Park supporters must concede that current conditions in the neighborhood, including illegal activities, justify (in the short term) some hesitancy in acquiring the park site. And those conditions are what convinced Mayor Laura Macias and council members Jac Siegel and Ronit Bryant to vote against buying the property.
But despite hearing spirited testimony in opposition from neighbors, a majority prevailed on a 4-3 vote. It was a good call for many reasons, not the least of which is that opportunities to purchase such infill parcels of property do not come around very often. To pass up this parcel simply because of short-term problems with unruly young adults strikes us as short-sighted in the extreme.
Instead of backing away, the prevailing four council members said they would attempt to immediately clean up any current misbehavior in the neighborhood. That is a good first step, and more will have to be done to make this L-shaped lot, with limited access and sightlines, into a safe and viable park.
Residents who opposed the park were concerned that police would not be able to prevent nighttime criminal activity due to the poor visibility and access. The nearby Victory Outreach halfway house for gang members was another reason cited by opponents, who are concerned that the park would become a haven for gang activity.
These are valid concerns that should be addressed immediately by the city, whether the park purchase goes through or not. But there are other ways for the city to address these problems, including making a strong effort to purchase the corner parcel that would turn the park into a square shape.
We would urge the neighbors who fear criminal activity to work together with police and the relevant city departments to design a well-lighted space that would benefit the entire neighborhood. During last week's hearing, council member Matt Pear noted that some years ago a similar crime-laden spot in his neighborhood was cleaned up by residents, who used video cameras to record gang activity at the park.
West Dana property owners could do the same, in cooperation with the Police Department. If gang members and other nefarious characters hear that criminal activity will not be tolerated, it is likely that many, if not all, will avoid using the park as their personal fiefdom. Such an effort would require a working commitment from neighbors, but in the end it will be more than worth the price.
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