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Long Beach is rebuilding after ‘a very hard year,’ mayor says in annual address on development

The city has roughly $386 million worth of projects either recently completed or in the pipeline, and has plans to invest in residents and the local economy with a windfall of new money in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor said Wednesday in an annual speech about development in the city.

“This has been a very hard year,” he said. “We have faced an enormous challenge as it relates to the pandemic and we have faced enormous challenges as it relates to the economy.”

The city expects to receive more than $200 million, mostly from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this month. The money will be used to shore up the city’s budget and emergency reserve funds, help renters, provide businesses with grants and promote economic inclusion in the city, among other causes.

The average unemployment rate in 2020 was 13.8%, with a nearly 21% peak in June. That rate is only half a percent less than peak Great Recession unemployment—14.3% in July 2010—and nowhere near the historic low of 4% in May 2019.

“We’re reinvesting in small businesses, we’re doubling-down on supporting workers, we’re investing in health and we’re focusing on what builds our city even stronger—development projects, public safety, ensuring that the city is clean and looking great,” Garcia said Wednesday

The mayor gave a rundown of development throughout the city as part of his annual Building a Better Long Beach address, an event sponsored by the Long Beach Business Journal.

Garcia detailed $386 million worth of projects ranging from recently completed to under review citywide. From North Long Beach to Downtown, the Westside to the East, there are around 75 developments at various stages across the city, including residential, hotels, retail, office, industrial and green space.

In all, about 5,300 residential units are at various stages of development across the city, including about 1,800 classified as affordable. These developments include single-family housing, condominiums, apartments, student dorms, senior housing and support housing for low-income residents and those experiencing homelessness.

“I remember being at these groundbreakings of all these projects when they were just huge lots of dirt,” Garcia said of recently completed affordable housing projects. “And now they are just these amazing places that are bringing in lower-income families, families that are struggling, families that have always been a part of our community that deserve quality places to live.”

Since becoming mayor, Garcia said more than 8,200 residential units have been constructed or are in the pipeline, just shy of his 10,000 goal. He noted that some unannounced projects will push that number beyond 11,000 units.

One highlight of the presentation is the work the city is doing with Project Homekey, a state program that converts hotels and motels to support housing for people experiencing homelessness. Thus far, three Long Beach facilities have been converted, creating nearly 300 units.

“People who are experiencing homelessness deserve our support and deserve a roof over their head, not to be on the sidewalk or in a tent,” Garcia said.

On the commercial side, about two million square feet of space is newly completed, under construction or approved, including retail and restaurant space, industrial, office and hotels. The hotel projects include more than 800 rooms and tens of thousands of square feet of meeting and event space.

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