On Wednesday, August 18, City Council gave unanimous approval to conceptual designs for two “pocket park” projects in South Pasadena. An initial budget not to exceed $178,025 was set, however a motion to allocate an additional sum for “engineering services during construction” brought the new total to approximately $190,000.
The Caltrans lots designated for the projects — located on Grevelia St. and Berkshire Ave. — are two plots of land that remained vacant for years and were purchased and re-zoned open space. According to the council agenda report, this allows the City “to create two pocket parks within park-poor neighborhoods” claiming that “both parks will be an asset to the residents.”
The appropriated funds are being awarded to Costa Mesa-based David Volz Design Landscape Architects, INC (DVD) for construction document services through the City’s Park Impact Fee revenue. The firm, who was hired for preliminary concept design work in April 2021, presented concept designs that were the product of community meetings and input to the Parks and Recreation Commission, who performed a final review of the aforementioned designs during a June 14, 2021 meeting, wherein commissioners unanimously approved the two concept designs and recommended staff seek approval from the City Council for design and moving forward with construction documents.
Prior to this, the commission held a community meeting on May 10, 2021, to obtain feedback regarding the two pocket park concept designs that were, at that time, last revised in 2018.
As it stands, the agenda report estimates the current construction budget for Berkshire Park is $600,000 and $400,000 for Grevelia Park. Final documents will be bid-ready plans and technical specifications, including more defined construction cost estimates. To date, a total of $40,550 in Park Impact Fee reserves has been used for the conceptual designs for both parks.
The now-approved park designs include an open play area, a zero-scape area with benches, picnic tables, a drinking fountain, trash receptacles, dog waste stations, precast play pieces, exercise equipment, and security lighting. Due to grading, a water infiltration area will need to be added to the design to contain water runoff on-site, the last of which is more predominant at the Berkshire Park site.
While feedback indicated that a majority of the residents who participated in these meetings endorsed the forthcoming transformations, one resident, Linda Krausen — whose property borders the Grevelia property — expressed several concerns. Questions regarding security, tree maintenance (annotated with an additional concern over workers’ access), and parking for residents were all raised.
Parks and Rec Community Services Director, Sheila Pautsch, responded to each concern during Wednesday’s council meeting, seeking to allay any fears residents may share with Krausen. According to Pautsch, security would be provided through routine patrol by SPPD, saying after park hours, people would be removed if present after the “dusk to dawn” operating policy. Adding to the security concerns, she replied, “We can have cameras everywhere, but who’s gonna monitor them? Rather people are counted on to report.” Trucks probably won’t be driving into park. Concerning maintenance worker access, she conceded that trucks would no longer be able to drive onto the property and would need to access them through other methods. Finally, responding to the parking issue, she said that it being a neighborhood park, and therefore would unlikely attract people from afar, park-goers would most likely just walk.
Incidentally being the only public comment on the issue that evening, Krausen was commended by Diana Mahmud for her dedication to overseeing the Grevelia plot. “You really have been a staunch and consistent and persistent advocate for the park!” she told Krausen in an apparent impromptu motion to make an amendment to honor the resident via the installation of a memorial tree, bench, and plaque, echoing a motion to honor another resident at the Berkshire location.
A November 9, 2020 meeting saw the Parks and Rec Commission support the addition of a memorial tree, bench, and plaque memorializing Beatriz Solis — a long-time South Pasadena resident and park advocate who played an active role in planning the future pocket park on Berkshire Avenue before passing away in March of 2020 after a long battle with cancer. “Beatriz played an integral part in the Council’s decision to purchase the Berkshire property from Caltrans. She desired to secure the land for a neighborhood pocket park in the City’s southern section, which lacks access to open space. She attended numerous community meetings to give input on park elements and encouraged her neighbors to participate in planning the future pocket park,” says the agenda report.
The legacy of those who have contributed to the project’s success will be honored as Mayor Pro Tem Michael Cacciotti accepted Mahmud’s proposed amendment and was seconded by Councilmember Evelyn Zneimer with Mahmud, exclaiming,”Finally we’re on our way!”