Feds OK Taking Scherer Park Land For Police Stn.: "No Long-Term, Significant Adverse Impacts" Says Nat'l Park Service Pacific Regional Office
Conclusion reached without considering opposition testimony by Traci Wilson-Kleekmap; agency staff calls it a snafu, promises evaluation of her points in addendum; we post her testimony below
(January 2, 2003) -- In a victory for LB City Hall and a setback to park protection advocates, the National Park Service's Pacific West Region has OK'd a City Council approved plan to convert roughly 2.5 acres of Scherer Park (Del Amo Blvd. @ Atlantic Ave.) from parkland to institutional use an expanded LBPD north station.
The National Park Service became involved because City Hall previously accepted federal grant money for Scherer Park improvements, triggering federal rules that require (among other things) an "Environmental Assessment" to determine if there will be long-term, significant impacts from losing the parkland. If so, a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement (a federal EIR) would be prepared. The National Park Service's action means that won't be done.
After soliciting written and oral public testimony last fall, the National Park Service's Pacific West Region approved a "Finding of No Significant Impact." The document was prepared by a City Hall retained (Irvine based) firm for the National Park Service and was OK'd on December 31 by the office of Jonathan Jarvis, National Park Service Regional Director, Pacific Western Region (signed by a staffer in his absence), recommended on December 30 by Ray Murray, Nat'l Park Service Team Leader, Planning and Partnerships, Pacific West Region.
The document concludes:
"It is the determination of the National Park Service that the [City Hall] Proposed Action [to take roughly 2.5 acres of Scherer Park land for an expanded police station] is not a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, and no long-term, significant adverse impacts would occur from the Proposed Action. Therefore...an Environmental Impact Statement will not be prepared. The Proposed Action for the Scherer Park conversion can be implemented immediately."
The conclusion was clouded by what National Park Service staff indicated was an unintentional snafu: written objections submitted by LB activist Traci Wilson-Kleekamp (submitted on behalf of "Concerned Parents and Teachers of Long Beach") were apparently not considered before the National Park Service concluded there was No Significant Impact.
Without having reviewed Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp's written testimony, the National Park Service conclusion of No Significant Impact recited, "None of the comments received introduced substantive new information or raised any issues not fully considered" in the [then-proposed] Environmental Assessment.
The document approved by the National Park Service does not indicate that Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp filed objections, much less provide responses to points raised by them as required by federal rules.
Contacted by LBReport.com, National Park Service staff in the agency's Oakland, CA office indicated it was not the agency's policy to disregard public testimony; what happened was unintentional and a snafu of some kind; and an Addendum will be issued that will reflect the filing of Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp's testimony. Agency staff indicated the Finding of No Significant Impact is being reviewed to determine whether the points raised by Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp were addressed elsewhere in the document...and if they haven't been, they will be.
In the public interest, we have posted Ms. Wilson-Kleekmap's written testimony on the following link: to view it, click here).
The National Park Service proceeding followed a letter to the agency from attorney Jan Chatten-Brown and Associates, which represented the LB grassroots group S.T.O.P. (Stop Taking Our Parks). S.T.O.P. (and its founders and leaders, Reggie and Gigi Fast Elk Bannister) waged an exhausting battle in trying to prevent City Hall from taking Scherer park land for non-park purposes, including filing a civil suit and pursuing it on appeal. (The courts sided with City Hall.) The Chatten-Brown letter urged the National Park Service to reject conversion of 2.5 acres of Scherer Park to institutional (police) use. The National Park Service responded by conducting the Environmental Assessment.
Under the section "Land Use Compatibility," the National Park Service Finding recites in pertinent part:
"The land use for the proposed [police] facility is consistent with the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club uses across Del Amo Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue, both of which are considered to be "institutional" uses. [footnote in Finding states: "The YMCA and Boys and Girls Club uses are classified as institutional uses that are allowed in the Park Zone with a Conditional Use Permit. Source: Patricia Garrow, Senior Planner, City of Long Beach Planning Bureau."] The nearest residential uses are separated from the police station by over 200 feet and park landscaping. The proposed facility would be located at the intersection of two arterial streets in an urbanized area where the existing police station that [sic] has been located for almost 20 years. In addition, the City Council amended the General Plan and rezoned the project site as "institutional" at the time the EIR was certified. Therefore, the proposed facility is consistent with the current General Plan designation and zoning for the project site and will be compatible with adjacent institutional land uses such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club."
A National Park Service finding of "No Significant Impact" could be appealed in court.
The National Park Service is separately requiring federal approval for an appraisal of "replacement" land for the lost Scherer Park land. City Hall has proposed using now polluted land on 55th Way...and the National Park Service has indicated it expects appraisals for both parcels that meet professional standards.