Long Beach has never let us down when it comes to generating news. We’re excited for a big 2019 and we’ve been busy in the closing days of 2018 budgeting some of the big stories we anticipate covering in the new year. Here are the top 10 predictions for stories we’re guessing might pop up in 2019.
City will eye East Long Beach park for homeless encampment
Recognizing the fact that homelessness has become perhaps the No. 1 problem facing Long Beach, city leaders will enthusiastically propose setting aside a significant portion of El Dorado Regional Park as a designated homeless encampment near the 605 Freeway and the Town Center.
The proposed Ernie & Jackie Kell Homeless Center will be north of Wardlow Road, between the San Gabriel River and the 605 Freeway.
The idea will be introduced by 3rd District Councilwoman Suzie Price as a “simple and elegant” solution to the homeless problem in her district, which has led to unseemly protests by local residents.
The plan will meet little opposition by East Long Beach residents as long as it doesn’t involve messing with the beloved K-Mart store on Bellflower Boulevard, has no impact on traffic and parking or the construction of tall buildings giving voyeurs unrestricted views of residents sunning themselves in adjacent backyards.
Molina family buys Santa Catalina Island
The Molina family will continue its efforts to eventually buy the state of California with the acquisition of Santa Catalina Island for $12.4 billion, with plans for transforming the island into a “poor man’s Hawaii,” according to a press release that will be issued by the family.
The purchase would add Catalina to the portfolio of several Molina properties, including John Molina’s Pacific6 group’s Breakers Hotel, the Ocean Center Building, Community Hospital and the cash cow that is the Long Beach Post. (Inevitable disclaimer: John Molina’s Pacific6, as just indicated, owns the Long Beach Post.)
The family will also be in negotiations to purchase the cities of Downey, Bellflower and the nice parts of Lakewood.
City offices relocate after new civic center is condemned
State inspectors will determine that the new $600 million civic center in Downtown Long Beach was “so not-up-to-code we can’t even believe it,” and that the gleaming new complex can’t withstand even a 2.3 earthquake or a big truck driving by, city officials will move into the long-shuttered Walmart and Fresh & Easy stores in Downtown’s The Streets shopping complex.
“It’s not the end of the world,” 6th District Councilman For Life Dee Andrews will declare, adding the new location will put the city government closer to the heart of the city and the popular Chuck E. Cheese franchise.
Meatless Mondays ordinance revived with new teeth
The return of Meatless Mondays, an idea first advanced by the City Council in 2015, will come back in a big way after a $650,000 study commissioned by the city determines that thousands of Long Beachers continue to eat meat products on Monday at the same brisk pace as any other day of the week.
“Were we stuttering when we made Mondays meatless?” City Attorney Charlie Parkin will ask rhetorically. “Was there some sort of confusion over the terms ‘meatless’ or ‘Monday’?”
Parkin’s office will impose new penalties for Long Beach residents who eat meat on Mondays, with fines ranging from $500 to life in prison, whichever is greater.
Voicing opposition will be newly-married Mayor Robert Garcia, who will complain that Mondays are Meatloaf Night at his home.
Chick-fil-A will sign on as Grand Prix sponsor; no race events on Sunday
After a yearlong search following Toyota’s withdrawal as the name sponsor for the annual race weekend, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach CEO Jim MIchaelian will announce that the franchise Chick-fil-A will be the race’s new sponsor.
“Chick-fil-A and auto racing have become synonymous in recent years, and we are proud to partner with the company,” Michaelian will say in in a statement.
Michaelian will decline to disclose what Chick-fil-A will be paying for the sponsorship, and will dodge questions about the company’s controversial statements regarding homosexuality.
Michaelian will acknowledge the fact that the Grand Prix has to make certain concessions in order to close the deal on the sponsorship, chiefly Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s insistence that the race’s main IndyCar race be held on Monday, with no events at all on Sunday, due to Cathy’s policy of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees can rest and worship.
Long Beach finally takes Signal Hill
Long Beach’s annexation of Signal Hill will end a decades-long acrimonious siege of the city that is entirely surrounded by Long Beach.
“It was partly due to the fact that it doesn’t make sense to have a city inside another city without that city being part of the city it’s surrounded by,” Assistant City Manager Tom Modica, who will spearhead the takeover, will say at some point.
“And it also just made financial sense,” he will say, indicating that the annexation will give Long Beach two Home Depots, a Best Buy, Mother’s Market and a bunch of car dealerships with Long Beach as part of their name.
City learns that Lena Gonzalez has been City Councilperson for the 1st District
Long Beach City Clerk Monique De La Garza will announce that Lena Gonzalez has been the City Council’s 1st District representative since 2014.
The announcement will surprise many in the Long Beach district, which includes much of Downtown. Kraig Kojian, president of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, will be among those shocked by the news. “Really?” he will say when the announcement is made. “I thought it was Somebody Lowenthal.”
Suja Lowenthal, the current city manager for Hermosa Beach, served as District 2 councilwoman from 2006 to 2016. She will confirm to the Post that she is no longer on the Long Beach Council and never represented the 1st District.
Gonzalez will not respond to phone calls for comment.
Urban Commons abandons the Queen Mary project
The L.A.-based real estate company Urban Commons will abandon its ambitious and expensive endeavor to turn the Queen Mary into a fabulous tourist attraction featuring live music venues, fine dining restaurants and a rock-climbing gym.
“I’m pretty sure we bit off a little more than we could chew,” Salvatore G. Takoushian, president and chief financial officer of Urban Commons, will say.
With repairs of the ship and future construction costs totaling “a lot more money that we could ever get hold of. Hundreds of millions! Totally over our head on this one,” the new operators will cut their losses and go back to managing a handful of hotels, vowing to never get involved in anything more complicated than a resort swimming pool complex ever again. Takoushian will, however, admit that he still likes the idea of a rock-climbing gym and said that he plans to put one in one of the hotels the company operates.
Downtown’s new Antioch Church makes more money than God
After buying the former Vault 350 from Millworks CEO Michelle Molina, Pastor Wayne Chaney will make “more money than God” by booking world-class acts in the venue.
While continuing to make pocket change with Sunday services, Chaney will turn the hall into the West Coast Capital of Music with Thursday-Saturday concerts featuring such big-ticket performers as Drake, Post Malone, Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar and Lils Wayne and Pump.
Chaney will call his concert series “Choir Practice,” which will allow him to continue to run his business tax-free.
Affordable housing comes to Naples, Peninsula
After a report predicts that sea levels will rise to as high as 2 feet within 30 years, which would chronically flood Naples and the Peninsula, home prices in those areas will plummet to levels that will make them cheaper than a fairly well-maintained used car.
According to Zillow, a seven-bedroom, nine-bath home on the Alamitos Bay side of the Peninsula that recently sold for $6.7 million, will be on the market with an asking price of $14,700 o.b.o., while a North Sea Isle Drive home with five bedrooms and 17 baths will be listed at $12,900.
Both homes will be on the market for more than three months as savvy buyers wait for prices to further decrease. One renter in North Long Beach will remark that, “Those are pretty nice houses, but $13,000 is a lot of money.”
Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.
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