Nightmare Parking at Field of Dreams

As much as I love to watch my children play soccer, every year I secretly wish they would decide to play flag football instead, in a field where I can park close by and watch games under a shade tree. For years, I have endured the nightmare parking situation at the Field of Dreams so my children can play soccer in San Pedro. But getting to the treeless field is like a trek to the outback and it leaves me feeling like a pack mule carrying chairs, coolers, and umbrellas a mile to practices and games.

There are 1,400 youth registered to play AYSO soccer at the field just below the flaming refinery flare and across from the butane tanks, which is another story altogether. The field has 150 parking spaces and on game days the lot is open to only coaches and referees. All of Westmont Drive and part of Gaffey Street is used as employee parking for the warehouses above the fields, leaving very little parking options for soccer families. It would probably be easier if I could figure out how to parachute in with my children and chairs.

Street parking on Westmont is a popular parking ticket trap with confusing signs whose arrows point across the street and at hills instead of the street. It is anybody’s best guess where it is legal to park. Knowing this, I have been extremely cautious where I park but still end up with a parking ticket while parked against a curb not painted red. The parking enforcement vultures are there every week, preying on hard working families who honestly are confused by the inconsistent red curbs and confusing signs. Wouldn’t it be better to have the city directing the thousands of people at the field instead of taking advantage of them? I fought my ticket and won but still the curb is not painted red.

To make matters worse, Recreation and Parks, who maintains the field owned by the Bureau of Sanitation, fails to keep the pedestrian gate open, which creates a dangerous situation for the families walking in. There is a narrow opening in the lot with no curb or sidewalk forcing families to walk inches away from moving vehicles. With only one way into the narrow lot, it is like entering the Bermuda Triangle at peak practice times, cars go in and do not come out. Some vehicles are too large to turn around so they have to back all the way out after dropping off their children. There is no loading area on the street making drop offs very challenging, especially with big rig trucks speeding down the hill.

My children have had such great experiences playing soccer but this parking fiasco needs to change. Collaborating with other parks and schools would be a good start. My son’s team once tried to hold a practice at Peck Park but we were asked to leave the empty park by two park employees. Possible solutions could be to have some games at other local parks or have a shuttle service (red trolley) and create an exit at the back of the field’s parking lot. The field is at full capacity with children playing soccer in every possible area so cutting into the field to add more parking would only create new problems.

The youth and families of San Pedro deserve a better situation. With Councilman Buscaino’s office actively looking for solutions, I feel like maybe after all these years we finally may see a positive change (no pressure Joe). For starters, they can take the overgrown city tree in front of my house that will not be trimmed for another 50 years by the city and move it to the Field of Dreams for much needed shade.

Anyone else with similar adventures at the Field of Dreams can contact Councilman Buscaino’s office with feasible solutions at (310) 732-4515. spt

Jennifer Marquez writes about low-cost and free events in her blog www.grassrootsmama.com. She can be reached at jennifertmarquez@yahoo.com.

Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns Home

On April 12, 1981, the maiden voyage of space shuttle Columbia not only marked the day twenty years prior when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth, but also began the first of 135 STS missions to and from space with a reusable spacecraft. One of the most complex machines ever devised the space shuttle was the only spacecraft capable of delivering and returning people, large payloads and scientific experiments to and from space. So, when NASA announced that the California Science Center in Exposition Park would be awarded Space Shuttle Endeavour it not only complimented Southern California’s rich aerospace history but also the dedication and commitment of thousands to shuttle missions over the past 30 years.

The arrival of Endeavour is also a homecoming for one of the nation’s space shuttle fleet that were built and maintained in Downey, Canoga Park and Palmdale by our regions once dominant aerospace industry. Up until the early 1990s, the aerospace industry not only dominated the Southern California job market but the industry itself transformed the city as a whole. Companies such as Rockwell International, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation and Rocketdyne employed thousands who all contributed to the shuttle program. Edwards Air Force Base served as the shuttle’s second home and alternate landing facility if bad weather was forecasted for Cape Canaveral, Fla. On those occasions sonic booms would quickly catch our attention and would be overcome by a strong sense of pride that “our” shuttle was landing.

The presence of Endeavour at the California Space Center will not only provide a learning experience for students and pride for those who designed, built and launched it, but will also be a constant reminder of those brave astronauts who perished aboard Challenger in January of 1986 and Columbia in February 2003, including local Hughes Aircraft Payload Specialist Greg Jarvis who was a member of the Challenger crew.

The last of NASA’s shuttles to be built, Endeavour was the second to the last of all space shuttle flights, STS-134. Atlantis STS-135 would be the final flight and mission of the space shuttle program. In 25 missions over 20 years, Endeavour logged more that 122 million miles in space and circled the globe at 17,500 mph, but it will be the last 12 miles that may be the most memorable for this shuttle. As Endeavour made its grand entrance to the west coast this month a top a modified 747 flying as low as 1,500 feet passing by some of California’s points of interest as well as over the very facilities that gave life to the shuttle program here locally.

Among others, the shuttle derived technologies that have been used in developing an artificial heart and limbs, three-dimensional biotechnology, a light for treating tumors in children, improving crime prevention and wildfire detection to name a few. Endeavour’s final journey will be a reminder of the last 30 years of space shuttle missions, a sign of American ingenuity, pride for thousands who dedicated decades to its success and will remind us of a shared commitment to sending humans into space and returning them safely to earth. This will be the legacy of America’s space shuttle program.

We experienced the exhilarating triumph and dealt with two heartbreaking shuttle tragedies together. Endeavour’s presence will tie us all together to this as well as this great national accomplishment. The ending of the shuttle means the beginning of a successor to once again have American’s send astronauts into orbit and beyond to do what we do best, explore. Godspeed, Endeavour and welcome home. spt

The Need to Modernize San Pedro High School

The educational facilities we provide our students have come a long way since I graduated from San Pedro High School in 1992.

After a group of community members recognized the need for a new local high school to educate underserved students in small, innovative learning environments, the Port of Los Angeles High School was opened in 2005. Today, POLAHS is an independent, college preparatory charter high school, home to 950 students.

In 2007, both Mary Star of the Sea High School and Rolling Hills Prep opened new campuses in San Pedro. Mary Star’s new campus on Taper Ave. opened to 500 students a year after being named one of the top 50 Catholic High Schools in America and Rolling Hills Prep off Palos Verdes Drive North opened to 250 students.

Last month, the opening of San Pedro High School’s John M. and Muriel Olguin Campus ushered in a new era for our students. It is the most modern and most green campus in the district and will be capable of generating 80% of its own power. It is the new home to 500 students who are enrolled in Marine Science, Mathematics Magnet or Police Academy Magnet courses.

While the addition of four new, modern campuses in less than ten years is an amazing feat, we have more work to do. We must ensure that the students attending the original San Pedro High School get their fair share of modern education technology and make sure there is not an inequity developing between the old and the new campuses.

Modernizing the original San Pedro High School campus needs to be our next step and we know how to do it. In 2009, voters approved Measure Q, a $7 billion bond that will pay for modernization of existing campuses. Measure Q is meant to resolve the inequity between the 125 new schools the LAUSD has recently built and the older 700 campuses, including SPHS, which need attention.

I agree with, and support, School Board member Dr. Richard Vladovic’s vision for San Pedro High School. This vision includes modernizing every building with a new look, implementing the latest technology, including wireless Internet and plans to replace books with tablet devices allowing the students access to much more than just the written word. His plans also call for the removal of the temporary bungalows, returning open space back to the students and returning onsite parking back to the teachers.

Some other features being considered include creating a physical connection between Dana Middle School and San Pedro High School by constructing a new 9th grade academy between the two campuses.

The building of the new schools has allowed the LAUSD to move off of the year-round multi-track system that many agree was flawed. Today, LAUSD scores are on the rise, especially in San Pedro. Almost every elementary school is close to or above an 800 API.

Education is important to my family and me. My wife and both my sisters are teachers in the LAUSD, so I am very well aware of the challenges they and their students face on a daily basis.

When I attended San Pedro High School, I constantly heard, “You are the next generation, you are our future.” Now that I have experienced what that really means, I will do whatever it takes to ensure our students have the best learning environments that we can afford to give them.

I wish all the students at POLA, RHP, SPHS, the Olguin Campus and Mary Star High School all the best. You are our future. spt