LB City Council adopts ordinance allowing for permanent e-scooter program

Council also discusses ordinance to shorten council meetings.

At its May 14 meeting, the Long Beach City Council adopted an ordinance allowing for the permanent use of e-scooters and discussed staff’s recommendations on how to shorten council meetings.
The following are some highlights of Tuesday’s meeting.

The council unanimously adopted an ordinance allowing for the permanent use of e-scooters, now that a pilot program has reached its conclusion.

Before the council voted, Craig Beck, director of Public Works, explained the regulations of the new ordinance, including that there will be five operators with about 1,000 scooters deployed throughout the city.

“The data has shown that it’s been, overall, a successful program, with about 60 rides per month,” Beck said.

The new ordinance will limit permits to only six vendors for, initially, 4,000 units, but that number will increase to 6,000 if all guidelines are followed, Beck said.

Additionally, riders must be at least 18 years old, and they are not allowed to ride the scooters on sidewalks.

“Vendors will be required to provide anonymous data to the City, to our third-party vendor,” Beck said. “We want to be able to track where scooters are being used, how they’re being deployed, making sure that they are appropriately following the requirements and the limits to align with the permit that they’re issued.”

Beck also said vendors must engage in “geo-fencing,” the restriction of rider access in certain areas. Vendors will also be required to offer incentives for riders to return scooters to designated drop zones.

Beck said the next steps will require all vendors to apply– or reapply– under the new, permanent guidelines and rules and that the City will be reviewing current vendors for past compliance.

The council also voted 8-1 to conclude a hearing and place a moratorium on the issuance of building permits, conditional-use permits and other entitlements for new drive-through lanes throughout the city.

The item has been laid over to the council’s next regular meeting for final reading.

In response to an agenda item authored by 4th District Councilmember Daryl Supernaw, the council heard a report from staff members on how the city council meetings can be streamlined and shortened.

Reading from an Oct. 19, 2018, statement he had written for his district’s newsletter, Supernaw said one third of the meetings that year had lasted more than six and a half hours and that it was unfair for the public to be expected to wait through the proceedings to be able to speak on important issues.

“I just want to re-emphasize that that has always been the intention of this item– to give the public greater access to these meetings and have their voices heard and try to curtail the long waits they have,” Supernaw said.

Management assistant Estefania Zavala, who had helped with research on the issue, said the City conducted a survey last November, asking residents six questions– one about streamlining meetings and five related to demographics.

She said there were 218 responses to the survey and that the common suggestions were to: limit public comments during high-attendance meetings; limit councilmember discussion; limit repetition of praise and recommendations by councilmembers; adhere to the agenda order; establish time limits for agenda items; limit presentations and ceremonies at the start of meetings; and publish agendas and estimated times for each item at least a week in advance.

“The city clerk’s office also reviewed all city council meetings in 2018,” Zavala said. “Out of 35 total meetings, 12 meetings lasted over five hours. For each of these meetings that went over five hours, they found that public comment took less time than council or staff time.”

Zavala said that, in addition to the survey, staff reached out to the 10 largest cities in the state to determine best practices for council meetings, and the city clerk’s office contacted other Southern California cities to see if they had undertaken any streamlining efforts for their meetings.

Based on those efforts, the staff’s presentation included 10 recommendations for immediate implementation, three recommendations for future implementation and five options considered but not recommended.

Assistant City Manager Tom Modica then presented the staff recommendations for immediate implementation, which include: reducing the amount of time devoted to technical questions or general clarification by having councilmembers reach out to staff prior to the meetings; setting times and time limits for ceremonies and presentations; continuing to reduce speaker times for public comment when there are more than 10 speakers on an item; further expanding the use of the consent calendar to include items such as grant applications, contracts and receive-and-file reports; adopting the consent calendar prior to 6:30pm; adhering to posted agenda order and more use of time-certain items; calling for a “point of order” after discussion has continued longer than 30 minutes; increasing use of city council committees to hear public comment; refocusing use of supplemental agenda for items of urgency only; and continuing closed sessions at the end of city council meetings, if required.

Recommendations for future implementation include: conducting a refresher on the Robert’s Rule of Order– a standard set of rules aimed at running orderly meetings with maximum fairness to all members– or explore other council meeting rules; identifying innovative use of technology in the new civic center; and using an electronic board to announce agenda order.

After Modica’s presentation, Supernaw asked City Attorney Charles Parkin for confirmation on the fact that the council already follows Robert’s Rule. Parkin replied that that is indeed the case, unless it interferes with the Brown Act, which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative entities.

Although the majority of the council agreed with most of the recommendations, there was disagreement on some portions of them, particularly concerning time limits.

Third District Councilmember Suzie Price stressed that debates should not be rushed and that it is infeasible to put five-minute time limits on councilmembers because they need to be able to ask questions and then hear adequate responses from staff members in order to make well informed decisions for their constituents.

“I think these are all great guidelines. I think we can definitely try to stick to the five minutes and really try to respect that spirit,” Price said. “And I think it was Councilmember Richardson who said we can monitor each other in the spirit of what we’re trying to do. But there’s no way in hell anyone’s going to limit what I have to say and how I have to say it. Not going to happen.”

The council asked staff to further develop the ordinance with their comments in mind and return with a second reading. The council then voted 9-0 to receive and file the recommendations.

The next Long Beach City Council meeting will be at 5pm on Tuesday, May 21, in council chamber, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.