Scherer Park Site for NLB Police Station Draws Council Meeting Sparks; Transcript Excerpts of Salient Speakers, Below
Amy Bodek, Project Manager (Dept. of Community Development)
(March 4, 2001) -- A city staff status report on a new NLB police station, presented at the annual 9th district City Council meeting at Jordan High on February 27, was the latest battleground for supporters and opponents of locating the facility in Scherer Park.
The new police compound will occupy roughly 2.5 acres, replacing temporary facilities (dating from the mid-1980s) now occupying roughly 2,500 square feet in the northeast corner of Scherer Park at Atlantic Ave. & Del Amo Blvd. (which is in the 8th Council district).
Opponents of the Scherer Park site favor alternative locations including the former "Dooleys Hardware" location (LB Blvd. at Del Amo) or Atlantic Plaza. These altenatives, and City Hall's currently favored Scherer Park location, are the subject of a formal EIR now circulating for public comment.
At last year's NLB Jordan High Council meeting, park advocates were jeered by some audience members as Councilmembers voted (8-1, Grabinski dissenting) to designate the Scherer Park site as the primary site for purposes of the project's EIR.
As previously reported on LBReport.com, staff's memo says the facility's cost (without financing and acquisition costs) will be roughly $7.2 million, up from $5.5 to 6.0 million claimed just a year ago. Staff's memo says increased costs are due to "additional site preparation and to significant changes in the Uniform Building Code for this type of facility."
This latest city staff report on a new NLB police station involved no substantive Council action beyond "receive and file," but advocates on both sides of the Scherer Park controversy used the opportunity to advocate their positions. We post below salient transcript excerpts (not all speakers are included):
...A year ago, almost to the day, the City Council directed us to further investigate potential sites and they identified Scherer Park as the primary location for consideration. This is not to say that Scherer Park is the final location. I'm here to advise you of the process that we are in and to talk to you about the project as a whole and not at four specific locations.
We circulated an EIR on February 6 and it is circulating for 45 days. At the end of that period, the EIR will be reviewed at a public hearing in front of the Planning Commission. In that EIR, the primary site for consideration is Scherer Park but we have considered other alternative locations as well. One of those locations is the former Dooleys Hardware store; another location is the Atlantic Plaza retail center at Atlantic and 52nd Street...
...My opinion is this report should not be filed and should not be received by the Council as it is flawed and filled with misinformation that is intentionally included to make the Council believe there is no opposition to build the [LBPD] North Division station in Scherer Park.
From the verbiage in its opening paragraph calling for the "Decentralization of police services as an approach to implementing a community policing program" (by) building a "Full service police station..." is an oxymoron.
Community policing cannot be achieved by building a fort. One can clearly see that this report seeks to gloss over certain aspects of this project as to make it, the project itself, palatable to you the Council, and to the public at large.
On page two and three of this report, it says that staff held community meetings to "Gather input on a proposed a facility in Scherer Park." It goes on to say that staff received "Positive input on the project."
What it doesnít say is that there was a great deal of opposition to this project voiced at these meetings. What it also doesnít say is that city staff made no effort to notify the community at large or even all interested parties that either of these meetings was scheduled.
"Friends Of Scherer Park" only found out about these meetings through their own due diligence and with their resources, put out 2,000 flyers in the affected community.
The meeting alluded to by the report that took place in August was the North Long Beach PAC meeting. Certain members of the board...became so contentious with those people who came to speak against the project that they were told to leave the speaker's podium and "Sit down or get out!"
These infractions by the board clearly violated the publicís right to speak under the Brown Act.
When one reads this report one might easily assume that the people of the Bixby Knolls, North Long Beach communities are clamoring for this Police Station to be built in Scherer Park, when in every public forum this issue is discussed, easily 50% or more of those involved in the debate oppose construction in the park.
"Friends of Scherer Park" collected 254 signatures in a matter of three hours at the Bixby Vons from people in the community who do not want the North Division headquarters built in Scherer Park. Many of them were unaware and shocked at the cityís intent to do so. So much for communication.
In conclusion, I'd just like to say that there are many other problems with the information in this report that are too, obviously, too numerous to mention in three minutes at this podium. One of those pieces of information is that on the "Financial Resources" section of the report, it designates $61,500 stated as an expense that's been put out when in fact this Council authorized the expnditure of $230,000+ for Leach Mounce Architects or LMA to model architectural renderings of the facility in three possible site locations.
I've seen two of those in the EIR, there's two of those architectural renderings that are there, I don't know where the others are, if they were ever done. Please be advised that there is too much misinformation and too many questions that this report does not address to simply "receive and file."
As has been stated, it was a year ago that this was discussed here at Jordan [High School] and I got out the videotape today of that meeting.
Several of you were not on the Council at that time, so I want to remind you that you were told that if you did pick Scherer Park as the site of the police substation, there would be a five acre mitigation in North Long Beach of park replacement. For those of you that have not read the EIR, I would like to tell you that there is no mention of mitigation in the EIR. This has completely been dropped.
I remember that Councilmember Grabinski voted against this and that Councilmember Roosevelt stated that if this five acres was not available for mitigation that he would vote against putting this in Scherer Park when it came back to the Council.
I would suggest that you all read this EIR. You were told tonight that there are other alternatives. The alternative of "Dooleys" seems very feasible. Of course, the land has to be bought, and as you know, park land is looked upon as free land.
A year ago, I stated that there was only 5.9 acres per thousand population for recreation/open space. In this EIR, it states that there's only 3.2 acres of park land per thousand population in Long Beach. Every acre of park land that you take away is lowering the amount of park land available for our population.
I hope that when this does come back to you after the EIR is finalized that you will look at other alternatives and not take Scherer Park. There can be a police presence in the park without having a police fortress. Thank you. (applause)
...For the last 30 years I've lived in this city, every single established organization in North Long Beach is in favor of putting the police station in Scherer Park, bar none, established organizations...
Marshall Blesofsky & colloquy with Councilman Shultz
Mr. Blesofsky: "...As Friends of Scherer Park, we...have a petition and we've been circulating that...Here is what the petition says: "Now therefore, be it resolved that the citizens of Long Beach and the Friends of Scherer Park protest the conversion of a significant portion of generally accessible park land to non-recreational use. And be it further resolved that the citizens of Long Beach request the City Council of Long Beach reconsider the permanent displacement of any portion of Scherer Park and to keep it open and intended for free and accessible recreational use."
Well, I just wanted to give you the results of the survey...We just did a zip code analysis, Of the 252 people who signed the petition, 107 of them had a zip code of 90805. That's 42% of the people signed that, signed our petition. 24% were from the 90807 which is just south, that's the Bixby Knolls area, south of the park. So actually, and the other about 42%, 44% came from other parts of Long Beach.
This petition was so well received that our committees are thinking about making our own laws. You know, we know that we changed the amount of taxes that are taken out for utility tax, and we know that we could circulate a petition that would save all of park land for perpetuity.
And I think now that with what's happening with Cesar Chavez park, and with the taking of that park, what's happening here in North Long Beach that we have enough strength to make our own laws, because if our City Council can't make laws to protect the parks and ensure the growth and development of our children, I'm not sure who can.
And let me just say one more thing. We're not against the police. Everybody says we like the police. We like the police presence in the park. We're not against the police. We'd love to keep the same substation there. It's been a real asset to our community. We just do not want a big, ugly facility that will destroy the park. Thank you very much"
Councilman Shultz: Madam Mayor I have a question for the gentleman.
Mayor O'Neill: Yes.
Councilman Shultz: Sir, on your petition, does it mention the fact that a police station would be built there?
Mr. Blesofsky: Of course.
Councilman Shultz: I didn't hear it when you read it to us.
Mr. Blesofsky: Well, there's a whole lot of whereas'es. It says, a recent proposal by the Long Beach Police Department and City Council to develop a portion of Scherer Park, constructing a 21,000 square foot non-recreational building.
Councilman Shultz: OK.
Mr. Blesofsky: I mean it talks about that. We talk about the police station.
"...long time resident of North Long Beach. In reality, I've never lived any place else. I didn't come here to talk about any of the things that were on your agenda tonight, until I looked in the audience and saw who was here, because I've seen 'em at every meeting when the park is being brought up, any position on any park.
You know, I appreciate your agenda. But I don't appreciate that they're coming into North Long Beach and telling the people here what we should have. We have, the majority of the people in North Long Beach, and I've attended just about every neighborhood meeting, there's nine organizations, plus the PAC, plus the Good Neighbors, and I haven't heard one of those organizations go against the police department being in that park.
That park is in a place that was never usable, on a slope area that was not really for picnic area, play area, or anything else. That park is in a central position to service North Long Beach. If you take a look on the map, the other locations, one's too small, the one outside of Carmelitos. Dooleys Hardware sits on the western extreme area of North Long Beach border.
The police department location is perfect to service north, south, east and west, just take a look at a map. If it takes petitions, I think we could probably get 25,000 people from North Long Beach area and the Bixby Knolls area organized to say we want that police department there.
I think you've got to listen to the people, not those who are at every meeting with the same agenda, telling us, the citizens that live here, whatwe should have.
...I hadn't planned to speak tonight, but listening to other speakers I decided that I did need to make a comment.
Councilmember Jerry Shultz
One is, we're not against the police department but we believe there's a better location than taking a huge amount of Scherer Park...
Yes, we do want it to be safe. And in answer to another previous speaker, why are we out here? Well, these parks belong to everybody in Long Beach. They don't just belong to the neighborhood people at Scherer Park, or El Dorado Park, or any other park.
And as long as the city believes that that park land is free, and keeps on trying to take our parks for other purposes other than recreation, we will be here. Thank you.
...You know, I've mentioned this before. The petition process is a faulty process and I feel that its really not an accurate indicator of what people really feel on any given issue. It's an indicator of the way the petition is written and the way that it's presented...
...I can guarantee you if the opposite side, those who were in favor of this site, would go to that store with a carefully worded petition, they could get just as many signatures. So that, in and of itself, is not a good indicator...
Mitigation was mentioned. Just for the record, there is no legal requirment to mitigate this site. However, in good faith, this city offered to, and we stand by offering, a site in my district over on 55th Way. I think what you need to know is that process is ongoing; it doesn't happen overnight because it is on top of an old dump. I would like at this time though to get a update from staff on the progress of the research into using that site for green and open space.
[Staff indicated the Redevelopment Agency is in the process of trying to acquire the property. Staff said the site has four property owners, three of which are known, one of which cannot be found and may be in a foreign country or deceased. Because of these title issues, an appraisal has been delayed but is in the process of being completed and should be available within the next four to five weeks. Once the appraisal is completed, the Redevelopment Agency will make offers to the property owners. Following staff's response, Mr. Shultz indicated he had nothing further.]
Councilman Ray Grabinski
...This is a golden opportunity to correct a mistake that was made by a previous Council almost 14, 15 years ago. There were two Councilpeople who wanted a North Police Facility, actually wanted it in North Long Beach. And they wanted a real police facility, and what they ended up getting was a very inadequate building, and the Chief knows about what I'm talking about, it was not at all serviceable for what they wanted...
And what's happened over all of that time is that now we're to the poiint where we want to match what's over in west Long Beach that was put on a level piece of private ground, the same kind of police substation...
There were [sic] more than one community group who came to the meetings then and tried to get this City Council to put that police substation where the Boys and Girls Club is now. They were told by the city staff, then-city staff, that it was not adequate to be building any kind of a building on it and there would not be adequate parking. I would suggest to you to go by there and look at the Boys and Girls Club and all of the
parking that's there.
Now, we made the mistake and we put it in the park, and now we have the others sites. I want you to think about this. We're saying, we're taking three acres but it's ours and it's free...
...Does everybody realize what's happening here? Once again in the City of Long Beach we're splitting up the neihgborhood, us against them. Those park people against the community people. We are all one people. One of the things that was said here was "opposite side." There is no opposite side here. If we don't stand up for what we say all the time, kids are our most important resource, if we don't back that up with our actions, then we're no better than the developers who want to come and take the property that we have all over this city that they don't really deserve to get.
...We can correct a mistake that was made 12 or 14 years ago that gave them [the LBPD] an indequate facility in the first place, that wasn't in North Long Beach, that was in Bixby Knolls.
And I want to say one more thing, before you forget it. The reason we're here is because they have to expand that police substation. Does anybody realize what that means?
That God forbid, five or ten years from now, another City Council may have to compound the mistake that was made 12 or 14 years ago and take more of that public park. We can correct that mistake or we can leave it there for someone else to make more...[T]here's nowhere to expand that police substation except further into that park.
A verbal brouhaha ensued following testimony by Gigi Fast Elk Porter, President of S.T.O.P. (Stop Taking Our Parks). Ms. Porter testified in part:
"It is reported in the draft EIR...that district 21..which is [slurred, might be isn't] where Jordan's at, primarily 9th district, has the highest reporting of crime rate. So, whenever someone gives you information and you tell the public to please provide information that is accurate, and you're accused of giving misinformation, please make sure that it doesn't come from the city. That is where I get my information from."
[LBReport.com note: There are four LBPD divisions (north, south, east & west). LBPD's north division includes area beyond the 9th Council district, such as the 8th area with Scherer Park. Each division has "beats" and the EIR provides a table showing the number of calls for police service in north division's beats (beats 19-24).
The EIR indicates beat 21 had more calls for service than the other north division beats, 1,833 calls or 25.34% of north divison's calls for service. Beat 21 is bordered by Del Amo, South St., the 710 fwy. and Cherry Ave. and it's part of the 8th, not 9th, Council district.
Scherer Park is in beat 19 (part of LBPD's north division but in the 8th Council district). Beat 19 had 1,032 calls for service, accounting for 14.27% of north division's calls for service.
Jordan High is in beat 22 (not beat 21, as stated by Ms. Porter). Beat 22 had 1,166 calls for service, accounting for 16.12% of north division's calls for service.
Calls for service are different than reported crimes because not every call for service results in a reported crime. LBReport.com has put the LBPD's 2000 and 1999 reported crime data by Council district and by smaller neighborhood size LBPD reporting districts on this web site.]
Following Ms. Porter's testimony, Councilmember Jerry Shultz sought the floor and criticized Ms. Porter for a Council statement which, the transcript shows, she actually didn't make.
Ms. Porter referred to "the highest reporting of crime rate," a mangled but apparent reference to calls for service. Ms. Porter may have erroneously placed Jordan High in beat 21 instead of beat 22, but the confusion significantly escalated when Councilman Shultz construed her remarks to be a statement about 9th district reported crimes instead of calls for service:
Councilman Shultz: "Madam Mayor, speaking about misinformation, Ms. Porter just mentioned, I'd like to point out that the 9th district does not have the highest crime rate in the city. In fact, it's one of the very lowest and has been consistently for the past couple of years, (applause) so I do suggest before make those unfounded allegations you check the real statistics."
[LBReport.com comment: We share Councilman Shultz's desire to dispel stereotypes about crime in NLB and anywhere in LB. That's one of the reasons we've placed the LBPD's officially reported crime data on this web site. (For the record, several years ago Councilman Shultz came the public's defense in urging that these data be made routinely available annually.)
Although the data show other Council ditricts (including the 3d, 4th and 5th) had more grand thefts than the 9th, and 9th district crime is down from 1999 in nearly all categories, it is also true that for the year 2000, the 9th district:
Ranked 3d in total serious (Part 1) crimes against property (the 2d & 1st districts had higher totals)
Ranked 4th in total serious (Part 1) crimes against persons (the 1st, 6th and 2d districts had higher totals in this category. The 9th district total was roughly 4.5 times higher than the 5th district total in this category.
Ranked 4th in total reported crimes (serious & non-serious, Part 1 plus Part 2) of all types (the 2d, 1st and 4th districts had higher totals)
These data are subject to all the caveats we list on our web site.
We leave it to our readers to decide if Councilman Shultz accurately characterized the data when he claimed, "In fact, it's [the 9th district] one of the very lowest and has been consistently for the past couple of years."]
The Councilman's remarks then took a bizarre turn when he used the Council proceeding to chide Ms. Porter for statements outside the Council chamber on the internet.
Councilman Shultz: You know, I read my e-mail that you send all over the internet, and I'm sure my colleagues do as well. And you know, we can disagree on the issues, and we can be respectful about that, but I don't appreciate when you question my parentage and the parentage of my colleagues, so, just for the record, I'm not a bastard and I would hope that you would keep your comments to yourself not on the internet.
[LBReport.com comment: We think Councilman Shultz erred in using a Council meeting to pursue a personal matter not before the Council. For the record however, Ms. Porter subsequently apologized to Mr. Shultz.
The Council ultimately voted 8-0 to receive and file staff's report.