After a speedy acquisition, East Long Beach motel will become supportive housing site

Starting in February the Motel 6 that sits at the “Iron Triangle” intersection of Pacific Coast Highway, Bellflower Boulevard and Seventh Street will begin to serve as an interim housing site, but the speed at which that happened has alarmed some residents in the surrounding neighborhoods.

The 43-room site is part of the Project Homekey effort and will serve people with complex health or behavioral health issues who need assistance in increasing independence while transitioning to a permanent housing situation. The site will be run by Serenity Recuperative Care, which operates eight sites across the county including one near Fourth Street’s Retro Row that’s been in operation since 2017.

Once converted to permanent supportive housing, something that’s expected to be completed by the end of 2022, persons staying there will be required to make partial rent payments.

The announcement earlier this year that Los Angeles County officials would purchase the site and convert it into permanent supportive housing caught some members of the community off guard. There was no public outreach prior to a vote to approve the sale which closed escrow in November.

The purchase of the motel was funded through CARES Act funding that was granted to the county by the state to address homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The motel was purchased for $21 million. The speed of the acquisition was necessitated by the CARES Act funding’s requirement  that it be spent by the end of the year.

A Wednesday night community meeting was called by Councilwoman Suzie Price who wanted to shed light on the process that led up to the county’s purchase of the building and what residents could expect going forward. Her office on Thursday said that the county hadn’t notified the city of the intent to buy the motel until the purchase process had already commenced.

Long Beach Deputy Director of Development Services Christopher Koontz said that while the Long Beach City Council members were briefed about the project in a closed session meeting earlier this year, the decision to make it public could have impacted the process.

“Anytime that we announced publicly that we’re going to acquire a piece of property, the purchase price inevitably goes up and our ability to execute that transaction becomes more difficult,” Koontz said, noting exceptions to open-meeting laws that allow real estate negotiations to occur away from the public eye.

Price said that she’s hopeful that the transition away from it being a motel will actually benefit the surrounding communities despite concerns from some of her constituents who asked if the project would result in more crime or add to those experiencing homelessness in the area.

The motel, she said, offered hourly rates and had no limits on how many people could be in one room or what could happen in the parking lot, something that could change with the transitional housing project.

“Ultimately, there were just no supportive services, the number of calls that we have received as a council office for drug sales, panhandling, trespass and prostitution at that location have been really, let’s just say out of proportion to other calls for service,” Price said.

Price said in a newsletter to residents that she’s hopeful that the VA Hospital and Cal State Long Beach might be able to partner with the facility to ensure that those experiencing homelessness find the resources they need.

She added that she’ll likely call another meeting once the county selects a permanent provider of services at the site to ensure that the community has input on operational requirements, curfew, security and other details.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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