The Santa Barbara Grand Jury concluded the transfer of city-owned tennis courts to the Elings Park Foundation in 2010 complied with Santa Barbara city charter and met all legal requirements.
A group of tennis enthusiasts who frequented the Las Positas courts have objected long and loud that the deal constituted an improper gift of public lands to private business interests. In addition, they’ve complained that the private contractor Elings Park designated to manage the courts has dramatically jacked up fees since the change of management.
The Grand Jury concluded that the city’s Parks & Recreation Department — which traditionally managed the courts in question — unloaded them at a time when budget deficits were running high, programs were being cut, and support facilities were in need of expensive repairs. The Grand Jury confirmed that court fees have gone up, but stated that they still remain competitive with other municipally owned facilities and that two public courts remain open for drop-in play.
“The decision appears to be a death blow to public parks as we know,” commented David Niles, outspoken critic of the swap. Around City Hall, there’s little appetite to reverse the deal, but privately, many councilmembers concede the public process — however legally defensible — was far less than it should have been.