With 2017 drawing to a close, there are a number of unresolved or unfinished matters that will impact the City of Long Beach in the future. The Business Journal has compiled a list of updates for several of these issues, including: efforts to put rent control on November’s ballot, the Land Use Element, the port’s proposed Pier B railyard project, the future of Community Medical Center, the East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study, recreational marijuana, a police body camera pilot program, an impending Styrofoam ban and the replacement of the Belmont Plaza Pool.
Rent Control Ballot Initiative
An effort by Housing Long Beach (HLB), a local nonprofit dedicated to supporting affordable housing and renters, to place rent control on the November ballot was still stalled as of December 1. The organization’s executive director, Josh Butler, had originally submitted an intent to circulate a petition for a rent control ballot measure to the city clerk on November 8, but soon after he was informed that the paperwork was incomplete.
Butler must complete and attach language for a proposed rent control ordinance to the city clerk in order for the petition to be forwarded to the city attorney, who then has 14 days to review the language of submitted documents, according to Butler. City Attorney Charles Parkin previously informed the Business Journal that a minimum of 27,000 signatures, or 10% of all registered Long Beach voters, would be necessary for the proposal to make it onto the ballot.
Butler hopes to resubmit the paperwork this week, he told the Business Journal. He has been working with Eviction Defense Network, a Los Angeles law firm that provides HLB with legal clinics, to craft the ordinance language.
“This is a new process for us. We are not electioneers,” Butler said. “I am sure there are going to be a lot of surprises along the way for us, but they think that this is a worthwhile cause, and it’s a fight that we need to win.”
HLB is partnering with Long Beach Gray Panthers, Latinos in Action California and other groups to drum up volunteer support. HLB has not asked any elected officials for support of the initiative and has no plans to, Butler said.
Land Use Element
The proposed Land Use Element, the city’s outline for its goals and policies regarding future development, is scheduled to be presented to the Long Beach Planning Commission during its December 11 meeting. The maps were revised earlier this month due to controversy regarding building heights. If the commission approves the revised plan and maps, the issue would next go to the city council for discussion and approval. No date has been set before the council.
Pier B Railyard Project
Port of Long Beach Interim Deputy Executive Director Duane Kenagy told the Business Journal that he expects the final environmental impact report (EIR) for a Pier B railyard expansion project to go to the board of harbor commissioners for a vote sometime in January. The draft EIR for the project was released in December of last year. The document included numerous options to expand rail infrastructure at Pier B. Staff’s recommendation was to choose the largest project scope, which would build out rail as far north as 12th Street in Westside Long Beach. The project would also eliminate ramps to the Shoemaker Bridge, which connects the Westside to Downtown Long Beach. Earlier this year, the Business Journal interviewed several Westside business owners and executives who were concerned about the project putting them out of business, as well as potential health risks to employees. Port executives see the project as a way to boost efficiency and take trucks off the road, which they believe could improve air quality.
Hotels Respond To Council Safety Resolution
The Long Beach Hospitality Alliance has taken further measures to ensure the protection of employees in area hotels after the city council passed a resolution supporting the safety of hospitality workers in October. The hospitality alliance is a nonprofit trade organization representing the local hotel and restaurant industry and operating under the auspices of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
In the past month, the alliance formed a safety steering committee and met with Robert Luna, the city’s chief of police. The organization is also working with the Women’s Shelter of Long Beach to determine which educational programs can provide hotel employees with updated safety training. Pam Ryan, Alliance chair and founding member, outlined the recent efforts of the alliance in an e-mail to the Business Journal.
“The alliance always has placed a priority on safety in our workplaces. As the city and others recently added their focus on this issue, the alliance decided to deepen our engagement,” Ryan, who is also the general manager of the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, stated.
Ryan emphasized that the alliance was already collaborating with nonprofit organizations and city officials to educate staff about issues such as human trafficking, sexual harassment, CPR training and workplace violence.
Police Body Cameras
A year-long pilot program in which 40 patrol officers and supervisors in the Long Beach Police Department’s West Patrol Division were equipped with body cameras concluded last month. According to a department public information officer, the results of the program are under review with details anticipated to be presented to the city council in early 2018. No information on the program will be released prior to the council presentation, at which point future use will be determined. Of the 10 comparable departments used during Long Beach police salary discussions, six require officers to wear body cameras, including Anaheim, Huntington Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Santa Ana police departments and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
The Long Beach City Council is expected to vote on an emergency ordinance placing a temporary ban on recreational marijuana business licenses prior to January 1 as part of its November 14 decision to allow licenses in the city. The ordinance legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana is expected to be brought to council by June 2018. The emergency ordinance is a measure to avoid legal action against the city, as recreational marijuana becomes legal in the State of California as of January 1, with individual city’s having the option to legalize it or not. Vice Mayor Rex Richardson requested language to be included related to jobs, labor peace and equity. City staff’s recommendations include maintaining a maximum of 32 dispensaries, approved as part of Measure MM by Long Beach voters in November 2016.
Though the $103 million Belmont pool complex proposal was approved by the Long Beach Planning Commission in March and four appeals against the project were denied by the city council in May, the project still requires the approval of the California Coastal Commission. According to a commission spokesperson, the City of Long Beach is expected to submit the proposal to the commission for their consideration sometime in 2018. The project includes two Olympic-sized pools, a diving well, recreational and therapy pools and two spas.
The controversial ordinance banning the use certain plastics in Long Beach, including expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam), approved by the city council is currently being drafted by city staff, including the Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau (ESB). According to the ESB, there is no update on the ordinance, as it is not to be presented to the city council until sometime in 2018. The ban is to be implemented in phases, with city-owned properties and restaurants with 101 or more seats having to comply within nine months of the ordinance’s passage, and smaller restaurants complying within 18 months. The council requested additional study on the impacts of similar bans on small businesses, which could alter the ordinance and its timeline.
Uncertain Future For Community Medical Center Long Beach
MemorialCare Health Center announced in November that Community Medical Center Long Beach, a hospital it operates near the traffic circle, will no longer be able to provide acute care services by June 2019 due to noncompliance with state seismic codes. The hospital sits on a larger, more active fault than previously thought, and hospital executives do not believe continued medical operations at the facility would be feasible, from a business perspective, without acute care services.
City staff provided an update on the issue to the Long Beach City Council on November 14. The city owns the property and leases it to MemorialCare at a rental rate of $1 per year. A PowerPoint presentation outlined impacts to the city, including longer transport times for emergent patients by emergency personnel.
Staff outlined a plan to conduct a peer review of the study MemorialCare commissioned, community outreach and a city council study session on the future of the site by May 2018. Staff recommended that a request for proposals for future use and leasing of the site be issued in June, with a tentative council vote slated for October 2018.
On November 21, City Manager Pat West sent a memo to the mayor and city council detailing the progress of the East San Pedro Bay Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study. Commonly known as the “breakwater study,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been working to identify ways to reconfigure the breakwater to improve the ecosystem of the bay. Four potential options have been identified, and cost estimates have been completed, according to the memo. Various steps, including modeling to evaluate effects on habitats, and conducting cost effectiveness and cost analysis plans, must still be undertaken. A draft feasibility report of each potential model must also be completed before a preferred plan is selected. This process was extended from September 2017 to May 2018. Federal funding of $275,000 was secured for the continuation of the study process, with $194,00 budgeted for fiscal year 2018.
2nd & PCH
The site of the former SeaPort Marina Hotel is all but unrecognizable as demolition crews remove the last remnants of debris from the hotel. The prominent corner in southeast Long Beach is set to become the site of a 245,000-square-foot retail center named 2nd & PCH after the intersection at which it is located. CenterCal Properties LLC, which is developing the project, expects a formal groundbreaking ceremony in January, with the goal of opening by summer of 2019.