The entrance to Coolidge Park’s dog park in North Long Beach. Bixby Park will soon have its own dog park for Second District pets. Photo: Sarah Bennett
Bixby Park is set to receive renovations aimed at activating unused space and increasing safety as a pair of Long Beach City Council members have combined resources to fund some of the upgrades.
Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce and Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price will share the improvement costs that will come with the installation of a dog park at the corner of Broadway and Cherry Avenue. The two districts are split on the east side of the park with Junipero Avenue serving as the border.
Pearce said the decision to place the park at that half of the block rather than the Junipero side came after some restaurant and business owners said they would not favor a dog park that close to their establishments. The park is expected to cost about $100,000, but Pearce hopes that it could come in under budget due to some gym equipment not having to be removed.
In a statement, Price said that she was happy to match the costs of the dog park with Pearce as it will benefit her constituents due to their proximity and utilization of Bixby Park. She said it’s something that her staff had looked into previously and that an addition of a dog park would provide benefits even for those without furry friends.
“Not only is a dog park a great asset that dog owners in the community will benefit from, activating parks helps reduce crime greatly and creates a sense of community that brings people together,” Price said.
The dog park comes after a large outreach effort by Pearce which included meetings with neighborhood groups and a community meeting last month that helped determine the placement of the park. About 140 residents attended the meeting with nearly 60 percent voting to place the park on the Cherry side of Bixby Park, according to Pearce.
Bixby Park, which is broken up into four parcels with parcel four overlooking the bluff south of Ocean Boulevard and parcel one bordering Broadway to the north, is one of the largest swaths of green space in the district. Pearce’s plan will use half of parcel one to install a dog park with split play areas for large and small breeds. She said an effort to have the city’s mobile pet adoption unit at the park on a quarterly basis to provide adoption and educational opportunities will be included in the project. The dog park is expected to break ground and be completed within 90 days.
She said the dog park will not only activate a part of Bixby that has gone largely unused, but the added foot traffic will also help to reduce crime at park.
“When I first got into office was also around the time that it seemed like everyone was saying there was an uptick in crime at Bixby Park, not only on parcel one but on parcel two as well,” Pearce said. “It was also the same time that Lincoln Park closed down, the cleanups were finding a lot more paraphernalia in the park, and so knowing in the master plan there was already a dog park vision, we took the angle of making sure that the full park was activated which means there are more people with eyes on the park.”
With the addition of the park, the Second District will regain valuable space for pets that was lost with the renovation of the civic center, which closed the space located at Lincoln Park—one that Pearce said is expected to come back after the project’s completion. The district’s only other dog park is the Seaside Way Dog Zone located behind the Aqua Towers condos.
To further reduce crime, Pearce also plans to relocate her district field office to Bixby Park as well. After what her office characterized as “higher than average” amounts of calls for service and complaints from residents and business owners, the councilwoman moved to act on improving the park.
Her predecessor, Suja Lowenthal, was forced to close her council field office due to budget cuts and chose to locate her staff at city hall since it was included in her district’s boundaries. Pearce will relocate her staff to the community center at Bixby with hopes of eventually installing a field office made out of shipping containers if funds are secured to do so.
Having staff on site will also work toward her goals of reducing crime and unwanted activity Pearce said, but it will also provide an opportunity for the community to better interact with her and her staff.
“Going to city hall is intimidating and far and there’s zero parking right now so having a field office makes a lot of sense for District 2,” Pearce said. “Having my staff be there I think will have a positive impact. We’re going to have someone from the city that will be able not just to call PD [police department] but is going to be able to build relationships with those that come to the park. I think that’s really important.”
That effort includes reaching out to the Long Beach Police Department and the Department of Public Works to increase patrols by the LBPD’s Quality of Life officers to engage with the park’s homeless population as well as improving lighting at Bixby Park.
Pearce said those improvements will include better lighting at the dog park, ones that will match the historic lights that a community group installed in past years, as well as additional lighting around the restrooms and community center.
The installation of Pearce’s new district field office is expected to be completed by next month.
[Editors note: A previous version of this article stated that former Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal did not have a field office outside of city hall. The story has been changed to reflect that she had a field office on Retro Row, one that was closed due to budget cuts.]