Council Oversight Overdue Before Vote Tonite After What City Hall Told Sac'to To Get Nearly $4 Mil For 7th/Alamitos/MLK ("Armory Park")


(July 3, 2012) -- Tonight (July 3), the City Council will be asked by city management to approve receiving grant (state taxpayer) funds from CA's Dept. of Parks & Recreation for projects that include $2,833,281 to develop what Councilman Robert Garcia calls "Armory Park," a 0.84 acre patch of greenspace that, as described by Garcia at a May 2011 press event, would block off MLK Ave. entirely between 6th and 7th Streets. urges the Council to use its oversight responsibility, and not rubberstamp the portion of this agenda item that includes "Armory Park," and instead get to the bottom of how the City of Long Beach managed to tell two state agencies contradictory versions of its plans for that project in seeking state taxpayer traffic and park grants for it.

On April 6, 2012, reported that LB's Dept. of Parks and Recreation sought the $2.8 million in grant funds now agendized for Council receipt by giving CA's Dept. of Parks & Recreation a version of city plans that contradicts what the City told another state agency, Caltrans, in seeking and receiving roughly $900,000 in traffic-improvement money in connection with the 7th/MLK/Alamitos intersection.

The City's grant application for the Caltrans funding stated that the City plans only to close off one lane of northbound MLK, not two lanes. The City application explicitly told Caltrans that blocking off MLK entirely between 6th and 7th Streets was not recommended (details below).

In contrast, LB's Dept. of Parks & Recreation told the state Dept. of Parks & Recreation that the city does plan to close of MLK entirely between 6th and 7th Sts. learned this after making a Public Records Act request for the city's grant application for the state Parks/Rec funds. has since learned that following our April 6, 2012 report on this, CA Dept. of Parks/Rec staff emailed LB Dept. of Parks/Rec staff and asked about the matter. Documents sought and obtained by under the CA Public Records Act reflect the following exchange on April 9 between CA Dept. of Parks/Rec staff and LB Parks/Rec staff, three days after's report.

  • 1. "Is the city still planning on converting all the lanes shown in the Prop 84 application into the .84 acre park?"

    LB Parks and Rec. staff responded by email: "Yes, the city is still planning on converting all of the lanes as shown in the Prop 84 application."

  • 2. "If so, will there be any issues between the park plan (closing off the lanes) and the CALtrans grant? In other words, is the CALtrans grant for the street work in harmony with the park plan (closing off all the lanes) or is there a conflict? Please explain."

    LB Parks and Rec staff responded by email: "There are no issues between the Prop 84 grant and the Caltrans grant. The Caltrans grant, independent of the Prop 84 grant, eliminates 2 of the 4 lanes of MLK at the location of the park. This grant leaves open space in approx. half of the space "to be constructed separately from the grant." The Prop 84 grant builds on the Caltrans grant and eliminates the additional 2 lanes of traffic on MLK and develops the resulting open space into park space."

In our opinion, the City's response above is unintelligible at best, obfuscatory at worst.

For the record, the City of LB's application that sought (and obtained) $900,000 in state taxpayer money stated the City's plans as follows in pertinent part:

[City of LB traffic grant application]...To reduce injury collisions the project proposes to eliminate through traffic on MLK Avenue between Seventh and Sixth Streets by converting the roadway from a two-way to a one-way. South of Seventh Street MLK Avenue will be reduced from five lanes in two directions to only two northbound lanes. The northbound traffic will be channelized into two right-turn lanes at Seventh Street... City staff and consultants have completed two traffic studies at the project site. The studies determined removing the southbound lanes on MLK Avenue and consolidating the signalized intersections would provide acceptable traffic operating conditions. Furthermore, the study showed the improvements would not result in reduced level of service.

An alternative plan evaluated by the City was to remove both northbound and southbound lanes on MLK Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets. In order to retain right-turn capacity, at this time, the City proposes only removing the southbound lanes. [emphasis added]

In summary, reconfiguring the traffic flow at the project site will address the most common injury collision patterns, broadside collisions, collisions involving northbound traffic, and collisions involving pedestrians without compromising intersection level of service. Furthermore, the City of Long Beach will leverage the safety improvement funds to create new open space in a park poor high-density area of downtown Long Beach.

Several months ago, Councilman Garcia and City Hall management issued boastful releases on learning the city had been awarded the state park agency grant funding. They did so again yesterday (July 2) on the eve of tonight's Council vote to approve it.

Going where the truth leads on this requires that Councilmembers do what they're supposed to do: exercise elected oversight. We urge the Council to withhold approval of the Armory Park portion of the agendized item until city management provides a businesslike explanation of what happened.

Councilmembers shouldn't cast a recorded vote that puts themselves on record as approving receipt of nearly $4 million in state taxpayer money after the city they govern told two state agencies two different things about how that public money will be used.

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