” said Councilman Rick Gunter. “I reflect a lot that this was discussed over 11 different meetings and the Parks and Recreation Commission considered it many, many times. That’s kind of the point of a trial process; to have a pilot that is limited in scope and duration.”
Councilman Keith Eich, meanwhile, proposed to limit the length of the pickleball pilot program to two months from three to give residents a little more relief from the potential side effects.
“On the one hand I know the Parks and Recreation Commission went through exhaustive measures to look at options over many months… but on the other I understand the neighbors’ concerns for a pilot. I sympathize with both groups. I’m personally torn,” Eich said.