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On Dodgers' opening day, plenty of blame to go around

The dreaded Giants were in town and Dodger fans were out in force on opening day, tailgating, wearing the blue and turning Elysian Park into a giant latrine.

Chad Kline of Echo Park was walking his dog, Lola, early Friday morning when he saw fans hiking up into the bushes between Scott and Academy Roads to water the plants.

"I went up to these three motorcycle officers … and informed them about 15 gentlemen were urinating in the park and I said, 'I think it's illegal, what are you going to do about it?' And they said, 'Thank you for your information.'"

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Chad and Lola kept walking and found more of the same activity. He took pictures with his smartphone and approached another group of LAPD officers, but got the same result.

If you think Chad might have been exaggerating, I can tell you otherwise. I took a stroll with him and saw so many dropped pants and bare butts — and I'm talking men and women — that it looked like spring break gone wild. We even saw a woman holding a roll of toilet paper while waiting for her friend, who was squatting under a tree.

All right, so it was opening day. Music blasted through the park, fans were excited and some of them got an early start on the beer.

But for Kline and others, it was one more reason to wonder if Dodger management cares enough about being a good neighbor. They were already ticked off when they learned just three weeks ago that the Scott Avenue gate at the stadium, seldom opened for games in the last 20 years, would be permanently reopened this year, meaning more vehicles on the narrow and already congested streets of Echo Park.

And this was the least of the Dodgers' PR problems. Although the team is pocketing billions of dollars in a TV contract, 70% of the region's viewers won't be able to watch the games at home unless a deal is negotiated. Cable and satellite companies argue that Time Warner Cable's fee for programming rights is a mugging. And as The Times reported, even Dodger announcer Vin Scully, who works only home games, can't watch road games on TV at his home in the Valley.

"It's all about money," said Peter Guerra, a lifelong Dodgers fan attending a pre-game house party on Scott Avenue that featured a mariachi band.

"We're all upset," said Claudio Salas, whose mother was hosting the bash. "I live in West Covina and can't get the games there, either."

"They're greedy," said Danny Soto.

I had to ask: Why, then, had he bought a ticket for the game?

"Because I love the Dodgers."

But are the Dodgers taking that love for granted?

Dana Starfield, a lifelong Yankees fan, dropped the Bronx bums for the Dodgers when she moved to Scott Avenue a year ago.

"I switched sides, feeling I had betrayed my family. And now I feel totally betrayed by the Dodgers," said Starfield, who was burned up about the Dodgers waiting so long to drop the Scott gate surprise on the neighborhood.

She wasn't too happy with City Hall, either, wondering why a green mayor such as Eric Garcetti — who used to represent the neighborhood as councilman — hasn't come up with more shuttles and other alternatives to keep his former neighborhood from being overwhelmed by cars.

Don't get her wrong, said Starfield. She understands that along with the advantages of a nearby ballpark, there are certain unavoidable inconveniences.

"There's fun, excitement and energy in living near a ballpark. But there's just blatant disrespect of the community."

Another neighborhood gripe is that the Dodgers raised parking fees on game day by $5 this year, which residents worry will drive more fans out of the stadium and onto their streets. Starfield said that strange cars were parking on her block by 8 a.m. Friday, even though parking is prohibited between 8 and 10 that day because of street cleaning. The drivers waited until 10 to make sure they weren't ticketed, but for the first time Starfield and neighbors could recall, the sweepers never came.

Starfield and neighbors also complained that the "local traffic only" signs at intersections weren't manned, and a Dodgers plan to distribute "resident" placards hadn't been fully implemented, so cars poured in anyway.

"A breakdown happened somewhere within the Dodger organization," said City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell. "They made commitments" they did not follow up on, he added, saying he wants a post-mortem on what went wrong and "a traffic management plan that works for the entire neighborhood."

Dodgers reps I spoke to saw it differently, accusing the city of dropping the ball on traffic enforcement and on all the partying in the park. Neighbors of the stadium told me there were improvements before Saturday’s game. But they said that mountains of trash had been left in Elysian Park after Friday’s game, so let’s not forget to put a lot of the blame on ill-behaved fans.

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Kathleen Murphy, another Echo Park resident, said she thinks these Dodgers owners have actually been more inclined to work with the neighborhood than the despised Frank McCourt did when he was in charge. Murphy suggested that near the ballpark, there should be "permit parking" only on game days, so residents don't get crowded out. And as a gesture of goodwill, the Dodgers should pony up for them.

I second the motion.

As for Friday's game, the Giants busted out to a 6-0 lead in a very ugly first inning, and piddled all over the opening day party with an 8-4 win.

So the TV blackout, while annoying, does have its advantages.

steve.lopez@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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