After years of discussion and negotiations, the City of Long Beach has reached a tentative agreement on where to locate a mentally ill-homeless center as part of a new deal with the US Army to reuse the abandoned property known as Schroeder Army Hall for an east Long Beach police substation.
The treatment center, to be operated by Mental Health America (MHA), will not be located at a one-acre site at Burnett Street and Grand Avenue near the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department off of Willow Street in the 5th District as previously proposed.
Instead, the City is planning to purchase a 28,237-square-foot building at 1955-1965 Long Beach Boulevard in the 6th District for the homeless-accommodation site, according to a prepared statement released March 15. The transaction was unanimously approved by the Long Beach City Council at its Tuesday, March 19 meeting.
The City is paying $2.8 million for the building, in addition to $1.2 million for related improvements, including providing programming and designing and constructing a retail establishment, a community meeting room and tenant improvements. The total cost to the City will be $4 million.
Tom Modica, Long Beach director of government affairs, said the City is purchasing the structure from RB Real Estate Holdings, LLC.
The plan for the new treatment facility calls for an outside patio and amenities that include coffee, refreshments, a deli, a bakery, a meeting space and free Wi-Fi.
Sixth District Long Beach City Councilmember Dee Andrews said in a prepared statement that the district is receiving “much needed retail and provided amenities for the neighborhood,” under the new arrangement.
“What we have done here is create a positive benefit for the community,” he said. “This $4-million investment brings jobs with professional employees working at the location, as well as job training and a great retail establishment to reactivate this section of Long Beach Boulevard to serve all of the Long Beach community.”
The original proposal was strongly opposed by 4th District Long Beach City Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell and Neighborhoods First, a community group that rallied local residents and sent petitions to fight the original plan they said would have brought mentally-ill homeless patients wandering into nearby neighborhoods and Stearns Park.
O’Donnell said in a statement released March 20 that he saw the new agreement as a “victory for our neighborhoods and our quality of life,” adding, “The originally proposed Schroeder Hall location was not fair to the nearby residents and was not fair to the homeless.” He said that placing the treatment center near a residential neighborhood was “not a good fit.”
Joe Sopo, a local real estate agent and member of Neighborhoods First, said in a phone interview with the Signal Tribune that he was glad to see the item on the agenda and sees the development as a victory for residents.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Sopo said. “I’m happy to see the City of Long Beach and MHA came to an agreement on another location away from the neighborhoods… The neighborhood has risen up and has made themselves known.”
Fifth District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske, in whose district the new eastside police substation will reside, praised the new deal on her Facebook page, adding that the previous proposal would have cost the City rental fees.
“This is a win for everyone involved,” she stated. “It took a while, but now the City will receive a $4.6-million dollar property from the US Army, which will house our new eastside police substation and save the City from having to pay rent.”
The new homeless-accommodation facility will have operating conditions required under the agreement to ensure the facility will co-exist with the neighborhood, according to a prepared statement. Provisions include operating hours, developing a “good neighbor side agreement” with the neighborhood and establishing a 24-hour phone line for neighborhood concerns.
The City and MHA will enter into a memorandum of understanding for an additional five years after the conveyance of the property to continue the provisions not covered by existing zoning, according to a statement from the City.
“Mental Health America looks forward to serving the Long Beach community at the Long Beach Boulevard facility,” said David Pilon, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of MHA, in a prepared statement. “This location will enable our organization to address important community needs by providing healthcare services to some of the most vulnerable members of the community.”
Pilon added, “MHA is also very excited to offer at this new location an expansion of our existing retail café– bakery businesses within a beautifully renovated building with architecture and design that will enhance the neighborhood. We believe that this agreement benefits the entire city in many ways, and MHA’s members, volunteers and staff greatly appreciate those who have supported it along the way.”