Beer & Politics With Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal • Long Beach Post

Beer & Politics is a monthly series offering an opportunity to engage in a positive political dialog over a pint of beer, held at 7:00 p.m. on the last Tuesday of every month at Gallagher’s Pub & Grill: 2751 E Broadway, (562)856-8000.

by Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal

 

I am excited about the opportunity to speak about significant housing and economic development issues affecting the Long Beach community at this month’s Beer & Politics and for their sponsor, the Long Beach Junior Chamber.

 

While housing and economic development may not sound like popular bar topics, our young professionals are continually dealing with rising rents, unaffordable mortgages, unsuccessful job searches, and threats of job loss, which are issues that can be addressed and mitigated through thoughtful and strategic policies.

Our City faces a critical need for affordable housing opportunities, both rental and ownership.  While housing development continues in Long Beach, many of the units on the market are priced above the affordability level for low and even middle-income individuals and families.

According to the United States Census, the homeownership rate in the City of Long Beach is 41.0 percent, which falls below the state homeownership rate of 56.9 percent.   In certain Long Beach neighborhoods the homeownership rate is significantly lower.  In the First District, which I represent and whose boundaries are roughly from Broadway to Pacific Coast Highway, from the western edge of the City to Alamitos Avenue, approximately 80 percent of the residences are renter-occupied.  Twenty-eight percent of Long Beach renters pay half or more of their earned income on rent.

We need quality affordable housing in our community because affordable housing is an important tool to improving the quality of life for everyone. Affordable housing is a tool to fight homelessness and poverty, a tool for a steady workforce, and even for improved parking – if rent was affordable, families wouldn’t have to double up in single units thereby causing parking problems.    

The City is working to ensure that more affordable housing opportunities are created.  Just this week, we celebrated the grand opening of Pacific City Lights, a newly constructed 42-unit workforce housing development near Pacific Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.  This much needed new, safe and affordable rental housing is designed for families with a median size of 3-4 people and is already the home of 175 residents.  

Pacific City Lights is a testament to the dedication and determination of housing advocates in the City.  With continued leadership, advocacy, and collaboration, we have an opportunity to fully fulfill the goals outlined in the City’s Strategic Plan: to build a strong network of healthy neighborhoods, strengthen community leadership and collaboration and increase public participation, celebrate the diversity of Long Beach’s neighborhoods, support neighborhood efforts to create beauty and pride, and improve the quality and availability of housing.

The City’s Economic Development efforts are congruent to the City’s affordable housing efforts in that both work to improve the economic welfare and vitality of members of our community.  

Various agencies, including Redevelopment, Economic Development and Workforce Development are dedicated to fostering a prosperous economy through recruiting appropriate businesses and assisting businesses to grow and prosper.  The City’s Economic Development specialists work to multiply available job opportunities and strengthen the local economy of the City.  Through programs, workshops, incentives, resources and other assistance measures, the City is working hard to invigorate the economic profile of those who live and work in Long Beach.  

Some people see an empty storefront and interpret it as a sign of economic despair.  But in Long Beach, the truth of the matter is quite the opposite.  Our property owners are receiving proposals to fill their vacancies, but instead of jumping quickly on an offer as they would during difficult economic times – the landlords are holding out for the right tenant.  This makes the empty storefronts a signal of thoughtful recruitment, not economic hardship.

The Los Angeles Business Journal recently called Long Beach the hot-bed of Southern California retail development.  We are continuing to bring outstanding restaurants, businesses, and retail to enhance the treasure trove of existing shops in Long Beach.  From Bouchees Bistro to Zephr Restaurant, Acres of Books to Village Treasures, our dining and shopping destinations are absolutely fantastic.

The Downtown Renaissance is a prime example of the fruitful efforts being made throughout the City to make our City top-notch.  Filled with quality restaurants, pedestrian enhancements, cultural and community events such as the 2nd Saturday Art Walk, and my staff’s favorite destination, Pinkberry, the downtown is an important economic and cultural engine that captures the potential for the entire City.

 

Beer & Politics is sponsored by the Long Beach Junior Chamber.  You can contact Michael Clements at [email protected] and see our website, www.beerandpoltics.org, for more details.

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