By Nick Diamantides
The City of Long Beach is preparing to update its General Plan, which will serve as the framework for all that the city tries to accomplish between now and 2030.
To find that out what residents want in the plan, city officials conducted a series of outreaches during 2007, asking people for ideas on how to improve the quality of life in Long Beach. Last year, city officials conducted five 2030 Plan community festivals attended by more than two hundred people, distributed thousands of printed questionnaires, and contacted hundreds more via phone or email to get suggestions on how to make Long Beach a happier, healthier city.
Through that process, city officials have identified several emerging themes that residents hope will be included in the updated General Plan. The five most common themes include: making the city and environment cleaner; spurring more economic development to create more jobs; maintaining diversity and increasing equity among all groups of people; enhancing public safety by having more police and less gangs; and preserving neighborhood character.
Many residents focused their environmental concerns on the city’s bay and beaches, asking the city to take steps to improve the water quality in the bay, protect ocean views and provide more access to beach areas. Others focused on different environmental issues. They urged the increased use of green (environmentally friendly) technologies, taking steps to improve air quality and adopting measures to reduce the port’s impact on the environment. Others suggested making more areas of the city pedestrian friendly in order to decrease the use of motor vehicles.
In addition, to produce a healthier environment, Long Beach needs more trees and green space, according to many residents.
Emerging themes also tied protection of the environment to economic development.
Residents want the city to promote green technologies in already existing industrial areas and to recruit more clean and green high-tech industries.
In addition, residents want the city to do whatever is necessary to increase local employment opportunities, which would include preserving land intended for employment purposes and expanding job skills training programs.
Encouraging the construction of more housing affordable to the middle class and identifying the retail needs of different areas in Long Beach as well as suitable locations for those kinds of stores are also vital components to spurring economic growth, according to those who responded to the questionnaire.
Economic vitality and a healthier environment would also be helped by improving the city’s public transportation system to encourage more people to leave their cars at home, according to many residents. In addition they asked the city to take measures to concentrate housing and jobs near mass transit routes, and improve biking opportunities in the city while emphasizing safety, comfort and convenience for walking, biking and mass transit.
Respondents also expressed their wishes for enhanced public safety in the years to come, but they said increasing the number of police officers on the street would not, by itself, solve current problems. Emerging themes in the public safety arena included: maintaining neighborhood recreational facilities and community meeting sites; redeveloping blighted properties, expanding public services; and alleviating environmental disparities between neighborhoods.
“Once we start putting a plan together to implement the vision, we will go back to the community for more input,” said Angela Reynolds, comprehensive planning officer for the city’s development services department. She explained that ways of implementing the ideas would also be discussed by the city council, the planning commission and the redevelopment agency before a draft version of the new General Plan is considered by the city council toward the end of this year.