By Nick Diamantides
Mostly bringing glad tidings of good things happening during the holiday season, 8th District Councilmember Rae Gabelich hosted another of her “Community Coffees” last Saturday morning. About 20 people attended the event at Avila’s El Ranchito Restaurant, located at 5345 Long Beach Blvd.
Gabelich began her presentation by inviting everyone to donate unwrapped toys that will be given as holiday gifts to the hundreds of children that live in the Carmelitos Housing Community, located off of Orange Avenue just north of Del Amo Boulevard. Gabelich and her staff are coordinating the toy drive with the help of several businesses, including El Ranchito, Café Bixby, Nino’s Restaurant, The Factory, Bella Cosa, Capretto, Pixie Toys and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. “If you are able to, please donate an unwrapped gift in the collection box here at El Ranchito or (the other businesses involved in the drive),” Gabelich said. “There will also be a box at the Expo Building for the First Fridays in December, or you can drop them off at my field office. Donations will be accepted until December 21.”
Next, Gabelich shared the good news of the soon-to-begin repaving of Long Beach Boulevard between Del Amo and the 710 Freeway. “This project, funded by the Redevelopment Agency, includes grinding and an entire new layer of asphalt, as well as new landscaped medians, new trees, bus shelters, lighting and other streetscape improvements,” she explained.
The construction is expected to last up to eight months. “There will certainly be some inconveniences while traveling along Long Beach Boulevard during construction, but the final result will be well worth it,” she said.
Then, moving to another topic, Gabelich reminded the attendees that recently the Long Beach City Council asked the city attorney to make some changes to the city’s medical marijuana facilities ordinance. “The most controversial of these changes is adding an additional buffer requirement of 1,000 feet from parks,” Gabelich said. “This will possibly disqualify nine collectives that had advanced in the permitting process through the lottery.”
At that point in Gabelich’s presentation, Mary Hinds, who is a board member of the Long Beach Library Foundation, asked why the City Council could not also prohibit medical marijuana collectives from being less than 1,000 feet from a library. “We had to come up with a formula that works,” Gabelich said. She explained that regulating the collectives is under the purview of the City’s business-license division, which is understaffed due to budget cuts, and the City expects more lawsuits to be filed against it pertaining to the way it is regulating the collectives. Gabelich noted that adding one more regulation to the ordinance would be too costly for the City.
“We are on a slippery slope,” Hinds responded. “Property values go down in the vicinity of marijuana collectives, and children see marijuana use as something that is not so bad.” She added that she wishes that only the health department could issue the necessary doctors’ recommendations for medical marijuana use.
Noting that medical marijuana issues could be debated all day, Gabelich moved on to other topics, including the DeForest Wetlands Restoration Project. She told the attendees that last month the City received the final grant funding necessary to begin work on the project, which will cost a total of $7 million.
The project will reestablish a wetland in the 34-acre flood-detention basin that runs just east of the Los Angles River between Del Amo Boulevard and DeForest Park to the north. Construction on the project will probably begin next summer.
During her presentation, Gabelich also discussed proposed changes to the City’s wireless facilities ordinance (lbds.info), a new “Go Long Beach” smart-phone app, through which residents can report problems to the appropriate city department (golbcity.com), and upcoming events for the holiday season.
The first of those events is the holiday version of First Fridays in Bixby Knolls, which starts with a Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony at 6pm, on Friday, Dec. 3 in the parking lot of Nino’s Restaurant at Atlantic Avenue and Roosevelt Road. “At the conclusion of the program, at 6:30, the Big Red Bus will be on hand to take you, or you can stroll, to all the festive scenes and music on Atlantic,” Gabelich said.
Two other special holiday events are scheduled at Rancho Los Cerritos. On Sunday, Dec. 5, the Rancho will host a free open house showcasing 19th Century Christmas traditions with costumed volunteers, and Victorian Era wreaths and ornaments. The event will include toy making, storytelling, a piñata for kids, live music and refreshments.
The second holiday event at the Rancho requires the purchase of tickets and will take place on Saturday, Dec. 11 and Sunday, Dec. 12– the annual Navidad in Early California Candlelight Tour. “Focusing on 1850s Christmas, this living-history program will explore the blending of Mexican and early American-Christmas customs,” Gabelich said. “For information or to purchase tickets, you can visit RanchoLosCerritos.org.”
Toward the end of her talk, Gabelich introduced Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, to the audience. Cohn gave a brief description of the December 3 First Fridays event and invited everyone to attend. “There will be cider stops and music of all kinds everywhere,” he said. “There will be activities for kids to do, and things for adults: art, music and entertainment of all kinds.”
Gabelich also introduced Long Beach Airport Director Mario Rodriguez to the audience. Rodriguez briefly described the various airlines that provide service at the airport and spoke about upcoming improvements to the facilities. Rodriguez noted that the groundbreaking ceremony for the new airport terminal will be Wednesday, Dec. 22.
After Rodriguez spoke, Gabelich introduced Long Beach Police Sergeant Dan Barkwill, who told the attendees that residential and automobile burglaries were on the rise in the police department’s north division area. Barkwill encouraged residents to keep their cars locked with the windows rolled up and to not leave any boxes, bags, envelopes or valuable items in their automobiles. He also warned residents to keep windows and doors shut and locked in their homes and to report all suspicious persons or activities to the police.
At the end of the meeting, Gabelich took questions and comments from the attendees, some of whom expressed concerns about graffiti, gang violence, parking and problems associated with skate parks.