"14th St. Park," Where Some Activists Charge City Hall Has Tolerated Nuisance & Law-Flouting Activities, Suffers Sunday Afternoon Shooting; Victim Wounded, Teen HeldReturn To Front Page
(March 28, 2005) -- "14th St. Park," a street median with playground equipment between Chestnut and Locust Aves. where some activists have charged City Hall tolerates nuisance and law-flouting activities, was the site of a midafternoon shooting on Sunday March 27.
LBPD Public Information Officer Israel Ramirez says the shooing took place about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, wounding a man in his late 30's who was standing with two other people. LBPD arrested a 16 year-old boy in the shooting.
Police are looking into whether the shooting was gang related...and are also investigating whether what occurred was related to someone who shot the windows out of a pick-up truck parked in the vicinity (Pacific Ave. north of 14th St.)
In November and December 2004, a group of business and neighborhood activists, saying they were frustrated with neighborhood conditions, organized "Better Balance for Long Beach". They began holding neighborhood picnics in the area, saying the events were intended to show solidarity with neighborhood residents.
In December 2004, LBReport.com described what we saw in the area...and noted that a shooting had occurred in the area (near Washington Middle School) just hours before Better Balance's second picnic.
The March 28 shooting was not connected with a Better Balance event. Better Balance co-organizer Jane Kelleher told LBReport.com:
"The West Division [police] officers have been very supportive. They've been working with Better Balance since we became involved in October  but they're operating a vacuum. There's an atmosphere of general lawlessness in the neighborhood on multiple levels that is tolerated by Long Beach City Hall."
Contacted for comment, Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal's Chief of Staff, Niki Tennant, told LBReport.com:
"Councilwoman Lowenthal has been meeting every two weeks large contingent of City staff from various departments including Parks and Recreation, Code Enforcement, Police Department, City Prosecutor, City Attorney and the City Manager's office. She is using those meetings every two weeks to help guide city activities not just regarding the Park area but the whole Washington School neighborhood area. The City is devoting huge resources to the area, including police resources at the same time as West Division is facing major gang problems in West Long Beach."
The most recent shooting struck a nerve among usually mild-mannered neighborhood activists. Dennis Monfett, vice president of the Washington School Neighborhood Association, said that after what had just occurred on PCH at LB Blvd. [Blue Line train, alleged armed robbery], "what's going on here lately is scaring me to death." He said, "We had a bullet go through a car window [Pacific Ave. north of 14th St.] and to me, my God, what if that bullet went through a resident's window and killed a parent or a child?" He added, "Bonnie's not getting the job done as far as I'm concerned, and if she can't do her job, it's time to find someone who can."
When told that Tomas Gonzales (a speculated potential challenger to the incumbent) had told LBReport.com that he's bought a home in another Council district, Mr. Monfett said, "Anybody'd be better than what we have now."
Below are excerpts of LBReport.com's December 2004 report:
Over here...this little area (points down the street), I'm surprised it's clean [today]. Basically, you can't even walk through there. You head to the store and obscenities are yelled at you...
"Better Balance for Long Beach," a group recently created by LB activists representing businesses and residents, began holding neighborhood picnics last month in "14th St. Park."
The "Park" is the former parking area for the vanished Seaside Hospital, now a street median on which LB Parks & Rec has fenced some areas and installed playground equipment...
Multiple neighborhood residents at the November and December events (we attended both) described a neighborhood -- roughly one mile north of LB Civic Center -- where residents live in fear and City Hall doesn't control nuisance or illegal conduct...even on city-owned property...
At the November and December events, we heard residents describe conditions where adults and children regularly witness visible drug dealing, sexual activity, charitable food and utensils left as litter while some individuals hurl verbal assaults at children on their way to school. Much of this takes place on or near the city-owned playground/street median, they said...
We post below comments from individuals who identified themselves as residents of the area. We've withheld their names (but have their voices on tape for accuracy):
The kids can smell when people are doing drugs at the park, they can smell it, and they know, and that's the sad part that they know how to define when drugs are being done here...
[Children can't play in the park] because either slides, someone's sleeping on it, either the thing you walk on, people are sitting, smoking different types of drugs. There's no way you can play in the park. [The children] are afraid, because there's been a time when one of the kids around the area had been skateboarding and poked himself with a needle that was laid out. The kid had to go through a process where they needed to screen him for HIV, TB, they needed to screen him for so many things, like he was in the hospital for about two weeks...
LBReport.com: If you had the Mayor here, if she came here today, what would you tell her?
Clean this area out. Have more public programs as to what's going on now. Involve more law enforcement..
LBReport.com: You want more cops here?
Yes! Yes I do...[and says neighbors feel the same way but are afraid to talk], As you can see, we're losing control here...During the night people will not come out. If they don't have milk, they'll go without milk until the morning, because all the screaming you hear, all the shootings you hear.
...About two months ago, they just shot a guy right here, we heard [makes gun sounds], we came out. I was terrified...and kids have to see this. And people say, "Oh well, the war [in Iraq]. The war is here too. That's how you have to look at it...
...Drug dealers...come and pretend they're homeless...One of the kids got chased...
[translated from Spanish] On Saturdays, someone brings charitable food and leaves all kinds of trash and boxes of clothes, a mess everywhere. The recipients throw food all over the park grass...They eat only a little bit and throw the rest all over and it makes our park look nasty.
Walking by, there's the smell of marijuana...When we try to bring our kids to play at the park, adults in the park start yelling and cursing and using foul language, so we take our kids home.
"14th St. Park" is designated a playground on the Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Marine's website, which lists its hours as 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 3-5 p.m. M-F.
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