|Publisher's note: Consistent with LBREPORT.com's policy of encouraging greater public access to information when city officials conduct the public's business, LBREPORT.com notes the following: (1) LB's Parks/Rec Commission doesn't provide routine online public access to audio of its meetings; (2) The Parks/Rec Commission conducts its meetings without audio amplification making some portions nearly inaudible, difficult to discern or independently record; (3) Regarding the Nov. 21 agenda item reported below, Parks/Rec staff gave private interest groups access to staff's presentation in advance of the Commission's public meeting, conveying information to which the public didn't have access online; (4) Parks/Rec staff placed materials in Commissioners' agenda packets that it didn't make accessible to the public online; and (5) Written testimony submitted by the public, pro and con, on the agenda item, wasn't available for online public access. Although Parks/Rec staff provided LBREPORT.com with audio and written materials on request after the meeting, we urge the Commission to agendize the following actions: Direct Parks/Rec staff to (1) provide timely routine online access to audio of Parks/Rec Commission meetings; (2) use audio amplification at Commission meetings; (3) provide routine online public access to materials provided by staff to Commissioners and/or outside individuals or private groups on publicly agendized items; and (4) provide routine online public access to written testimony/comments/materials submitted by the public on Commission agenda items.
December 15, 2019, 4:30 p.m.) -- LB's Parks and Recreation Commission has voted to recommend City Manager approval of a $1.4 million artificial turf soccer field along Studebaker Rd. north of Willow St. and south of Parks/Rec administration bldg. The vote was
Although Parks/Rec staff's agendizing memo -- linked in full here indicated that the project won't include field lights." Commissioner Ben Goldberg acknowledged during meeting discussion (and Parks/Rec staff didn't deny) that the field will be plumbed to enable possible future installation of field lights.
The artificial turf field will include a 42" wire fence and soccer netting behind each goal on the north and south ends of the field with permanent perimeter boulders at the east and west ends to restrict vehicle access without blocking views into the Park.
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Artificial turf fields have already been installed at four other LB parks: Seaside Park, Admiral Kidd Park, the Drake-Chavez Park greeenbelt and Molina Park. In its agendizing memo, Parks/Rec staff said "replacing natural grass turf with synthetic turf on soccer fields has several benefits, including providing a playing surface that addresses field safety issues and enhances playability to meet demand." Parks/Rec staff also stated during the Commission meeting that artificial turf would mean less "down time" for soccer fields.
The artificial turf sports field, similar to those installed at the four other LB parks to date and planned for others, will use cork and sand fill, not "crumb rubber" (the latter have drawn public pushback and prompting a 2015 Parks/Recreation Commission majority vote to recommend cork/sand fill.) Commissioner Goldberg (who was part of a 3-2 Commission majority in 2015 that recommended more costly cork/sand fill over staff-recommended acrylic coated crumb rubber) said question of installing artificial turf and its cost had already been settled.
Commissioner Thomas asked Parks/Rec staff if there'd been any pushback or negative responses to the other artificial turf fields in use now. Parks/Rec staff said response had been all positive and hadn't heard of anything negative.
Opponents and supporters both cited playability factors. Parks/Rec staff said the fields would be safer, provide state of the art surfaces and ensure citywide "soccer equity." Opponents said the playing surface would be hotter, required repeated cleaning and cited the El Dorado Park field's $1.4 million installation price tag: $850,000 from the Measure A sales plus $617,478 "from City Council One-time funds" budgeted in the Public Works Capital Projects Fund." Parks/Rec's agendizing memo also acknowledged that funds to maintain the artificial turf field hadn't been "identified" and would be "sought as part of City Hall's FY21 budget process."
The public had only minimally required notice of the item when it appeared on the Commission's Nov. 21 agenda a few days before the Commission's meeting. Fifth district Councilwoman Stacy Mungo didn't mention the upcoming item in her periodic emailed newsletter.
However Parks/Rec staff acknowledged during the meeting that it gave local soccer organizations access to staff's presentation on the proposal field in advance of the public meeting. No one speaking as a representative of the local soccer groups testified in person or submitted written materials pro or con on the agenda item.
Members of the public learned of the item via social networks and LBREPORT.com (which reported the upcoming item as newsworthy.) Nearly all public speakers who attended the meeting (scheduled at 9 a.m. on a Thursday morning) spoke in opposition to the proposed project. Ann Cantrell, Jill Brennan, Corliss Lee and Raman Vashishth also submitted written materials in opposition.
Ms. Brennan, a veteran parks advocate, member of "Friends of El Dorado Regional Park and an El Dorado park habitat/steward/volunteer, wrote in a Nov. 19 email (cc'd to all Councilmembers):
El Dorado Regional Park...is suffering with broken roads, broken ponds, broken sidewalks, broken water pumps, broken irrigation systems, broken restrooms and broken turf areas...Yet $850,000 from Measure A funds and $617,478.42 from Council one-time funds may be spent for 1 unsafe, high maintenance, high water use, unsustainable artificial turf soccer field?...
Ms. Lee (former 5th dist. Council candidate (2018)/founder of the Eastside Voice) spoke at the meeting and submitted an email asking the Commission to withhold action on the item, urging an evening meeting where the public could be more easily heard. Her email described the proposed fencing surrounding the field as an eyesore and said users complain the artificial playing surface is hot and uncomfortable. Ms. Lee also submitted a multi-page document she titled "Safety Issues -- El Dorado Park East" with multiple photographs showing conditions needing repairs.
William Worden, a former president of AYSO 177, 11-year boardmember and current AYSO volunteer, said work prevented him from attending personally but submitted an individual letter supporting the project. "We desperately need safe, flat surfaces for children to train and play on. Grass would be preferred, but the living organism can't survive the hours of use needed."
Fifth district resident Jon Schultz spoke at the meeting and submitted a letter dated Nov. 21 in support. In his verbal testimony, Mr. Schultz indicated he believes additional speakers would attended the meeting to speak in support if it had been scheduled at time other than during regular weekday working hours. In his written correspondence, Mr. Schultz called the proposed project a "state of the art playing field" with a "beautiful thoughtful and safe design" and continued:
There are a few people who share old data, cite long outdated dangers of artificial turf, and other scare tactics in an attempt to stop the project. These are the same who show up and oppose, or complain about, or sue over and over, anything our local councilperson and/or city of Long Beach proposes. Yet election after election it's demonstrated that their opinions are not representative of the residents of the city -- like my family who loves the investments our local leaders continue to make...They complain that the City does nothing, until the city does something, then they complain about that, too!
(On July 31, 2019, Councilwoman Mungo's office issued a press release that referred to Mr. Schultz in connection with a FY20 budget item related to El Dorado Park that can be viewed at this link.)
As is routine at Parks/Rec Commission meetings (held at the El Dorado Park senior center), no audio amplification was provided, making it difficult from the audience's location to clearly hear or record portions of what was taking place. Audio of Parks/Rec Commission meetings also isn't routinely available to the public online.
After the meeting, LBREPORT.com requested, and Parks/Rec staff provided, a copy of staff's audio recording of the proceedings. In the public interest, LBREPORT.com provides on-demand audio of the Nov. 21 Parks/Rec Commission El Dorado Park agenda item below.
LBREPORT.com used audio processing software to enhance the audio (adding roughly 10db of compression.) The recording by Parks/Rec staff is otherwise unmodified and unedited.
Parks/Rec staff indicated in its presentation that it planned to bring the item to the full City Council sometime in December. However the item didn't appear on any December City Council agenda.
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