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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Youth sports fields in San Pedro and Lomitao face huge increase in naval land rents

In 1992, a group of Harbor Area parents armed with shovels and dreamed of working to convert several acres of dirt – leased from the US Navy – into a youth sports complex.

Along the perimeter of San Pedro and Lomita, softball and baseball fields emerged on North Gaffy Street and Western Avenue.

Since then, the property has been maintained largely by volunteers, where the San Pedro Girls softball, the San Pedro Athletic Complex and the Lomita Little League all play year-round.

San Pedro Girls’ softball was one of the first organized youth softball programs for girls in the field and many players went on to go to college on athletic scholarships.

But come December 31st, it may all be lost.

That’s when a new US defense policy goes into effect that could force groups to pay up to $10,000 to $12,000 per year for leases, one leader said – under a requirement that the groups be of “fair market value”. Paying. They currently pay $850 a year.

Jesse “Chuy” Ibarra of San Pedro, one of the farm’s chief architects when his son was only 2 years old, has been working with both the Navy and the city, along with Terry Sardisco, who is leading the girls’ softball program. are. Los Angeles to do some work.

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“The Navy is exploring options that can allow for continued community use of ball fields,” said Greg Smith, a spokesman for the Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach.

“We are (also) currently working on the possibility of entering into intergovernmental assistance agreements with the cities of Los Angeles and Lomita, whereby the cities will take over ball field management,” he said. “Cities will then be able to allow community use of the areas without requiring fair market value payments.”

U.S. Representative Nanette Diaz Barragan’s office, de-San Pedro, is also working on a proposal in meetings with the Secretary of the Navy.

If nothing happens, hundreds of young people in San Pedro, Lomita, Wilmington and Carson could be affected.

“I have about 28 groups,” said Ibarra, now a retired US Customs officer who served in the US Marines, as did his son. His three daughters played in the fields for years and earned scholarships in college.

Parents and families still help maintain the facility, mowing and replanting the fields. They have acquired shipping containers over the years to use as storage and snack shops. Along with the lights, batting cages were also added.

After the facilities went dark in 2020 due to the pandemic, parents later helped repair the damage done to the fields during vacant seating. Demolition included broken toilets and sinks.

The 2019 policy change at the federal level, Smith said, now requires organizations to pay fair market value for using assets.

Earlier, the Navy could charge only a minimum administrative fee. Any rent requirements were generally waived, he said.

“The Defense Secretary’s memorandum (on the new policy) is very straightforward,” Smith said.

Ball leagues, he said, are classified as non-federal entities and must now be charged at fair market rates.

With the clock ticking, it appears everyone is trying to find a solution, although none have been found yet.

“It’s going to be a sin to close the place,” Ibarra said. “These kids go there and find a place to exercise. We have 6- and 7-year-olds who walk around like they’re big leaguers. ,

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