A large crowd of residents, city officials and neighborhood groups came out to discuss the latest ninth district news at the first North Long Beach Community Assembly on July 23rd at Houghton Park. Hosted by 9th District Councilmember Steven Neal, the assembly was created to better inform North Long Beach residents and inspire community participation.
Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, US Rep. Laura Richardson (D-37th) and 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich thanked attendees for coming together to address community concerns and neighborhood improvements. City Manager Pat West, Long Beach Prosecutor Doug Haubert, Long Beach Police Department Commander Galen Carroll, and Tony Foster, redevelopment project officer for the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA), provided attendees with up-to-date information on the progress of ongoing projects.
A panel of 11 neighborhood associations and groups was seated at the front of the community room. Neighborhood association representatives gave brief introductions about their groups, specified the areas they represent, and disclosed the dates and frequency of their monthly meetings.
“I’m very grateful to be having a very productive year organizing, working with the community in the North, and moving the community forward,” Neal said. “This is a general meeting of North Long Beach residents to meet their neighbors, receive important community updates, and most importantly, to learn from each other by sharing our successes, challenges, opinions, talents and resources with one another.”
Mayor Bob Foster addressed the impact Assembly Bills AB 1×26 and AB 1×27 would have on the many proposed city projects if the current redevelopment agencies are not reinstated under the lawsuit filed July 18 against the California Supreme Court by the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Associations. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of recent legislation affecting the agencies in the state.
“We believe that what the state did was clearly illegal,” Foster said. “I’m not going to predict the outcome of the lawsuit, but I think that eventually we should be victorious in litigation. I’m very emotional about this because I think what was done to the city and done to other cities around California is almost unbelievable.”
The bills will not affect ongoing projects but future projects would be at risk. The Supreme Court has until August 15 to make an initial ruling on the lawsuit’s request for a stay that would prevent the legislation from going into effect.
West discussed the many festivities happening throughout Long Beach as part of the 100 Days of Summer program. In addition, he confirmed that the Long Beach Airport’s new parking garage has been completed, and that work has started on several other projects, including airport terminal upgrades, the Port of Long Beach’s Gerald Desmond Bridge Reconstruction and Middle Harbor Project, and the new Long Beach courthouse.
West also affirmed the reinstatement of the previously canceled Farmers and Merchants Bank and Palm Desert Development Company-funded housing development project along Artesia Boulevard. According to West, approximately $500,000 of infrastructure projects have been completed in the past three years.
“Over the years, the City has eliminated over 644 positions in the city, [totaling] 19 percent of our general fund workforce,” West said. “The number one need in this state is pension reform. The whole city council and city management is unanimous in pension reform.”
The Long Beach City Council will release a budget on August 1 and the hearing will begin on August 2.
Gabelich spoke about the importance of focusing on a community watch program that is currently being development. “It’s all about the partnerships we create to improve the neighborhoods and communities we live in,” Gabelich said.
In addressing the ongoing gang violence issue, Haubert announced that his team handles more than 14,000 misdemeanors every year. He reported more than 100 arrests under gang injunctions last year, and an additional 85 made since January 1st of this year. He estimates that this year’s arrests will surpass last year’s numbers of gang injunction prosecutions.
“It’s the most powerful community empowerment strategy that we have,” Haubert said. “This has been asked for, and we get help from the school district, police department, community groups and other city departments.”
Carroll offered crime statistics and updates for the North Long Beach area, attributing many of the incidents to property crimes. He encouraged residents to expand their community watch and pay attention to their surroundings. Attendees were invited to participate in the 28th Annual National Night Out crime and drug prevention event on Tuesday, August 2.
RDA representative Tony Foster concluded the evening with a slideshow of the many ongoing projects in North Long Beach, and encouraged residents to become more involved in their community.
According to Foster, Long Beach is currently weighing the options presented under the assembly bills, including the decision to reestablish the redevelopment agencies.
“In the meantime, we’re continuing to work on our obligations,” Foster said. “Much of the work that you see going on around the city and the contracts that have already been enacted are going to continue.”