Esther Kang

New scout house for Manhattan Beach kids, seniors greenlit

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The Manhattan Beach Scout House sits sandwiched between the Joslyn Community Center and Live Oak Park on North Valley Drive in Manhattan Beach. Photo by Esther Kang

The Manhattan Beach Scout House sits sandwiched between the Joslyn Community Center and Live Oak Park on North Valley Drive in Manhattan Beach. Photo by Esther Kang

A resounding consensus emerged at City Council on Tuesday: the Manhattan Beach Scout House urgently needs to be replaced.

“If you’ve been in it recently, you’ll see that it’s beyond the end of its useful life,” said Richard Gill, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

The scouts have had enough. And in collaboration with the city’s older adults and the Manhattan Beach Property Owners Association, they are proposing a new, two-story building to replace their current facility, located on North Valley Drive between the Joslyn Community Center and Live Oak Park.

An enthusiastic City Council backed their efforts Tuesday night with a promise to draft a memorandum of understanding, and the group will now begin a fundraising campaign to make their dream a reality.

Two years ago, the Manhattan Beach Property Owners Association (MBPOA) presented the Boy & Girl Scouts of Manhattan Beach with a $500,000 donation for the new building, if it designates a 1,000 square-foot space for older adults.

The idea is to create a shared recreational space for seniors and youth, two large groups within the city’s population. Older adults would use the facility during the day, and the scouts would “take over during non-school hours,” said Tim Lilligren, a MBPOA member and city treasurer.

“It’s a perfect fit for the two groups,” Lilligren added.

Built in 1952, the Scout House has undergone its share of wear and tear in the last five decades, from water leaks to decomposing walls and ceilings.

The proposed building, a two-storied, 6,000 square-foot structure, would solve another pressing issue: The current facility, at 3,000 square feet, can only accommodate activities for 20 people at once, although an estimated 1,500 Boy and Girl Scouts reside in Manhattan Beach.

The project is estimated to cost between $2.1 million and $6 million, but all parties seemed undeterred by the figure. For Bret Bernard, a lifelong Manhattan Beach resident and former planning commissioner for the city, the $500,000 in seed money from MBPOA is reason enough to pursue the project and jumpstart the fundraising process.

“I truly feel that this offer will not be there much longer,” Bernard said. “I would caution that if we, the city and our group, do not carpe diem and grasp this opportunity, then it may be another 30 to 50 years before the replacement facilities for these organizations.”

Council members expressed enthusiasm for the project despite its deviation from the 2008 Facilities Strategic Plan. The FSP called for a 22,000 square-foot multi-purpose structure combining the Joslyn Center, the Chamber of Commerce, the Post Office and the Scout House under one roof. The city, at one point, also contemplated building the new scout house in Polliwog Park.

Council member Nick Tell said the city should consider a pledge to match the fundraised amount “to create a sense of urgency” and to complete the project “in two years, not in five.”

“It’s a difficult fundraising environment … and I wouldn’t want to put it on the backs of the scouts and the seniors to get it done,” Tell said. “It’s a city facility at the end of the day and it should be our responsibility as well. We need to be part of the solution.”

Council member Amy Howorth noted that, “if done well, [the facility] will serve as a model for private, public partnership.”

“[It’s] not just the intergenerational relationships that will be strengthened, but [it can also forge] a path of success going forward for other facilities,” Howorth said. “If we do this well, it will be a model for our community and for others.”

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