Long Beach Awarded Grants for Sustainable Planning Efforts

12:01pm | The city of Long Beach announced Wednesday that it is the recipient of two separate grants totaling $300,000 that officials said will aid ongoing community-based planning efforts to create a healthy and sustainable community.

The Southern California Association of Governments is awarding the city funding through the Compass Blueprint Growth Vision program. City officials said the money will be used to cover the cost of developing a Specific Plan for Long Beach Boulevard. 

The second grant is being awarded by the California Endowment via its Building Healthy Communities initiative. This funding will be spent on preparing a new health and wellness component to be incorporated into the Long Beach 2030 General Plan Update, city officials said.

"This is an outstanding opportunity to create incentives and public investment that will help revitalize the community and transform it into an environment where people are encouraged to use public transit and ride bikes," Mayor Bob Foster said in a prepared statement. "I am looking forward to the public's participation in the process to ensure that these plans reflect the needs and desires of our residents."

The city's overall goal in terms of the specific plan for the city's namesake thoroughfare is to establish a unified vision for future transportation and land-use policies that are beneficial to the health and wellness of community members citywide. 

Such planning documents serve as guides that identify implementation programs and other measures that, in this case, will ensure that the revitalization of the Long Beach Boulevard corridor incorporates green infrastructure and easy access to healthy foods and public transportation options.

Sixth District Councilman Dee Andrews in a prepared statement labeled the announcement of the grants as "great news for the city."

"These grants allow us to explore ways to help families be more active and have healthy food options in their own neighborhoods," Andrews said.

The health and wellness element to be added to the city's general plan during the plan's 2030 update will serve to guide best practices and policy in fostering the health and well-being of Long Beach residents and providing "safe, convenient access" to healthy foods and recreational opportunities. This will involve outreach efforts to stakeholders so that they can participate in the plan's formulation.

The plan will address development opportunities, improving pedestrian circulation and access to public transit and, overall, support a  transit-based revitalization effort for the boulevard that is beneficial and ensures easy access to healthy food options for residents and businesses located within the corridor.

The city's Health and Human Services and Parks, Recreation and Marine departments will oversee efforts to develop the health and wellness segment for the general plan update.

The Compass Blueprint Growth Vision program is SCAG's response to the land-use and transportation challenges facing Southern California currently and in the future, according to the program's website. It is driven by four main elements, including mobility, livability, prosperity and sustainability.

City officials said the program encourages smart growth principles such as "increased mobility options, compact development and sustainable practices," all of which it supports through grant-making and promotional activities.

The Building Healthy Communities program is a 10-year, $100 million initiative targeting 14 communities throughout the state, including areas in Central and West Long Beach, to support systemic changes in policy and the implementation of catalytic programs to boost access to and awareness of healthy foods and physical activity, city officials said.

Pat Paris, chair of the Long Beach Boulevard Taskforce Committee, said that since 2008, when the committee first formed, the "opportunity to transform Long Beach into a vibrant mixed-use transit corridor" has been the group's goal

City officials said that meetings on both the Long Beach Boulevard Specific Plan and the health element for the general plan update are expected to begin sometime in April and will be held concurrently. It is estimated to take about 14 months to complete each.

Residents interested in receiving updates on the specific plan and the general plan's health and wellness component via e-mail can sign up to do so by visiting LBDS.info.

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