ENCINITAS — Leucadia Oaks Park should close an hour earlier — that’s according to the Encinitas Parks and Recreation Commission’s decision made on Tuesday.
Starting next month, the park will close at 9 p.m. instead of at the10 p.m. hour it’s currently set at.
Some urged the commission to adopt sunrise to sunset hours, stating that would curb problems with graffiti and litter.
But parks Commissioner Dennis Lhota said that dawn to dusk hours would be too restrictive. He added that he would hate for the park to lose its sense of community due to a few rotten apples.
Lhota said that 9 p.m. is “a good compromise.”
Resident Keith Yablonicky, who lives near the park, proposed earlier hours with the goal of clamping down on gang graffiti. He noted that the park’s playground was tagged fairly recently.
“Nothing good happens after dark in the park,” Yablonicky said.
Echoing a few residents, he also supported motion lighting to deter people from hanging out in the park late at night.
Two residents advocating dawn to dusk hours brought up a gang-related shooting in the park last year.
“There’s a lot of families I know that don’t spend much time there because some of the things that have happened,” resident Chris Alvarez said
Alvarez was also in favor of banning alcohol at the park.
“We can live without alcohol on the beach; we can live without alcohol in Leucadia Oaks Park,” Alvarez said.
The commission was only scheduled to vote on the park’s hours. Banning alcohol in the park would need City Council approval, according to city staff.
And the proposal to install more lighting would require securing an estimated $23,000 in funding, undergoing a public process and getting the OK from agencies like the California Coastal Commission.
Resident Jacqueline Myers said that from guitar groups to people playing basketball, there are plenty of legitimate happenings at night under the current hours.
“If you cut the hours, you would also be cutting different community gatherings,” Myers said, adding she also likes to spend time stargazing in the park.
Nate Bauer, who organizes skateboarding meet-ups at Leucadia Oaks under a group called Encinitas Skatejam Movement, said that Leucadia Oaks is one of the few places he can take young skateboarders to keep them away from the influence of drugs and alcohol. Because they often organize around dusk, scaling back the hours would really hurt the meet-ups.
Parks commissioners asked Sheriff’s Sgt. Emory Wallace if Leucadia Oaks causes more issues for law enforcement than the average local park. Compared to nearby parks, the “totality” of problems at Leucadia Oaks seems to be greater, Wallace said.
Most complaints associated with the park stem from noise and people who are drunk in public, Wallace noted.
To make it easier for the Sheriff’s Department to survey the park, overgrown trees were recently trimmed.
Leucadia Oaks is at1511 North Vulcan Ave. It has a sand volleyball court, basketball court, a skate park-like feature and other amenities.
The parks commission has the ability to reconsider Leucadia Park’s hours at a future meeting.