LocationAlhambra , CA United States
The City of Alhambra intended to hold a contest asking the public for alternative uses to a lawn bowling court at Almansor Park, emails between senior city staff members revealed.
In the emails from mid-August, staff debated whether to mention the contest in the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce newsletter, Around Alhambra, fearing that the reveal would upset the Alhambra Bowls Club.
An initial draft mentioned a contest to solicit ideas for a space of 15,000 square feet at the park. “Now I don’t specify where this space is, and certainly don’t allude to it being lawn bowling,” said Chris Paulson, Director of Community Services, in one email. “So not quite sure how you feel about that.”
“Do you think the contest and reference to 15 K sq. feet could be fuel to the fire for Sean, et al, and instead just mention we are always trying to find ways to park use and encourage your thoughts and suggestions,” said City Manager Mark Yokoyama in response. The final article left out mention of the contest in the September issue of Around Alhambra.
Lawn bowlers regarded this as more evidence that Alhambra was not sincere in wanting to rebuild the lawn bowling green. “Those emails reveal that the city had made up its mind to get rid of lawn bowling entirely in Alhambra before they had even sent out the latest round of bids for the project,” said Sean McMorris,* vice president of the Alhambra Bowls Club, who obtained the emails through a public records request.
City staff did not return repeated requests for comment.
The Alhambra Bowls Club was instrumental in defeating plans to build an $8 million parking structure at Almansor Park last year, which would have meant the demolition of their court. In response, the City decided to put the federal funding set aside for this project towards various improvements, including $2 million in park upgrades.
Renovating the lawn bowling court was supposed to be part of the Almansor Park improvements project. However, federal rules prohibited the City from using that funding for a group with so many members who lived outside Alhambra. The City came up with $200,000 in funding that fell short of the bids that contractors submitted to take on the project.
City staff is expected to present new bids for the court renovation at next Monday’s City Council meeting, as further emails between them and the Alhambra Bowls Club revealed. One bid for artificial turf came in at over $400,000, while two bids for natural turf came in at $233,820 and $226,400, respectively.
McMorris does not believe that the City will try to come up with the difference for those last two bids. “The lawn bowlers have no illusions anymore about the city’s intentions and how it operates behind closed doors,” he said.
Councilmember Barbara Messina said that renovating the lawn bowling court using natural turf would require an ongoing maintenance cost for the City. She was open to deciding what else could be done with the space to allow more Alhambra residents to use it. She also said that the City had begun taking ideas at the Almansor Park improvements groundbreaking that took place earlier in September.
Two ideas she heard were a sprinkler system for kids and a dog park.
Other Alhambra City Council members declined to comment or did not return requests for comment.
*Sean McMorris has contributed op-eds to the Alhambra Source.