This Long Beach councilmember actually wants to talk bluntly about homelessness—including focusing on those teetering toward it and finding more ways to solve it

Photo by Brian Addison.

At least someone with the power to change was paying attention to an important document hidden within the nightmarish Land Use Element (LUE) conversation.

Amidst NIMBY-ish screams and shouts, practically no one paid attention to an equity analysis of the LUE that was forwarded to the City Council (as well as the Planning Commission before it appeased the request of NIMBYs to lower density and development citywide).

Well, except 9th District Councilmember and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson.

Already expressing his opinion in a piece published on parent publication Long Beach Post, Richardson is quite clear: “[W]hile I’m proud of our progress, we should be honest with ourselves about a crisis that deserves a greater response from our city and our community: it is time that we address the proverbial elephant in the room and set out to solve our housing and homelessness crisis.”

Of course, this isn’t anything new, especially coming from a politician. Mayor Robert Garcia expressed his concern over the issue last year but hasn’t formally spoken publicly on the proposed appeals to Costa-Hawkins or Prop 13—two of the leading causes of the lack of affordability and housing in the state—nor on the City’s current contractual bid to look into an inclusionary housing ordinance that would require developers, one way or another, to contribute toward affordable housing.

Richardson? Not so unclear.

“[T]he development of affordable housing in Long Beach has not kept pace with demand,” he wrote.

With this deficit, according to Richardson’s logic, lies a possibility—and that possibility is to look into not just building more housing, but examining a very question I myself proposed: Who are we building housing for?

Richardson proposes the the City not only report back to the Council regarding gaps within the way we approach prevention and services for those experiencing homelessness but also “recommended [a] funding strategy and implementation timeline for a dedicated local revenue source to address for housing opportunities for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, as well as early and late prevention strategies and services for those newly homeless and those experiencing chronic homelessness.”

The substantiation behind Richardson’s push for a tangible revenue source for these problems lies in that equity analysis I brought up earlier.

This equity analysis supports his endeavor with sound evidence from multiple resources, opening with the fact that “significant costs come with limiting access to high-opportunity housing neighborhoods through restrict land use while research shows that increased access to quality housing, jobs, and essential neighborhood resources can improve health, social, and economic outcomes for all residents of Long Beach.”

The analysis brought up some pretty staggering numbers: not only are 47.2% of Long Beach renters housing cost burdened—more than Oakland or San Francisco—and over 60K of our residents live in overcrowded conditions, where you live in Long Beach determines your lifespan. Those living in 90815 in East Long Beach, for example, will live an average of 82.6 years awhile those in 90802 in DTLB will live 75.2 years—a seven-year drop across a mere four miles.

“How much housing can be built, where it can be located, its proximity to jobs, healthy and safe neighborhood environments, retail and shopping needs, transit and quality schools, are all dictated by the LUE of a City’s General Plan—so this issue is a vital public health concern for the City.”

It goes on to state that concerns of putting increased housing, at the request of largely affluent East Long Beachers, “west of Cherry” will likely worsen the geographic, economic, and racial divides that separate areas of low and high opportunity in Long Beach.

“Recent opposition to the LUE lends evidence to a growing racial generation gap, indicative of nationwide trends, that can preclude continued economic vitality,” the document continues. “While over 85% of youth in Long Beach are people of color, over half of seniors are white. Equitable and integrated communities that properly plan for future generations are more likely to maintain sustained economic growth. The impact to the city’s overall health must be contextualized around housing affordability, homelessness, economic opportunity, and environmental sustainability.”

Now the small-but-loud cohort of NIMBYs that brought the LUE to its anti-housing knees have succeeded—effectively pushing Long Beach even further back into the housing crisis by shutting down development—Richardson is not lamenting over spilled milk.

Instead, he’s going around it. And that deserves applause.

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