Editor’s Note: This story has been updated as a previous version incorrectly reported who voted against the agenda items discussed at the Nov. 9 special council meeting. Mayor Pro Steve Knoblock and Councilmember Rick Loeffler both opposed the items.
The City of San Clemente’s reopening of the pickleball courts at San Gorgonio Park on Monday morning, Nov. 13, carried much less fanfare than the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility at Richard T. Steed Memorial Park that occurred less than a week ago.
Still, a noticeable crowd was on hand to watch a city staffer unlock the gate leading to Court No. 2 at San Gorgonio, which followed a pair of City Council votes at its last meeting Thursday, Nov. 9 to adopt a resolution discontinuing pickleball on Court No. 1 and direct staff to reopen Court No. 2’s four courts on a transitional basis.
Half of Monday’s crowd comprised nearby residents upset with the apparent reversal of the council’s June 6 vote to permanently discontinue pickleball at San Gorgonio.
“The city broke their promise to the pickleball ambassadors and to the residents,” said Susan Brewer. “We’ve worked for years to negotiate a deal between the parties, and the council reversed it.”
The grand opening ceremony at Steed Park on Nov. 7 coincided with the effective closure of pickleball at San Gorgonio Park.
Yet, as the council discussed later that evening whether to adopt a resolution that would’ve amended the San Gorgonio Park Master Plan to revert both courts back to tennis, public speakers’ expression of a continued desire for more pickleball led the council to reconsider having the sport remain at San Gorgonio.
After the discussion was extended to last Thursday’s special meeting, even more people came to voice their opinions, according to Mayor Chris Duncan.
“The hope is that with the new courts up at Steed, we get less activity at the San G courts and maybe less intense activity, and that would be to help address some of the concerns of the residents there in the Shorecliffs neighborhood,” Duncan said of the votes that followed the spirited debate.
In a 3-2 margin, the council voted to approve an amendment to the park’s master plan that eliminated pickleball on Court 1 and to authorize a project that resurfaces Court 1 for tennis use.
By the same margin, the council also directed staff to reopen Court 2 for pickleball, limiting the operational hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and axing the establishment of a Challenge Court. Under the same item, the council directed the Beaches, Parks & Recreation Commission to consider how to expedite the expansion of the city’s pickleball facilities and established a goal to review the four courts’ operations in six months.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Knoblock and Councilmember Rick Loeffler both voted against the two items.
Resident Ruth Martin claimed that the city won’t be able to enforce the city’s condition that the pickleball courts are strictly for beginner and intermediate play, and that the noise from pickleball play constitutes a violation of California Civil Code Section 3480.
Section 3480 defines a public nuisance as anything that affects a considerable number of people or an entire community or neighborhood, despite how unequal the extent of the annoyance may be felt by those affected.
“We are asking for the same thing that they gave (residents near San Luis Rey Park),” Martin said, referring to when the city removed pickleball from the park. “Why do we have to listen to it?”
Other residents also argued that the council went back on its word, that the noise from pickleball will negatively impact tennis players at San Gorgonio, and that noise prevents residents from enjoying a higher quality of life.
Duncan declined to comment on the allegations of the city violating Civil Code 3480 and other complaints.