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City-owned Housing Project May Privatize Recreational Facility

Residents concerned they may lose services.

A nonprofit organization may manage the recreational facilities at the Mar Vista Gardens  housing project in Del Rey as a result of foreseeable city budget cuts.

City officials form the Housing Authority and the Department of Recreation and Parks met with Mar Vista Gardens residents on Wednesday to discuss the future of the city-owned recreational facilities.

“We’re going to find a large organization to run the gym, at no cost to residents,” said Housing Authority Director Sanford Riggs.

The Housing Authority currently pays the utilities for the Mar Vista Gardens recreational facility, while the Parks Department pays for maintenance and the programs, such as baseball and soccer.

However, the Housing Authority’s funds are temporary and the Parks Department may lay off personnel and slash budgets in July. So, the city wants to develop a long-term viable plan for the recreation center.

A nonprofit group, such as the Boys & Girls Club, could step in to operate the gymnasium and the programs offered, city officials suggested.

“We are low-income people, and it’s possible [a nonprofit organization] will impose fees,” said Mar Vista Gardens resident Marco Gallindo.

The Santa Monica Boys and Girls Club was one such organization discussed at the meeting that could assume management responsibilities. It charges $20 per year per youth.

But, these fees cold be waived. The Housing Authority will help residents draft a request for proposal to the various organizations that will bid on the project. In the document, residents can demand specifics, such as no fees, hours of operation and they types of programs to maintain.

The Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica was not immediately available for comment.

“In the last four years, we have lost over 25 percent of our operating budget,” said Mark Mariscal, region superintendent at the Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Parks Department runs seven recreational facilities throughout L.A.’s housing projects, and in four of them, nonprofits are currently providing services.

“[The Parks Department] will not leave until the new contract is in place,” Mariscal said. “There is a strong possibility that an outside organization would end up providing more services to the community.”

Mar Vista Gardens residents will list their requests from a potential nonprofit, and discuss them with city officials next month.

David Carini (Editor) April 20, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Do you think outsourcing city services is a good way to save money or should the city retain control of public facilities?

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