The Downtown Long Beach Alliance recently released results from its fifth public safety survey, which showed a declining perception of safety in Downtown.
While the survey’s results indicated the challenges Downtown is currently facing, Downtown Long Beach Alliance Chief Operating Officer Broc Coward said key findings also included 83% awareness of the organization’s Clean and Safe Team services—an all-time high.
In fact, awareness of all of the DLBA’s services has risen since 2019, with entrepreneurial grants and homeless services both rising nearly 20 percentage points to 54% and 65%, respectively.
The survey, however, demonstrated a decline in the perception of the cleanliness of sidewalks and public space as well as safety Downtown.
Only 32% of survey respondents felt the cleanliness of sidewalks and public space had improved over the past year, a decline from 40% in 2021, and 62% in 2019. (A public safety survey was not conducted in 2020 due to COVID-19.)
Notably, survey respondents who felt “completely comfortable” in Downtown between 7 a.m and 2 p.m. also dropped to 40% of respondents, decreasing 22 points since 2019.
However, combining respondents who felt both “completely comfortable” and “fairly comfortable” accounted for 79% of respondents, and 70% of those surveyed said they were likely to recommend visiting Downtown to a friend or colleague.
“Across the board, we saw challenges of how people felt safe in Downtown,” Coward said.
Specifically, respondents expressed safety concerns in public transit areas, parking structures, sidewalks and alleys, among other areas, Coward said.
“That’s a challenge we take seriously that we look at, that people aren’t feeling as safe as they should,” Coward said. “We hope our partners also feel the same way about that and they’re looking at this more closely, the city, Police Department, Health and Human Services are also looking at those issues.”
The survey is aimed at assessing awareness of local services, gauging how the public feels about issues facing Downtown, and evaluating how to potentially allocate resources.
Results are shared with the city and community partners as well as the public, with hopes of seeing a response, Coward said.
The survey was sent to around 13,000 people, 840 of whom participated. About half of the survey’s respondents live or work in Downtown. Previous surveys have generally received over 1,000 responses, and the DLBA extended this year’s survey time frame in order to gather more responses, Coward said.
Open comments elaborated on the general frustration with homelessness and the perceived lack of action from local and state agencies, and many commented on increases in theft, property damage and erratic behavior due to mental illness or substance use, according to a DLBA statement.
Commenters expressed concerns about people who are unhoused and experiencing mental health issues, Coward said.
While homelessness has increased by 62% in Long Beach since 2020, according to city data, Coward noted that awareness of people experiencing homelessness has heightened in every city, considering the reduction of office workers and visitors in downtown areas since the pandemic.
The DLBA’s ability to provide cleanliness, safety and homeless outreach services is largely determined by the Downtown Property Based Improvement District Plan, which is renewed every 10 years, Coward said.
“A lot of people would love to see us in alleys and cleaning alleys, but that’s not in our management plan,” Coward said.
The district was established by Downtown property owners in 1998 and has been managed by the Downtown Long Beach Alliance since. The district serves as a tool for both commercial and residential property owners to fund services and activities beyond what the city provides.
A new iteration of the plan was approved this year and will go into effect on Jan. 1, allowing the organization to expand its services to meet the concerns and needs cited by residents, Coward said.
The expansion includes introducing a management-level position for homeless outreach, which will help coordinate services from other organizations and agencies and collect more data about people who are unhoused, including assessing needs that could be communicated to the city and local nonprofits, Coward said.
The plan also includes an increased budget for safety and will add more safety ambassadors to the team, particularly in the waterfront restaurant area along Shoreline Drive and around the aquarium. It will also address additional cleanliness needs, such as tree trimming and caring for planters in Downtown, Coward said.
The boundaries of the district will extend farther up Pacific Avenue and will now include the Promenade from Ocean Boulevard to Shoreline Drive, as well as the east side of Pine Avenue in front of the Convention Center.
Leanna Noble, a resident of Downtown and member of the North Pine Neighborhood Alliance, is hopeful about the city’s initiatives to increase the care teams and homeless outreach efforts.
“These are situations that need to be de-escalated with very local kinds of support services that are easy for people to connect to,” Noble said. “I think the more community we create, the better able we’re going to be to accept the reality that these homeless folks are our neighbors, we’ve got people that have been here as long as we have.”
“It’s really figuring out public safety from a different perspective,” she said.
With the renewal of the district, the DLBA is in a good position to address residents’ concerns and will continue to advocate to community partners, Coward said.
“We’re hopeful that the partners we’ve shared this info with, that they take it as seriously as we do, and they also build on the success that we can find in the survey—people are aware of services, people can access services,” Coward said. “Hopefully the survey provides … another point of information for all of us to reflect on what our resources are, what our services are and how those services can be modified or expanded to address some of those issues.”