Council OKs Using $1.5M for Artificial Soccer Turf

By: 
Bill Pearl

On March 17, with Long Beach City Councilmembers only audible via a COVID-19 prompted teleconference, the council voted to approve budget adjustments that include allocating $1.5 million from FY19 Measure A sales tax “surplus” (sums collected from LB consumers beyond what City Hall initially expected) to install an artificial turf soccer field in El Dorado Park West along Studebaker Road between Willow Street and the Parks/Rec administration building.

The council vote (9-0) came on a motion by Councilwoman Stacy Mungo to approve 136 budget adjustments (in which the $1.5 million El Dorado Park artificial turf item was number 134.)

When city management proposed the adjustments in mid-February, Councilwoman Mungo and Mayor Robert Garcia spoke in support of the $1.5 million Measure A spending item despite taxpayer push back before COVID-19 impacts had become visible.

In a brief statement prior to the March 17 council vote, Acting City Manager Tom Modica noted that management offered its agendized budget adjustments before COVID-19 developments and staff might subsequently recommend council reconsideration of some of them, but didn’t indicate which ones.

“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,” Modica said.

Following Modica’s statement, Councilwoman Mungo moved without comment to approve the March 17 item. Councilman Rex Richardson seconded Mungo’s motion. Neither spoke to the agenda item nor did any other Councilmembers before voting 9-0 to approve it.

Prior to the vote, social network comments on Nextdoor.com and Facebook were nearly entirely in opposition. Veteran El Dorado Park advocate Ann Cantrell (“Friends of El Dorado Park East”) submitted written testimony in opposition as did El Dorado Park South neighborhood advocate Grace Earl, both citing grounds favoring natural turf over plastic. Taxpayer Maria Arriola submitted an email that bluntly stated in a single sentence: “Please do not vote yes on a soccer bill at this time when we don’t know what will come next with corona virus.”

Councilmembers could have made a motion to allocate all or part of the $1.5 million Measure A surplus elsewhere. Management’s March 17 agendizing memo acknowledged that a FY20 police academy class isn’t fully funded (still short of funds) despite $1.79 million recommended from FY19 Measure A surplus. In addition to the $1.5 million El Dorado Park soccer field, other items recommended for the FY19 “surplus” include $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. On March 17, no Councilmembers voted to change those allocations.

A month earlier on Feb. 18, management sought direction on the items and Councilmembers signaled their approval. “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 at that time. She continued:

“You will hear me at community meeting after community meeting fighting for streets, streets, streets, streets, but one of the frustrating things about street repair is it’s a long planning process and we can only do so many streets a year because there are only so many asphalt vendors...Additionally, in relation to the extensive amount of maintenance and repairs needed at El Dorado Park, both West and East, I’ve consistently helped form fiends groups [“friends of” groups]. I’ve consistently requested the groups to maintain a list of their needs, and the items on the lists that are easily identifiable and maintained and communicated to our office have been funded. We’re doing a $2 million duck pond restoration and enhancement. We’ve replaced and funded new tables, there were 40 tables identified throughout the park that were in disrepair. I went to one of the friends group meetings and proposed where we should place them and talked about the different strategies on how we could repair other benches throughout the park, not using Measure A funds but using Council district funds for something that was on their list, and then the $100,000 in filtration pumps that were allocated tonight with this vote that will be helpful and millions of dollars throughout the city but several of them will be for park bathrooms in El Dorado Park done this summer. So that’s about $6 million in investment in just El Dorado Park East and West...”

Measure A was a June 2016 General fund sales tax (providing City Hall with revenue a Council majority can allocate to any General Fund purposes it chooses) that LB voters approved after they were shown the following ballot text:

“[All caps in original] CITY OF LONG BEACH PUBLIC SAFETY, INFRASTRUCTURE REPAIR AND NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICES MEASURE. To maintain 911 emergency response services, increase police, firefighter/paramedic staffing, repair potholes/streets, improve water supplies and maintain general services, shall the City establish” [a 1% sales tax, dropping in half after six years and ending four years later.]

The final outcome of a March 3, 2020 Mayor/Council sought ballot measure that would eliminate the 2016 measure’s reduction and end dates remains too close to call (with a recount also possible.)

On November 21, 2019, LB’s Mayor chosen/Council approved Parks/Recreation Commission 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 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. 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 field at El Dorado Park will use cork and sand fill, not “crumb rubber” (the latter have drawn public push back and prompting a 2015 Parks/Recreation Commission majority vote to recommend cork/sand fill.) It will also 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.

As of the Beachcombers’s print deadline, Councilwoman Mungo hadn’t responded to requests for comment for publication on her March 17 motion and support for the $1.5 million spending item.
 

Bill Pearl publishes LBREPORT.com, now in its 20th year online at www.LBReport.com.

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Comments

long beach city council once again proves Forrest Gump was right about our council members 'stupid is as stupid does

frank w lloyd, long beach

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