OCEANSIDE — An Oceanside ad hoc committee formed last November to review fairness in the city’s field application process has at least another six months to find a solution to the community’s reported lack of access.
The ad hoc committee was scheduled to deliver their findings at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on May 17, but its members requested more time to continue reviewing the field application process.
At last month’s meeting, Commissioners Wilson Godinet, Genevieve Wunder and Lisa Russell requested to convert the temporary ad hoc committee into a long-term standing committee that would provide oversight and ensure accountability over the field application process.
For the commissioners, the initial six-month period allotted to the ad hoc committee was not enough time for a full review, but a standing committee could provide ongoing analysis and serve as a check-and-balance system of the field application process.
Mayor Esther Sanchez, who was also present at the meeting, told the commission she too would like to see the ad hoc converted into a standing committee. Sanchez said that Interim City Manager Jonathan Borrego would be supportive of this move as well.
The commission requested a six-month extension of the ad hoc committee, which is ultimately what the commission ended up with despite requests to make it a standing committee. Godinet, Russell and Wunder all voted no but the majority of commissioners still passed the item, granting the committee six more months to find a solution.
There is still a chance the ad hoc committee could become a standing committee within that time.
For over a decade, sports teams in Oceanside have noticed a seemingly decreasing number of available fields to reserve for practice and game times.
In November 2021, a committee of several Parks and Recreation commissioners gathered to review the application process for using municipal fields and gyms to identify areas in need of improvement and find solutions to existing issues with the process. The committee was expected to render its decision
Some community members have suggested preferential treatment is being shown to other sports teams, including teams from outside of the city, while others have pointed out that more and more children are joining sports while the number of fields in the city has remained stagnant. Some have also suggested that institutional racism is at play with how teams are selected for fields.
Months after the ad hoc committee was formed, two forums were held in March and April, inviting athletes and coaches to share their experiences trying to rent a field or gym.
At the March forum, many of those teams complained about the lack of access to fields, felt they had been treated unfairly and condescendingly by city staff, and felt that they had been rejected over other favored sports teams.
Parks and Recreation Commissioners Wilson Godinet, Genevieve Wunder and former Commissioner Amanda Nelson, who were part of the original group of ad hoc committee members, said they were appalled after hearing what the teams said.
Many of the teams who complained about not getting their field requests fulfilled received permits from the city within two weeks after that meeting, which Godinet said was evidence the ad hoc committee was putting pressure on city staff to make things fair.
At the second forum held in April, commissioners in the ad hoc committee revealed their concerns about a perceived conflict of interest involving Coastal Academy and the city’s Sports Program Specialist CJ Palmer, whose children attend Coastal Academy and play on sports teams there.
The commissioners were also frustrated that Coastal Academy had been mistakenly included with school covered under the city’s joint use agreement with Oceanside Unified School District. The agreement eliminates rental fees and only charges staff support fees to the schools. But according to district staff, Coastal Academy is not part of that agreement.
Mark Olson, division manager at Parks and Recreation, told the committee he assumed Coastal Academy as being part of that agreement because of its status as a public charter school under Oceanside Unified.
According to Olson, Palmer, who he assigned to the position of sports program specialist in November, warned him of his ties to Coastal Academy. In response, Olson said he would take over any conflicting field requests involving Coastal Academy, but so far that hasn’t happened.
The joint use agreement expired last August and Olson is currently in negotiations with the school district to acquire more access to the school’s fields for sports teams.
Chair Kelyn Hsu noted her concerns regarding the apparent lack of solutions contained within the committee’s findings.
“We know that there is a problem, this is why (the ad hoc committee) was created,” Hsu said. “I’m concerned that this ad hoc has lost sight of trying to solve those problems.”
Hsu attended the second forum held in April, where Godinet and other commissioners revealed their concerns about a perceived conflict of interest involving Coastal Academy and the city’s Sports Program Specialist CJ Palmer, whose children attend Coastal Academy and play on sports teams there.
But Hsu took issue with her fellow commissioners’ assertions about a conflict of interest and favoritism without providing any evidence to back up those claims.
“I did not see any evidence of a conflict of interest,” Hsu said. “I understand the perception, it didn’t look good, but at no point did two people ask for court time and they chose to give it to Coastal. That has not happened.”
Hsu was also concerned about the apparent lack of trust in staff from commissioners and their intentions behind the committee.
“We’ve had multiple people come to me and say the point of this ad hoc is to get staff members fired,” Hsu said. “That’s concerning to me because that’s not going to solve this problem.”
Godinet said he wanted Olson and Palmer to be more apologetic after they heard the sports teams’ struggles during the March forum.
“I’m not advocating for people to get fired, I’m looking for someone that you can trust,” Godinet said. “You can rotate them out, get somebody else in there, whatever.”
Godinet also pointed out that the committee’s forum influenced staff to make sure teams were getting their permits.