Bixby Heights residents protest park name change, seek enhanced security

Seventh District Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga met with Bixby Heights residents at Somerset Park last week to discuss the park’s name change and security issues.

Staff Writer

Dozens of residents from Long Beach’s Bixby Heights area showed up at Somerset Park last Thursday (August 20) to tell 7th District City Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga that they do not want the park to be renamed Chrissy Strong-Marshall Park. They also asked her and Billy Quach, commander of the Long Beach Police Department’s (LBPD) North Division, to increase security measures in the park, which was the site of a non-fatal shooting on July 12.
Chrissy Strong-Marshall was a longtime employee of the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine. She once worked as a recreation supervisor at Somerset Park but later in her career was involved in initiating and maintaining many youth recreation programs throughout the city. She continued in that capacity in spite of her years-long battle with cancer. When she died a few months ago, her friends and supporters began the effort to rename the park in her memory.
On August 4, by a vote of 8–1, the Long Beach City Council had approved the park’s name change, but Eighth District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich had been the lone dissenter.
Gabelich was at the meeting in Somerset Park. She didn’t speak much but said it was important to get input from residents.
Most of the people who spoke at the gathering said they objected to the name change because the park had been called “Somerset” since it was created more than 50 years ago and it was an important part of the neighborhood’s identity.
Many residents also said that ever since the shooting, they have had a sense of fear when walking through or by the park. Trying to reassure them about the park’s safety, Quach noted that the July 12 shooting was an aberration; he knew of no other shootings in the park and, prior to that incident, it had been several years since any major crimes had been committed there. “Compared to other parts of Long Beach, you have a very safe neighborhood,” he said, adding that if residents see anything suspicious they should immediately call the police.
Several speakers asked Quach and Reyes-Uranga why the city would not install cameras in Somerset Park. Quach said the city simply could not afford to install and monitor cameras in its current budget crisis.
Reyes-Uranga added that the cameras installed on Pine Avenue in the downtown area cost $400,000 to purchase and install and $200,000 per year to monitor even though they are only monitored on weekends. She also noted that those cameras were paid for by the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency because Pine Avenue is within a redevelopment project area. “This park is not in a redevelopment project area so we could not get funds for cameras from the agency,” she said.
Quach stressed that most crimes have decreased in the North Division boundaries with the exception of automobile and residential burglaries. He urged residents to keep the doors and windows of their homes locked, to keep car doors locked with windows rolled up and to never leave valuables in their cars.
Another meeting to discuss the park name change and security issues has been scheduled for 6pm on September 17 at the Miller Family Health Education Center, 3820 Cherry Ave.

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