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Council Votes 8-1 To OK $6.67 Million Contract For Expanded North Division LBPD Facility In Scherer Park

Park advocates blast move; Ann Cantrell writes federal & state officials, urging denial of park land swap

Scherer Park(Initial posting, April 30, 2002, with transcript excerpts to be added) -- Over the objections of park protection advocates, the City Council voted 8-1 (Grabinski dissenting) to approve a $6.67 million construction contract for an expanded North division police facility in Scherer Park.

Scherer trees 2Park protection advocates urged the Council to defer action on grounds the case was currently before a CA Court of Appeal (appeal brought by Stop Taking Our Parks (S.T.O.P.) led by Gigi Fast Elk Bannister). "Once the damage is done, no amount of court judgments can reverse the killing of forty-five 50+ year old trees," Ms. Bannister said before tonight's hearing.

But City Attorney Robert Shannon noted that S.T.O.P.'s appeal was seeking to overturn a Superior Court ruling (the trial court) that had upheld City Hall's plans and conduct in the proceeding virtually across the board (on every state law ground challenged).

Shannon added that the Court of Appeal had refused to grant S.T.O.P. a stay (halt) restraining City Hall while the appeal was pending. He said the appeal itself would proceed normally, with plaintiff-appellant (S.T.O.P.) presenting its opening brief shortly.

Scherer trees 1In a memo to Councilmembers, staff indicated formal groundbreaking is expected to occur in late July or August with construction expected to take approximately 14 months. But park protection advocates have opened a second front, urging the federal National Park Service (from which City Hall previously accepted federal money for Scherer Park improvements) to withhold approval of the project.

Scherer trees 3 Ms. Bannister scored an initial victory with the feds when the Nat'l Park Service told City Hall to provide a formal appraisal (not the informal one it had offered) conducted to federal standards that compares the value of roughly two acres of Scherer Park land to be lost with City Hall's proffered replacement park property, currently polluted land and requiring clean up, on 55th Way in NLB.

City staff has said it expects to meet all federal and state requirements in connection with the project.

Meanwhile, veteran LB park protection advocate Ann Cantrell has written the National Park Service and the CA Dept. of Parks and Recreation, urging rejection of City Hall's park land swap. We provide the salient text of the letter, below.

[begin text]

April 29, 2002

Ms. Francis Sakaguchi
National Park Service

Mr. Odel King
California Department of Parks and Recreation

Re: Scherer Park, Long Beach, CA

Dear Madam and Sir:

I urge you to reject the City of Long Beach’s ongoing request for conversion of 2.5 acres of parkland in Scherer Park from "Park" to "Institutional" use.

The City is requesting this conversion in order to build a 20,000 square foot police compound (with a refueling station, SWAT, K9, and two holding cells) in a neighborhood park. This park is in an area of Long Beach already severely deficient in parkland.. In addition to losing recreational space,there are over 45 mature trees which will have to be removed for this structure.

This is the third Long Beach park for which the City has taken Land and Water Conservation Act funds and then asked for a conversion to non-recreational uses. Citizen groups have opposed each of these and are pleading for your help in saving our remaining park lands.

In a 1994 article for NRPA Law Review, James Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D. states that the Land and Water Conservation Act of 1964 (LWCF) was created to prevent the diversion of public recreation resources to other uses. The article, entitled: "LWCF Block Conversion of Scenic Easement to Golf Course" addresses the law suit brought by the Friends of the Sawangunks, Inc. v.Clark, in which a group of private citizens dedicated to the preservation of a portion of Minnewaska State Park in New York, sued the Secretary of the Interior for alleged failure of the National Park Service to comply with requirements of the LWCF Act.

At issue was the Marriott Corporation purchasing approximately 590 acres including 239 acres of Minnewaska State Park to develop a resort facility including a private golf. The Friends maintained the "the conversion did not meet section 6(f) (3) criteria for approval."

It was held that permitting Marriott to develop this land, would be changing both the character of the land and the population having access to it. Having found that the proposed amendment to the LWCF would constitute a conversion, the appeals court found that section 6(f) (3) would require the following:

  • The Secretary of the Interior, in the words of section 6(f)(3), must determine that the conversion is "in accord with the then existing comprehensive statewide outdoor recreation plan" and grant his approval "Only upon such conditions as he deems necessary to assure the substitution of other recreation properties of at least equal fair market value and of reasonably equivalent usefulness and location."

    I believe that there are several decisions in this suit that apply to the Scherer Park/Police Station development.

  • Land and Water Conservation Funds were used by the City of Long Beach to develop this park.

    The only land that the city of Long Beach has suggested for mitigation is a toxic land fill. This land has not been acquired by the city and at this point no one knows if it is indeed possible to clean up the land to the standards needed for recreational use.

  • The fair market value of the replacement property has not been established

    The proposed replacement land is not in the same area as Scherer Park, and therefore does not serve the same community. Children of the neighborhood cannot walk or bike several miles on busy streets to this location.

    The location of the police station will block the view of Scherer Park from the street (Atlantic Avenue) and change the ambiance by replacing grass, trees and open space with a large concrete fortress surrounded by a chain-link fence.

  • The City failed to evaluate all practical alternatives to the conversion.

    The only two alternatives offered to the taking of Scherer Park were already committed as planned developments during the public comment period. This confirms the allegations reflected in the current lawsuit on appeal by Stop Taking Our Parks (STOP) and California Earth Corps (CEC) against the City of Long Beach concerning the Scherer Park Police Station Environmental Impact Report.

    On Tuesday, April 30, 2002, the city of Long Beach plans to approve the construction contract...and, the staff report, states:

    ". . . City Council action on this matter is time critical. KPRS' bid expires on April 30, 3002. Based on approval tonight, staff will prepare and execute the contract documents and will commence pre-construction activities.

    It is anticipated that formal groundbreaking will occur in late July or August to allow for conclusion of the migratory bird season. . ." (April 30, 2002, Melanie Fallon)

    I understand that the anticipated Environmental Assessment (EA) will be released by the National Park Service within a few weeks for public comment and review. I also understand that an additional Federal Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) will be required once replacement land has been identified and released for public comment and review. The foregoing casts doubt that the City of Long Beach will wait for conclusion of that public comment period prior to the commencement of the pre-construction process... including but not limited to the removal of 50+ year old trees.

    During the public comment period on the EIR in question, the need for placing the compound in Scherer Park was a matter of public safety. Reasoning that moving the project a block in either direction would "seriously compromise response time" on calls for service (CFS). When the current substation was closed due to mold and related respiratory illnesses, officers were moved to the West Division and a press release assured the public that "response time would not be seriously impacted" despite the fact that this division is on the opposite side of town. If moving the officers to the West Division does not impact response time to Bixby Knolls and North Long Beach, WHY must we then sacrifice Scherer Park instead of utilizing current available structures and empty lots in the vicinity?

    I urge you to deny the City’s request for the conversion of Scherer Park. In the event the City of Long Beach does not agree in writing to await the EA, and FEIR on the proposed replacement land, we hereby request the National Park Service issue a directive to the State Parks and Recreation to intervene and stay all construction and pre-construction activity until such time as the public comment periods are concluded.


    Ann Cantrell
    Member, Stop Taking Our Parks

  • Scherer trees 3Although there is consensus that a new north division police facility is needed, park protection advocates have urged alternative sites to avoid taking Scherer Park land. City officials have called the alternatives infeasible. Park protection advocates have challenged the city's process as not properly pursued, with LBUSD laying claim to the former "Dooley's Hardware" site while the EIR was moving forward. The Superior Court upheld City Hall's EIR actions and that issue is among those facing the Court of Appeal now.

    Neighborhood and business leaders from Los Cerritos to NLB have previously testified in favor of the Scherer Park site although they did not testify at tonight's hearing.

    Consistent with the Council's prior votes, moving forward with the Scherer Park site was supported by 8th and 9th district Council incumbents Rob Webb, Jerry Shultz and the remainder of the Council with the exception of 7th district Councilman Ray Grabinski who voted no.

    While the Scherer Park/police facility issued dragged on over the past two years, Grabinski stopped short of supporting a Charter Amendment favored by park protection advocates that (had it been enacted by the public) could have stopped City Hall from taking Scherer Park land or other park land.

    Grabinski urged a less binding measure that would have required more public hearings but still left City Hall with the power to do as it pleased.

    As the Mayoral election neared, Grabinski indicated at a public meeting that he favored a Charter Amendment but never agendized it (and to date still hasn't). He finished fourth among Mayoral candidates on April 9 and has endorsed incumbent Mayor Beverly O'Neill. plans to add extended transcript excerpts of public and Council statements to this article's initial posting in the coming days.

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