Photograph at the construction site of a new Starbuck’s at the Traffic Circle by the Business Journal’s Brandon Richardson
LBBJ: Do you feel business owners in your council district are happy with the direction the city is going?
Supernaw: Yes. We get a lot of positive feedback from existing retailers and also the new ones. We endeavor as a council office to be as pro-business as we possibly can be. And they let us know how appreciated that is.
LBBJ: In your more than three years on the city council, how have you worked to build relationships with businesses in your district?
Supernaw: My background is unique in that I am a 30-year business consultant. This is something that comes naturally to me. I have a pretty good handle on what their [businesses’] level of expectation is. . . . The business owners have a very strong comfort level with contacting me on issues. The other advantage that I have is being born and raised here, so I know the history of the area. Folks are always surprised to know about the [history of] property they’ve invested in. For instance, the traffic circle was built for the 1932 Olympics in which Long Beach hosted the rowing events at Marine Stadium. We also show them the history of other retailers on their spot. That’s always of great interest.
Your councilmember is very much involved, on the scene and ready to assist in any issues that come up. We offer ribbon cuttings. It doesn’t have to be a brand new business; it can be for a remodel or a reopening. We are very active in that. We carry our own giant scissors and ribbon in the trunk all the time. That seems to be appreciated. Also, I should probably mention my weekly e-newsletter. We’re always trying to promote new businesses or make the residents aware of what’s going on from a retail perspective.
The 4th District is very unique in that it goes from the [El Dorado] Nature Center to Cambodia Town. It is very wide, very diverse. You have the Los Altos Shopping Center built in the mid-50s, and the Los Altos retail area. Then you have the [traffic] circle area. That’s where all the activity is going on right now. We are regaining momentum with the business association there. This will be a very active business association for the circle area. We decided with all this investment here that we needed to get organized a little bit, so we formed a business organization that retailers here, property management, investors can all be a part of.
The other piece with the circle is Community Hospital, which is a big part of my life right now. It has been since the end of October 2017. That [situation] evolves weekly if not daily. [There are] very positive results there, so that is something I was very proud of that we were able to, so far, save the ER.
We also have two business improvement districts (BIDs) in the 4th District. We have pretty much all of Zaferia, which used to be known as the East Anaheim Street Business Association. . . . The Midtown BID starts up at Raymond Avenue and goes to the end of our district. The 4th District goes one block west of Cherry, which is Gardenia [Avenue]. That would be part of the Midtown BID.
LBBJ: What are businesses in your district telling you are their biggest challenges?
Supernaw: It’s a diverse group of businesses. The challenges would be the day-to-day homeless issues and that type of thing. I am very proud of the fact that we’re really on top of graffiti abatement [and] dumped items pickup. It is a challenge, but we do address it immediately. That’s one thing.
Any time you deal with the city and the planning department – these are processes, inspections and whatnot – at the end of the day it’s a big city with a huge volume of inspections and processes. Just dealing with those rules and regulations, that’s where a council office can really come in handy to explain, ‘Yeah, this is normal, this is what you have to do.’ For instance, just explaining that the council office doesn’t influence the planning commission, but that you have to go through that process and, ultimately, it will come to council for approval. We try to iron all that out.
LBBJ: As the elected representative for the businesses in your council district, what steps have you taken to make Long Beach business friendly?
Supernaw: Promoting businesses 24/7 is a huge part of it. Whenever we find a retailer who is doing things for their employees, such as scholarship funds, we always promote that and make a point to tell everyone how important this is. That just sets the tone of how much we appreciate the private sector investing in our district and everything they provide, from all the conveniences for all the residents and jobs and everything else.
I have to say, I am so grateful that my council colleagues support me. The Community Hospital [situation] is a huge piece. I am just so appreciative that all my council colleagues saw the need [to find a new hospital operator and conduct studies of the site] and supported me on that. . . . We stepped up to hire an architectural firm out of our council [office] savings. I try to set the tone that way, putting my money where my mouth is. We’re fortunate to be able to have that savings in our operating budget. We run a very lean [operation]. . . . I knew the challenges at Community Hospital on day one. I realized I might need some funding. And, right off the bat, we scaled back and tried to run our office efficiently and banked some money that way.
LBBJ: What sorts of businesses do you feel your district has a need for? Do you have a plan to attract such businesses?
Supernaw: The private sector does a pretty good job of research, and the investment dollars seem to be there. The circle area traditionally was service sector, with restaurants and whatnot. That went away for a little while and now it is coming back very strong. . . . The fact that there are so many drive-throughs is so unique. We had heard this is a bicycle-friendly city. Well, evidently the private sector didn’t get the memo, because all these establishments are drive-throughs, and they are packed all the time. It’s not that we’re going out and attracting these [businesses]; it’s just that the free market is bringing them in. We want to support these businesses that come in. Also, banking is a real big one. We have that both in Los Altos and the circle area now. I am fortunate enough to have two branches of F&M Bank in my district, on the Anaheim corridor and in Los Altos. They do a great job. It just kind of sets the tone that this is a viable banking area.
LBBJ: Are there any other businesses or services closer to Cambodia Town that you think would be needed?
Supernaw: I don’t mean to focus on the circle area. It’s just so astounding what’s going on here right now, and it’s dead center in our district. But the Anaheim corridor, we put a lot of energy into that. It’s evolving. If a business closes, then there is someone right there to expand into that spot, so you don’t have empty storefronts. All the way down to the edge of my district we have a brand-new Jack In The Box that went in. We’ll do a ribbon cutting for them. That is on Anaheim one block east of Cherry. Here is a guy who owns multiple Jack in the Box restaurants and other brands too. . . . He is so pleased with it that he wants to do more investments in Long Beach. That’s not district specific. I am very proud of that.
LBBJ: Is there anything you would like to add?
Supernaw: The United Cambodian Community, UCC, is in the 4th District, and we work with them as well.