LONG BEACH — Concerned pet owners packed City Hall for a council meeting Monday evening in Long Beach. Less than 30 minutes later, Long Beach resident Keleigh Schwartz was hugging her two great Danes, relieved and reassured that sweeping restrictions regarding pets on public lands wouldn’t be imposed.
“The response by the community and the council was outstanding,” Schwartz said.
City Administrator David Glasson was seeking to “clean up the language” and update an outdated ordinance, but he accidentally deleted a word that raised concerns for dog owners across the county.
“Most of you are probably here because I typed some stuff on a computer,” said Glasson, addressing a near-capacity crowd of nearly 20 people Monday evening.
“Where you walk your dog now, you can walk your dog again,” he reassured.
Many in attendance came for clarification regarding proposed changes to Ordinance 965, which focuses on rules and restrictions on dogs within city limits.
The focus was on Stanley Field, at 707 Washington Ave. in Long Beach. The city had last updated the dog ordinance in 2015, before improvements to the field, used largely by local youth for baseball in the spring and soccer in the fall, according to city officials. Concerns arose over dog feces left on the field. The council decided to allow dogs in the grassy area where cars park, but not the actual playing field. The existing ordinance allowed for an area that doesn’t exist at Stanley Field currently and the new code removed reference to that provision, city officials said.
“What’s changed with Stanley Field since the time that ordinance was created is there was a parking area outside the field,” Glasson explained. “Since that time, we’ve fenced the whole thing, put parking outside and paved it. There is no grass area outside the playfield area.”
Schwartz exchanged e-mails with Glasson and suggested updating the ordinance to reflect the changes.
“It sounded like a good idea and I set it off for June,” Glasson said.
But when Glasson updated the ordinance, he made an mistake.
“When I made the change, I took out a word — I think ‘except’ was the word — just trying to clean up the language,” Glasson said. “What it did was make it sound like you can’t have a dog anywhere and that’s the farthest thing from the truth. We really wanted to keep it status quo, where you walk your dog now you can walk your dog again. That was the point, just to clean up the language, not to ban dogs anywhere.”
The error, which would have been voted upon by city council had it not been caught, generated a fast and wide response that culminated at city hall.
“We’ve had calls from as far away as Centralia and Chehalis asking about us banning dogs,” Glasson said.
Other changes to the wording of the ordinance were also necessary.
“We took ‘beach’ out and ‘waterfront’ because the city of Long Beach really doesn’t go to the waterfront,” Glasson said. “You still have to follow the rules of the county and state parks for that. It’s really status quo for the most part.”
Council member Holli Kemmer motioned to table the amendments to the ordinance and asked for a workshop for further clarification.
“It was hard to figure out what the amendments were,” Kemmer said.
“And I still have some notes and concerns that need to be addressed as far as verbiage,” she said.
City council member Tina McGuire seconded the motion to table the amendment until after a workshop. City council member Del Murray opposed the motion.
Plastic bag battle
During the public comment period, Martha Williams proposed using a portion of lodging tax money for advertising Long Beach on reuseable bags. The bags could be used for shopping in place of plastic bags and would be distributed to guests at different hotels and lodging along the Peninsula, Williams explained.
“A lot of guests forget to bring their bags that they readily use in their own hometown,” she said. “It would be a win-win situation.”
Williams said the reusable bag idea was welcomed by each of the 13 lodges she approached.
“Not one lodging establishment said ‘no,’” Williams said. “They all said that they would love to have some of the lodging dollars used for that purpose.”
Williams conceded that the measure couldn’t be acted upon during a public comment period and implored Long Beach Mayor Jerry Phillips for a time frame when it could possibly be discussed.
“This is a good time to do this — it’s summer,” Williams said.
“I understand that, but we also have other things on the books already,” Phillips said. “We will get to it as quickly as we can. We will look at our schedule and notify you.”