BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
The Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA) was formed in 1961, and since then it has overseen many commercial, industrial and residential development projects involving either new construction or significant renovation of existing facilities. The Long Beach Housing Development Company (LBHDC) was formed in 1989. The nonprofit organization was formed to use federal, state and local funds for the purpose of creating and preserving affordable housing in the city.
On Tuesday morning the RDA and LBHDC sponsored a two-and-a-half-hour bus tour of successful affordable housing and redevelopment projects throughout Long Beach. The bus also cruised by projects now in the works and vacant, soon-to-be-developed parcels of land now owned by either the RDA or the LBHDC.
About 30 people went on the tour. They included city officials, community activists and news reporters.
Craig Beck, the city’s director of development services and the RDA’s executive director, explained that, in 1987, the state of California adopted a law requiring redevelopment agencies to set aside at least 20 percent of their tax increment revenues for low- and moderate-income housing. Soon after that, city officials established the LBHDC to use those set-aside funds for housing development and to also receive federal and state housing development funds.
The tour bus, however, did not just go to affordable housing projects. In fact, the first development that passengers saw was the now-under-construction $94-million Lyon West Gateway Residential Development at 421 Broadway. The project will include 265 market-rate apartments and 26 affordable apartments. “The housing development company helped fund the creation of those units,” Beck said. The project will also include 15,000 square feet of commercial space.
Next, the bus cruised by The Promenade, the city’s unique downtown walkway. Beck explained that the RDA was investing $13 million on the Promenade Master Plan, which includes significant improvement, expansion, and redesign of the pedestrian corridor between Ocean Boulevard and Third Street. Beck noted that the improvements have already been a catalyst for private investment in the area.
As the tour progressed, Beck pointed to the Promenade Lofts at promenade and Third Street. He explained that the facility contains 104 rental residences and 13,550 square feet of retail space. “You can see what happens when you have more residences downtown,” he said. “You see businesses that thrive and more pedestrian activity.” He explained that the city’s goal is to have a more vibrant, more pedestrian-friendly downtown where shopping opportunities, fine restaurants, entertainment and the arts attract more residents and businesses to the area and draw visitors from near and far.
After traveling past several other downtown projects, the bus headed to the family fommons at 2200 W. Willard St. in West Long Beach, where passengers were given a walking tour. The project is part of the Villages at Cabrillo in a portion of the land that once contained housing for the families of U.S. Navy personnel stationed in the now-defunct Long Beach Navy Base. Ellie Tolentino, manager of the city’s housing bureau, explained that the Villages at Cabrillo has won several awards and serves as a model for government-subsidized affordable housing throughout the United States. “It consists of traditional housing and a lot of service agencies in one area,” she said. “The Family Commons is the third housing project in the complex.” She explained that the recently completed project received $11.8 million in assistance from LBHDC and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The family commons consists of 80 rental apartments ranging from one to four bedrooms. Of those, 56 are affordable to very-low-income families and 24 are affordable to low-income families. The facilities manager occupies an additional apartment.
Leaving the Villages at Cabrillo, the bus rolled past several West Long Beach projects funded by the RDA. Then the tour proceeded to North Long Beach where passengers saw several RDA- and LBHDC-financed projects. One of those was Northpointe, an apartment complex at 5441 N. Paramount Blvd. that received about $6 million for rehabilitation assistance from LBHDC a few years ago. The complex contains 528 residences affordable to low-income families.
Later, the bus stopped at Grisham Community Housing, 11 W. 49th Street and passengers once again got off to walk through the facilities. Tolentino explained that the development received financial assistance from LBHDC a few years ago. She noted that the RDA helped LBHDC acquire the complex through eminent domain. Abode Communities (formerly known as Los Angeles Community Design Center) oversaw the extensive renovation of the complex and now manages it. The complex contains 96 rental apartments affordable to low-income families. The development also includes a childcare center and more than 10,000 square feet of open space.
As the tour winded down, Beck explained that the RDA’s mission is to remove blight by acquiring and redeveloping property or financing renovations to existing facilities. “We are grateful for the partnership that we have with the Redevelopment Agency,” Tolentino added. “We try to make affordable housing happen whenever we can.”