Councilwoman Mungo To Unveil $3+ Million El Dorado Park Artificial Turf Soccer Field
(Sept. 26, 2021, 10:10 a.m.) -- CD 5 City Councilwoman Stacy Mungo will unveil a controversial $3+ million El Dorado Park artificial turf soccer field at an event scheduled for Oct. 2 at 10:00 a.m. The field is along the eastside of Studebaker Rd. in roughly the 2700 block north of Willow St.
Final Council approval of the project came Dec. 8 (Dec. 9 after midnight) on a 7-1 Council vote (Supernaw dissenting, Andrews exiting early). (Mayor Garcia pushed the Council vote into the 1 a.m. hour by moving other items ahead of it. LBREPORT.com coverage here.)
The project, controversial from its inception, has pitted park protection advocates, neighborhood residents and taxpayers against city staff, some soccer advocates and Councilwoman Stacy Mungo.
A Sept. 24 City Hall release at this link describes the upcoming Oct. 2 event as follows:
[City of LB release text] The Long Beach Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine (PRM) is kicking things off at the new El Dorado Park West Multi-Purpose Sports Field with a grand opening ceremony at 10:00 a.m. Saturday, October 2.
The artificial turf field was opposed by The Eastside Voice, El Dorado Park South Neighborhood Association and veteran El Dorado Park advocate Ann Cantrell. Ms. Cantrell supported a new soccer field with natural, not artificial turf, noting that the artificial turf field will consume costly potable water instead of current reclaimed water, imposing additional fiscal (and arguably environmentally unfriendly) costs on taxpayers. Representatives of some soccer teams supported the project.
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Councilwoman Mungo has repeatedly noted that the project began under her predecessor, Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske. [Ms. Schipske is now an announced candidate to replace Mungo in 2022; at least one other candidate has already surfaced and others may do so.] However city staff initially told the public and the Council that the El Dorado Park's artificial field's cost was covered within the FY14 budget (under Schipske) and FY 15 (under Mungo) to complete three artificial turf fields (Admiral Kidd, Seaside Park and El Dorado Park).
Artificial turf fields have since been installed at four other LB parks: Seaside Park, Admiral Kidd Park, the Drake-Chavez Park greeenbelt and Molina Park.
On November 21 2019, city staff told LB's Parks/Recreation Commission that funds were available to cover the El Dorado Park field's cost (excluding maintenance.) However internal city records, obtained by LBREPORT.com under the CA Public Record Act, show that the $3.6 million sum for all three fields was as much as $900,000 short because it was consumed by installation of artificial turf fields at Admiral Kidd and Seaside Parks.
In a Feb. 11, 2020 email, then-acting City Manager Tom Modica told subordinate staff: "This project goes back several years -- it was originally awarded funding, then that funding was used to fund the other artificial turf fields as they were project ready, and now are back to finding funding to honor that original commitment and complete the project..." Mr. Modica added $850,000 to the El Dorado Park field's FY21 budgeted cost, bringing the cost to $2.35 million, which Mungo and the Council voted 9-0 to approve in their Sept. 8, 2020 vote approving the City's FY21 budget.
City staff didn't deny -- and twice explicitly acknowledged in publicly agendized items prior to Council votes -- the project's full $3.1 million cost, which LBREPORT.com and the Beachcomber reported while Councilwoman Mungo continued to deny it. In her Dec. 6 "Neighborly News" newsletter, Mungo stated that she is "So glad to see this improvement has come in well under the original estimated and inflated cost of $3.1 million...Please note that we did confirm with our Public Works team that the initial posted agenda item contained an error in the fiscal impact statement regarding the total cost. They have committed to correcting it before consideration Tuesday."
There was no "correction" publicly stated by city staff before or during the Dec. 8, 2020 agenda item that gave the project final Council approval. And as shown above, city staff acknowledged the field's full $3.1 million cost in its release on the upcoming Oct. 2 event.
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