Future of park still uncertain
By Sam Catanzaro and Dolores Quintana
The chess tables at Santa Monica’s Chess Park have been officially removed.
The move comes after the Santa Monica Recreations and Park Commission voted in the fall to remove the tables from the park located on Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica, just south of the Pier, due to criminal activity. Last month, city officials acted on this vote and officially decided to remove the tables.
The removal of the remaining furniture including benches, tables and the collection of 67 chess boards began on February 28, costing the City $6,500.
“Staff will continue to monitor the park space once the furniture is removed to assess whether the changes have discouraged unwanted behaviors,” said Assistant City Manager Susan Cline.
The park is currently not closed but this is an option that is being considered. Other options could include reopening the park with additional safety measures or changing the purpose of the park, perhaps converting it into a revenue-generating concessions location.
“Without tables and benches, Chess Park would become flexible, non-programmed beachfront open space which could be activated by diverse users,” Cline said.
Any new purpose that the park could be put to would require additional funding and recommendations from the City Council. Closure would require a Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission because the park is located in the coastal area. Even an attempt to declare the property a nuisance would demand consultation with the Coastal Commission’s staff.
Fencing off the park is also considered an unlikely solution because, as Cline, said it “would not be visually appealing. In addition, it “would not guarantee people would not find ways to enter the space. It is not certain that closing the park and fencing the area will effectively abate quality of life issues, as it may create new opportunities for nuisance behavior on or around the site.”
Cline noted, “Once the park’s new purpose is identified, staff can better assess costs, possible funding models, and the level of impact to other park projects.”