It may soon be a crime to be at a playground without having a child with you if the Long Beach City Council chooses to move ahead with a new law they’ll be considering at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The ordinance would require an adult to be supervising a child under the age of 12 to be legally present on a playground in the city. That could include a parent, babysitter or other designated person who has responsibility over the child, according to the text of the proposed ordinance.
A “playground” would be any park area designated by the city’s Parks, Recreation and Marine Department director as a “kids zone,” which would be marked with corresponding signage. The ordinance would exclude areas like park benches, fields, restrooms and other non-playground spaces from being designated as kid zones.
City Attorney Charlie Parkin said Thursday that if the ordinance is adopted it would require a police officer or potentially a park ranger to issue a citation for anyone violating the new law and it would ultimately be up to the City Prosecutor to determine what kind of charges to file if any.
Other prohibited activities already part of the city’s municipal code carry fines of $100 or $200 for first and second offenses with a third offense potentially leading to a misdemeanor charge being filed.
The council requested the kid zone ordinance in September, with several members saying that vandalism and loitering by people experiencing homelessness or doing drugs were limiting residents’ ability to safely enjoy city playgrounds.
A number of the city’s new park playgrounds have been damaged recently, including the Junipero Beach playground and the new Lincoln Park in Downtown, which sustained damage within days of opening earlier this year.
Admiral Kidd Park in West Long Beach also had its playground equipment destroyed by a fire in July. A nonprofit group announced this month that it had successfully raised enough funds to order new replacement equipment for the park.
Similar kid zone laws have been adopted in other cities in the country, but an attempt by a Los Angeles City Council member in 2016 was met with resistance from the ACLU Southern California, which called the proposal misdirected and an infringement on the public’s basic right to access open space. Los Angeles did not adopt the ordinance.
The Long Beach City Council is scheduled to meet and discuss the topic on May 3 at 5 p.m.