Environmentalists, city clash over boardwalk

Officials: project doesn’t violate ordinance


An environmental advocacy group is claiming that the City of Long Beach is violating one of its own ordinances by using tropical hardwood to construct the new boardwalk.

A city ordinance adopted in 2001 prohibits the city from purchasing tropical hardwood unless it is “sustainably harvested.” At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the group, Rainforest Relief, claimed that that was virtually impossible and threatened legal action to halt construction if the city does not agree to switch to a different material.

City officials dismissed the allegation, saying that the wood it is using for the $44 million project fits the sustainability guidelines of the ordinance. Additionally, they said that the law is not binding, and can be changed at the City Council’s recommendation.

“I wrote that law — there’s nothing this city has done in violation of that law,” said Corey Klein, the city’s corporation counsel. “In 2001, this piece was put in as, in essence, a fluff piece, and it really has no teeth in it. It has no legal merit on the city whatsoever.”

Rainforest Relief Director Tim Keating recalled that in 1998, former Long Beach City Manager Ed Eaton approached his organization to help research whether or not to use tropical hardwood for a small city project. Keating submitted a 13-page rebuttal of the wood supplier’s claims, he said, and Eaton sided with Keating and Rainforest Relief.

Keating said that the ordinance Long Beach passed in 2001 all but banned the use of tropical wood in city projects. “I’ve always considered Long Beach a major victory,” he said. “It’s just shocking to me that they’re doing this.”

Section 18-47 of the city’s Code of Ordinances regulates boardwalk construction, and states, “the city will not purchase products containing, in whole or part, wood from tropical or temperate rainforests, excepting those woods which are proven to have been harvested in an environmentally sound manner.”

“I don’t know if that’s what they’re hanging their hat on, the caveat that it’s being done in an environmentally sound manner,” Keating said. “But I can tell you that, if it’s ipê, there’s no way.”

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