Pickleball mania spreads to La Palma

Pickleball gets second chance in Rossmoor. Courtesy photo

Pickleball mania continues to grow, evidenced by the La Palma City Council voting unanimously to move forward with a plan that will ultimately construct two brand new Pickleball courts in the city’s Central Park.

In addition, the Council voted to allow for the striping of the basketball courts so that they could be used during the day for pickleball courts. Citing more frequent usage, the Council opted not to temporarily convert the park’s tennis courts.
Recreation and Community Services manager Mike Belknap recommended the city directly award a professional services contract to a firm often used by the city to design the courts at a cost of $66,000.

Going through the bidding process to obtain a designer would delay the project, Belknap told the Council.

In addition, he said discussions with the state have been successful in allowing the city to repurpose $100-125,000 of existing grant funds on the construction of the pickleball courts.

He estimated the ultimate cost to construct the courts at approximately $200,000, but exact costs won’t be known until bids are received.

Several citizens spoke in favor of the city moving forward with the pickleball courts.
It’s a sport anyone can play, said one man, “and families can play too.”
Another man told the Council of his group that played together every single day. “We consider ourselves family,” he said of the group.

City Council member Nitesh Patel said with all the cuts in recent years, “it’s good to give something back to residents.”

Council member Mark Waldman said he agreed with Patel.

“I am absolutely for this,” said Mayor Pro-tem Marshall Goodman, noting that new courts would provide additional outlets and uses for city residents.

Council member Janet Keo Conklin said while she supported pickleball, it could be considered a “luxury item,” that should at least be offset by fees for non-residents. “We need to be fiscally responsible,” she said.

Mayor Debbie Baker said pickleball courts are not a luxury item but “a good investment into the community.”

Conklin agreed but stressed the Council should figure out how to make the courts “pay for themselves” over the long term.

Patel said the new pickleball courts will bring visitors to La Palma, creating additional sales tax revenue for the city.

Ultimately, the Council voted unanimously to authorize the design of the new courts, but insisted on going through the bid process for their construction.

The Council also agreed that city residents will be given priority to play on the new courts.
In other news, City Manager Conal McNamara presented a mid-year budget recap wherein he suggested the city’s unrestricted fund balance of $4.3 million indicates the city emerged from the COVID pandemic much better than expected.

“We still have a foggy road ahead,” said McNamara, but “the state of our fiscal situation is quite good.”

Admininistrative Services Manager Ryan Hinton said the increase in the transient tax, approved by voters, from 8 to 12 percent in 2022 will eventually produce approximately an additional $200,000 annually for the city. He said the new measure will generate $100,000 this year.

A recent agreement between the City and the La Palma Police Association will cost an additional $77,000 from the current budget, said Hinton, in order to satisfy the agreement’s new provisions.

Given the current financial health, Hinton suggested the Council create a budget stabilization measure, put more into emergency resources, and perhaps back down the city’s unfunded pension liabilities.

Finally, in another public comment to the Council, a resident asked the city to request a sound wall be built along the freeway from Buena Park to Cerritos. It is the only section without such a soundwall, the local citizen told the Council.