|(March 18, 2020, 4:55 a.m.) -- The words "El Dorado Park," "artificial turf soccer field" and its $1.5 million installation cost weren't spoken aloud by Mayor Robert Garcia or Councilmembers at the March 17 City Council meeting. But with the Mayor visible and Councilmembers only audible in a COVID-19 prompted teleconference meeting, the Council voted
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Prior to the Council vote, Acting City Manager Tom Modica told the Council that in view of COVID-19 developments, city staff might not to spend some of the items as described in the agendizing memo but didn't specify which ones. He indicated that for some items city staff would return to seek Council approval before spending the sums.
"When we put this on we were not expecting COVID-19 at the level where we're at, so we would ask your permission to hold off on any of these things if we find that really [audio unclear] redirect it given the crisis, so we would like staff permission and then we'd come back to you and reappropriate that and get your approval before spending it."
Following Mr. Modica's statement, Councilwoman Mungo moved without comment to approve the March 17 agendized item. Councilman Richardson seconded Mungo's motion. Neither spoke to the agenda item. Nor did any other Councilmembers before voting
Social network comments (on NextDoor.com and Facebook was nearly entirely in opposition. Veteran El Dorado Park advocate Ann Cantrell ("Friends of El Dorado Park East") submitted written testimony in opposition. Ms. Cantrell (in her 80's) noted that her doctor told her to isolate herself due to the coronavirus so she couldn't testify personally. She asked that her testimony be read aloud at the Council meeting Neither the Mayor nor any Councilmember acknowledged her written testimony much less read it aloud. Ms. Cantrell wrote in pertinent part:
...Replacing biological organisms with plastic in our environment is aesthetically, ecologically, and morally disturbing in an array of ways
In a March 17 email to Mayor Garcia and the Council, El Dorado Park South Neighborhood advocate Grace Earl credited the Council for eliminating plastic straws from Long Beach and enacting other ordinances showing "how bad plastic is for our environment" then asked pointedly: "[W]hy are you all wanting to install a plastic field in El Dorado Park West as a replacement for the grass field that has been used by Long Beach kids for over 30 years?" Ms. Earl urged the Council to vote "no" on the "1.5 million dollar unsafe, unsustainable, water wasting, manpower intensive maintenance plastic soccer field."
Taxpayer Maria Arriola was more blunt. In a single sentence email sent to LB's City Clerk, she wrote: "Please do not vote yes on a soccer bill at this time when we don't what will come next with corona virus."
The FY19 budget item was scheduled after LB voters voted (election March 3) on a Mayor/Council sought extension of the Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax. The outcome of the March 3 election remains too close to call with the City Hall-sought extension currently failing passage by a razor thin roughly 0.36% margin with additional ballots remaining to be counted.
The March 17 agenda item made no mention of the 1.5 million artificial turf field in its title "Recommendation to approve the Fiscal Year 2020 first departmental and fund budget appropriation adjustments in accordance with existing City Council policy. (Citywide)" and then left the $1.5 million artificial turf field item, listed as number 134 (among 136) on the final page of a 24 page agendizing memo. :
Increase appropriations in the General Fund Group in the Citywide Activities Department for a transfer to the Capital Projects Fund; and increase appropriation in the Capital Projects Fund Group in the Public Works Department by $1.5 million for the funding needed for the El Dorado Field Turf conversion project which was recently approved and recommended to the City Council on November 21, 2019, by the Parks and Recreation Commission and includes construction of a new artificial turf field similar to those recently completed at Admiral Kidd, Seaside and Drake Park, offset by FY 19 year-end Measure A funds available.
Councilmembers could have made a motion to use all or part of the $1.5 million Measure A surplus elsewhere. Management acknowledged in its March 17 agendizing memo that a FY20 police academy class isn't fully funded (is still short of funds) with $1.79 million presently recommended from FY19 Measure A surplus.) Other items recommended for the $4.3 surplus: $800,000 to contribute to converting a former land fill to expand NLB's Davenport Park, $100,000 for parks irrigation pumps and $100,000 for Public Works tree stump removal.
No Councilmembers voted to change those allocations from Measure A "surplus."
"Measure A and the promises of Measure A have consistently year after year been fulfilled. The promises that this dais, this board, made were for infrastructure and public safety. And maintaining our parks and libraries are [sic] as important as our streets," Councilwoman Mungo said on February 18, 2020.
In public testimony at the Feb. 18 Council meeting, ELB taxpayer/veteran park protection advocate Ann Cantrell said she supports a new soccer field at the location but said it should be natural (not artificial) turf. Ms. Cantrell said artificial turf fields and their plastic faux grass get much hotter and have to be cooled by using water (and not reclaimed water.)
Eastside Voice president (and former 5th dist. Council candidate) Corliss Lee supported Ms. Cantrell's points and cited El Dorado Park areas she said need repairs and would be better use of $1.5 million sum.
Jon Schultz [currently pursuing separate playground project in El Dorado Park West a bit northward] supported artificial turf field without mentioning the artificial turf field's $1.5 mil Measure A cost.
In Feb. 18, Mayor Garcia didn't mention the artificial turf's installation cost figure (although the agenda item was a budget-related item.) Instead, Garcia shifted discussion to the benefits of soccer fields. He said artificial turf soccer fields are popular and successful across the city, he wholeheartedly supports putting one in El Dorado Park and he commended Councilwoman Mungo for her efforts to do so.
Mayor Garcia asked city staff when construction would begin...to which staff replied that the Council would first have to vote in March 2020 on an agenda item that formally allocates the $1.5 million sum as part of FY20 budget adjustments. Councilman Roberto Uranga added that an artificial turf field in his district is popular. No Councilmembers signaled disagreement with the recommended $1.5 million allocation from Measure A.
In wrapping up the Feb. 18 Council item, Councilwoman Mungo defended her record on El Dorado Park projects and the City's record on Measure A spending.
Councilwoman Mungo: Measure A and the promises of Measure A have consistently year after year been fulfilled. The promises that this dais, this board, made were for infrastructure and public safety. And maintaining our parks and libraries are [sic] as important as our streets.
As previously reported in detail by LBREPORT.com, a November 2019 Parks/Recreation Commission vote recommended funding installation of the artificial turf field funded using $850,000 from Measure A plus $617,000 from City Council "one-time funds" budgeted in the Public Works Capital Projects Fund. Parks/Rec's staff acknowledged at the time 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" (and the lack of identified funding for maintenance of the artificial turf field led Commissioner Sievers to dissent on the recommendation.)
Parks/Rec staff has 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" and would mean less "down time" for soccer fields.
The artificial turf field would 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. Electrical conduit would also be installed enabling installation of field lighting if approved by subsequent votes of the Parks/Rec Commission and/or City Council.
The El Dorado Park artificial turf field (including the possibility of field lighting) has been controversial. Councilwoman Mungo chose not to mention it in her periodic "Neighborly News" newsletter before or after discussion occurred at the Nov. 21, 2019 Parks and Rec Commission meeting, or the Feb. 11 Budget Oversight Committee meeting she chairs, or the Feb. 18 City Council item or (thus far) the upcoming March 17 Council item.
[LBREPORT.com has learned the project may have been recently discussed in at least one nearby neighborhood group meeting; if you or your neighbors attended that meeting, please contact us at mail@LBReport.com or via a private message to LBREPORT.com's Facebook page.]
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.
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.) A 2015
At the November 2019 meeting, Parks/Rec 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.
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