LONG BEACH — Some City Council members disliked how the proposal came about, but they agreed on the plan itself: To create more mini-parks throughout the city and send the bill to developers.
The city already is considering charging developers new "impact fees," and on Tuesday, the council said it would like to spend part of that anticipated income to create grassy parks in highly populated areas where swings and slides are now an anomaly.
Everyone agreed that the city should work with the Long Beach Unified School District in creating more mini-parks.
But before approving the plan in concept, a few council members wanted assurance that it would not be solely for the inner-city and downtown areas, which have little park land. Some members also expressed disappointment and resentment over how the proposal was presented.
The debate that followed provided a glimpse into the way council votes are sometimes secured before public meetings, during one-on-one negotiations. And it also showed how sensitive council members are to any breach of political etiquette.
Vice Mayor Warren Harwood and Councilman Edd Tuttle said they did not know of the plan until late last week when they read their agenda packets, which contained a letter addressed to "Dear Colleagues" and signed by six of the council's nine members.
"Is this some kind of attempt to divide us up . . . to line up votes?" asked Harwood, who represents the 9th District in the northern part of the city. "I'm not going to sit here and see North Long Beach dealt out of this thing."
Tuttle said that in his nine years on the council he had never seen a plan presented in such a way. "It has the appearance of ignoring three members of the council," Tuttle said. "I'm feeling a little left out."
Councilman Tom Clark, who authored the letter, apologized to Harwood and Tuttle and said "there's no slight intended."
Clark said he initially met with council members Evan Anderson Braude, Ray Grabinski and Clarence Smith to discuss more parks and better lighting in areas where school grounds are primarily covered with asphalt.
Councilwoman Jan Hall later saw the letter and asked to sign it, according to Clark. Councilman Wallace Edgerton, who represents a portion of the high-density southern part of the city, was also later asked to sign, Clark said.
Grabinski said he did not know that some of his colleagues had been excluded from the process. Had he known, he said, he would have contacted them. Grabinski said he, too, "would have been offended."
Mayor Ernie Kell, the third member not asked to sign the letter, said the mini-park proposal is a good idea and should apply to all areas of the city. He also recommended that as the staff considers converting asphalt areas to grassy parks, it should also consider ways to provide more supervision for children.
Clark said the plan to convert existing asphalt parks to grassy ones is "the first step." With new developer fees, he said, the city might be able to provide additional recreation programs, more adult supervision of children and more lighting for nighttime activities.
In Long Beach, all new projects already are subject to a developer's fee by the school district. Developers are charged $1.50 per square foot for residential projects and 25 cents for non-residential projects, according to Eugene Zeller, the city's superintendent of building and safety.