This is a tale of activism—a true story about how one man catapulted from coaching t-ball to be one of the most effective advocates for parks in the San Fernando Valley.
This is the story of Mark Batterman, whose 15-year battle to enhance greenery in Studio City and the surrounding community has won him praise from all corners of the city.
The story begins in 1995, when Batterman noticed the northeast diamond of Studio City's Beeman Park lacked a water fountain, an obvious oversight that was especially noticeable during hot Valley summers.
He worked to get the city to install a fountain and helped lead the charge at the park for a more civil brand of baseball, free of the parental rage that can sully some leagues. It was Mark's first foray into organizing his community and it worked to a tee.
"We had some philosophical objections to the way some of the other coaches were coaching the kids," Batterman said. "We worked with the park directors [and] established a coach's board where we got other coaches to sign a code of conduct. We began to change the culture of the park."
Batterman, a former executive producer at Buena Vista Television, did not stop there. In 1996, he was invited to join the Park Advisory Board, an organization he now leads and uses as a jumping off point for many projects. Mark Andrews, Joe Ferrera, Remy Kessler, Jack Knight, Michael Lemus, Mikie Maloney, Palmer Packard, Julie Rolland,and Marjorie Pierson-Stein also are currently on the Board.
"We created bylaws, we created a system of succession and we created roles within the PAB so different demographics are represented on the board," Batterman said. "Slowly what happened was we started to change the system. I became a champion of the parks from within the political system."
Batterman drew upon those organizational lessons years later when he helped secure funding for facility improvements in Beeman and Woodbridge parks, including the jogging path and new fitness trails, culminating an eight-year effort towards upgrading the recreational opportunities in the Studio City. Recently, Councilmember Paul Krekorian ensured the final passage of those funds making certain the project would become a reality.
But if it were not for Batterman's efforts, those funds would have dried up.
"Mark has been instrumental in saving Studio City open space. He not only represents the best of what Studio City has to offer, but shows that with great perseverance, comes even greater results," Councilmember Paul Krekorian said. "I look forward to tapping his extensive knowledge as we continue to protect and preserve open space throughout our community."
Since his halcyon days at Beeman 15 years ago, Batterman estimates he has worked with five City Council offices and countless park officials.
While Batterman's activism was fomented on the baseball diamond, its roots stretch back to his childhood. Growing up in Northern California, his parents instilled in him a raw energy still brewing to this day.
His father was a doctor and his mother, a political operative who ran Ron Dellums' first campaign for the Berkeley City Council. Dellums, a former U.S. Congressman, is now the mayor of Oakland.
"I spent my childhood stuffing envelopes," Batterman said.
That experience served him well when, in 2005, Batterman along with colleagues on the Boards of the Studio City Residents Association and the Studio City Neighborhood Council galvanized the community to save Woodbridge Park from destruction.
In late December 2005, Batterman learned that the city's Department of Public Works sought to use the park as a staging ground in conjunction with the city's sewer system upgrade.
"Imagine the dirt and noise from tunneling conveyers, mining cars, cranes and other machinery, dump trucks hauling dirt in and out of the site, two shifts a day, six days a week for at least four years," Batterman wrote in the Studio City Residents' Association newsletter at the time. "If selected, lovely Woodbridge Park…would be destroyed. We need your help!"
As the head of the Park Advisory Board, Batterman went to work. Drawing on his childhood experience, he and the other Studio City activists staged rallies, circulated fliers to neighbors and united the community against the project.
"They were going to take this magnificent park and destroy it," Batterman said. "They were going to open this huge hole and dig a tunnel through the Hollywood Hills. And, when they were done with all of that, they were not going to restore the park."
After an intense, month's long struggle, they were told by the Department of Public Works they would not use Woodbridge Park, relying instead on a Cal Trans yard in neighboring North Hollywood.
Batterman counts the victory as one of his crowning achievements, though he has no intention of easing up on the fight to save open space. Going forward, he vows to work on the revitalization of the Los Angeles River and continue supporting the dedicated Save L.A. River Open Space in their fight to save Studio City Golf and Tennis.
"I like working from within," he said, "because that's where you get the most positive and sustainable change."
Jeremy Olbertstein is the Communications Director for Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian, of Council District 2 which covers much of Studio City.