Pine Avenue closure to be extended between Fourth and Fifth Street starting Friday

After temporarily closing down Pine Avenue between First and Third Streets to vehicular traffic, leaving Broadway open to connect drivers exiting the 710 to downtown, the city will move forward with the closure of Pine Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets.

Pine Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets will remain open to traffic.

“Last week, city staff notified Downtown Long Beach Alliance that they would be moving ahead with plans for a full closure of Pine Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets to vehicular traffic, similar to the full closure between First and Third Streets,” said Samantha Mehlinger of the alliance.

According to Mehlinger, the closure will begin Friday, Sept. 25. In the meantime, the alliance is “coordinating with the city and District 1 to organize a site walkthrough for businesses and stakeholders in advance of the closure.” The timing of that walkthrough is being finalized.

“We received assistance from Downtown Long Beach Alliance on outreach to stakeholders and residents,” echoed Ray Morquecho of Councilmember Mary Zendejas’s office. “Although the responses were not unanimous one way or the other, there was enough consensus to try this combination of closures first.”

Romeo Garcia, who owns Romeo Chocolates, located on Pine between Fourth and Fifth, says he isn’t sure that the closure will help business but is worth a try.

“We may not know 100% if it’s going to help, but at this point, what other options do we have,” he said. “We have already lost several businesses throughout Long Beach and specifically here on North Pine Avenue. I’ve already lost my neighbor, Pinot’s Palette. It’s saddening to see. We have to find proactive steps to prevent that.”

The closure follows the creation of the Open Streets Initiative program, which has created some 110-plus parklet/open street spaces across the city for both restaurants and neighborhoods. Many restaurant owners say they not only want but need the parklet spaces to get by economically. Mayor Robert Garcia proposed an extension of the program that was approved by the City Council earlier this month.

The program has proved so successful that the city now permits residents and business owners to propose their own closures through an online form.

Restaurateurs say their patrons now expect and rely on the parklets and closures such as the one on Pine Avenue, though not all businesses see eye-to-eye with one another. The closure of Pine Avenue has been met with some backlash by local small businesses, saying that the closure’s lack of parking has led to a decrease in business.

“I am excited to try and give the businesses as much opportunity to succeed as possible,” Zendejas told the Post. “With the success of the closure on lower Pine, we wanted to see about expanding that model all the way to Fifth Street. Although lower Pine has more of a dense restaurant and nightlife atmosphere, I think that the area between [we’ve opted to close off] can be tailored to benefit the local residents and small businesses there too. It is a pilot program to see if the same success we see a little more south can be found in our North Pine Business Area, even though it may have a different feel. We have to balance the needs of all our businesses and I believe that this combination will allow for the best opportunities during this continuing pandemic.”

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 19 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.
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