The most ambitious and coolest aspects of the mayor’s development forum

Last year, the guests of Mayor Robert Garcia’s very-Garcia-ish-named “Building a Better Long Beach” development summit were inundated with information about new projects. This year, however, the discussion of development itself was a bit redundant—the vast majority of the projects discussed were those already brought up last year—and it forced Garcia to discuss crime rates, technology, and characteristics of Long Beach neighborhoods.

This isn’t to say that it wasn’t the dog’n’pony show Garcia puts on with every major public event. True to his nature, it was a spectacular showcase of constant optimism. (For example, despite the project seemingly less and less plausible as projected costs skyrocket and fears of sea level risings become more real, Garcia is still insisting that a new Belmont Beach and Aquatic Center will be here for the 2028 Olympics.)

But it also isn’t to say there aren’t some genuinely great things attempting to be done for the city, things which Garcia is becoming more vocal about as the community becomes more critical about how Long Beach is being developed; things like affordable housing, jobs, homelessness, and transit, all connected to housing in their own particular way.

With that, it feels more appropriate breaking down the $3.5 billion worth of development projects in the pipeline and interlaying them with how they fit into what will certainly be a different Long Beach in 10 years.

City to double housing goal

When Garcia first took office, he set a goal of creating some 4,000 residential units—and he’s succeeded. This number is, by no means, extraordinary or even ambitious. If the city were to build this amount of units in one year, coming from the state’s fifth largest city, it would only account for 2% of the 180,000 units needed annually to get our state up to speed.

However, now doubling that goal to 8,000, there is some applause to be given in the fact that we’ve built any units at all.

Of course, Garcia doesn’t unilaterally control this side of the city. He doesn’t craft policy; that is the City Council’s job. And he doesn’t entitle projects; that’s the Planning Commission’s job. But he has social influence and political will—and those are powerful things in a time when our state is divided on housing: On one side, the advocates who want “perfect housing” over anything at all, leading to the demise of genuinely solid bills like SB50. On the other side, we have a set of anti-density, anti-affordable, and anti-development folks who want to see no change at all.

Garcia could harness his influence in championing the state’s growing criticism of local zoning and housing laws to influence development even further.

CSULB gets closer to finally having a Downtown hub

Cal State Long Beach has been, historically speaking, largely disconnected from the city outside of its eastern hub—and there have been talks, seemingly forever, on bringing the university to the Downtown. Former CSULB President F. King Alexander once proposed turning the AMC Theaters on Pine (now the Avana apartment complex) into classrooms, while over two years ago, the university was connected with two projects that have yet to break ground, the massive Broadway Block project and the second extension of the renovation of the former City Place space.

The ever-altering CSULB Village, as it has been collectively dubbed, seems to be moving forward albeit glacially. Phase I of the project inside the former City Place will include 14 classrooms as well as CSULB’s new Innovation Center. Garcia hopes that we start seeing construction within the year.

The ‘missing middle’

I have long discussed the issues with the “missing middle” and with how we approach housing from a developmental angle: We develop, almost across the board, market-rate housing while the sliver left for affordable housing is Affordable-with-a-Capital-A housing, meaning housing vouchers are required to obtain it, meaning you have to be below a certain income level.

That leaves the lower- and mid-middle class priced or left out entirely: Unable to afford market rate housing but also making too much money to obtain a voucher, the “missing middle” is one of the most important aspects of the housing conversation.

And while Garcia didn’t really address policy or specific development that will be tackling the issue, his mention of its importance could very well be a cue for developers to consider it.

Baseball? Basketball?

Don’t know if you heard, but the Long Beach Post broke the story about the talks City hall was having with the Los Angeles Angels back in February, sending Long Beach into the national sports lens focus—and, according to Garcia, the city has received a “flurry” of other interest from “major organizations and players.”

What does this translate into? Unsure—our Managing Editor Melissa Evans broke down as much as she could with what little info we have.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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