Report of harassment by teens against younger kids draws attention of La Jolla Recreation Center group

The La Jolla Community Recreation Group meets Jan. 25 online.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

A parent volunteer for her son’s basketball team of 5- to 7-year-olds says teenage boys have repeatedly ridden their bikes through the team’s practices while laughing, making rude gestures and taking basketballs away.


A report of harassment by teenage boys against young basketball players at the La Jolla Recreation Center turned into a lengthy discussion Jan. 25 about how to deal with such issues.

The La Jolla Community Recreation Group, an advisory panel that oversees the Recreation Center, heard from Jackie Gomez, a parent volunteer who coaches for her son’s basketball team of 5- to 7-year-olds. The team, which is sponsored by a youth basketball league that rents the Rec Center courts, practices there from 4 to 5 p.m. Fridays, Gomez said. A girls team practices from 5 to 6 p.m.

Each week for three weeks, Gomez said, teen boys have ridden their electric bikes through the practices, despite the coaches and other adults asking them to stop.

Rec Center Director Nicholas Volpe said riding bicycles, skateboards and scooters is not allowed on Rec Center grounds.

Gomez said the teens’ behavior has increased each week and that she has asked them “over 10 times to stop,” telling them that the bikes are dangerous around smaller children and that the team had paid for the space.

Each time, she said, the teens laughed at the adults, made rude gestures and took basketballs away from the younger children, trying to disrupt their practice.

Around 5 p.m. Jan. 20, the behavior “escalated tremendously,” Gomez said, with the teens riding their bikes through the next team’s practice “very aggressively” while laughing.

Again, adults asked the boys to stop but they continued, almost running over a mom who jumped in front of a bike to stop it as the other teens laughed and cursed at the adults, Gomez said.

When she began calling police, the teens quickly left, she said.

“I’m really concerned that … they’re going to be back on Friday [Jan. 27],” she said.

One of the adults identified a rider, and one of the teens said they attend Muirlands Middle School in La Jolla, according to Gomez.

Muirlands Principal Jeff Luna did not attend the meeting but later told the La Jolla Light that he was unaware of the incidents Gomez described and said community members are “always welcome to reach out” to him with concerns.

“We want to be a good neighbor,” Luna said.

Gomez said Rec Center staff members “weren’t very helpful” and that she later called Volpe.

Volpe said he has spoken to several people involved and notified his supervisors. “We’re looking into the situation,” he said.

Volpe said safety concerns should first be relayed to Rec Center staff onsite, though urgent safety issues warrant a call to 911 or the police non-emergency line.

He said the center was short-staffed Jan. 20, with only one employee present. He said three will be there Jan. 27. “That will hopefully alleviate some of the problem,” he said.

According to San Diego Parks & Recreation Department Area Manager Rosalia Castruita, Gomez needed to report the incident to Muirlands so the school could get involved or send an officer to the Rec Center.

“The situation is a civil situation,” Castruita said. “We really can’t control what’s happening. We can’t stop fights. Our safety is also involved. That’s why we get [police] involved.”

Gomez said that when she called police, she was left on hold for a long time and officers never showed up.

Castruita urged her to keep calling in that case.

Steve Hadley, representing San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said he would connect Gomez to San Diego police Community Relations Officer Jessica Thrift for suggestions.

Other CRG news

The bocce court at the La Jolla Recreation Center is still awaiting repairs.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Repairs stalled: Planned repairs to the Recreation Center’s weight room floor and the bocce court, both in the works since January 2022, are stalled.

The bocce court is awaiting repairs to its west end, which sits several inches above the ground to keep the court level but could create a hazard for people stepping on and off the court.

Anna Sonnenburg, Parks & Recreation Department district manager, said “we are working with our park planners. The project is a little bigger than what was initially looked at.”

She said there is no update on when the repairs might be made.

Sonnenburg said the gym floor replacement also is on pause while the department works “with the purchasing and contracting department to get things squared away.”

She said she hopes to have updates by the next CRG meeting Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Mowing: Castruita said the parks in her management area hadn’t been mowed in three weeks due to the recent rains.

“We have had substantial rain. … In order for mowers to get on the turf, the turf has to be stable enough for them not to get in a rut,” she said. “It’s safety factors on top of weather elements.”

Programs: Karate classes have started in the Rec Center auditorium two evenings a week for all levels, Volpe said.

He added that Filipino and Mediterranean cooking classes have been very popular.

One-on-one personal training sessions will begin in February, and center staff is working to bring back activities for senior citizens such as dancing and bingo, Volpe said. ◆