A final draft of the proposed LGBTQ+ cultural corridor along Broadway could be presented to the Long Beach City Council in the fall, but the larger installations of public art and other improvements could still be years away, according to a report released by the city Friday.
The corridor is historically significant to the community, as it was a source of early organizing for the city’s first Pride parade and a center that became known as a safe space for both LGBTQ+ businesses and residents.
In the 1980s, it was estimated that the corridor was home to 25-50 LGBTQ+ businesses and roughly three to four times the population (30%) of LGBTQ+ residents as compared to the rest of the city, according to the report.
The city began working toward establishing a district dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community last year after then-Mayor Robert Garcia called for its creation in an effort to preserve the history of what’s been the heart of the LGBTQ+ community in Long Beach for decades.
Garcia was the first openly gay mayor elected to lead the city.
Community meetings helped shape the report that was released Friday, which reflected the priorities residents said they want to see included in the corridor. Increased safety, activating the corridor, eliminating vacant storefronts and installing art, lighting and historic plaques honoring the community all were top vote-getters.
In a statement, Mayor Rex Richardson said the LGBTQ+ community was integral to Long Beach and said the city has been a leader in advancing its rights and visibility.
“This new Cultural District will engage our local LGBTQ+ residents and families in place-making, healing, and activism,” Richardson said. “This will help educate our broader community about the significant contributions that the queer community has made in shaping our City’s history and success.”
Another community meeting is scheduled to be held during the annual Pride celebration the weekend of Aug. 5, which city officials will use to further refine a plan they expect to present to the City Council for a vote later in the fall.
However, even if the council approves the plan, it could be some time before big changes are seen along Broadway.
“Often within a year of City Council action an initiative goes through the designing and hiring of a contractor as well as public bidding for small, simple improvements such as street furniture, tree plantings, signage, and murals,” the report said.
“Between a year or two after City Council action, capital projects go through the design and contractor hiring process for major improvements such as lighting upgrades and right-of-way changes requiring construction.”
The original proposal for the corridor called for it to span from Alamitos Avenue in the west to Cherry Avenue in the east, but community members asked for it to be extended farther east to Temple Avenue, which is now under consideration.
Some of the new features could include rainbow-colored lighting, like installations in Berlin, West Hollywood and Philadelphia. Similar color schemes could be applied to wayfinding signage, streetlight banners and historical markers.
New seating areas and outdoor parklets could also be part of the corridor, although any businesses wanting to install a parklet would have to go through the city’s approval process.
Public art and murals were also listed as priorities from the nearly 500 people who responded to a city survey and people who attended in-person visioning meetings last year.
While businesses would have to volunteer their buildings to be part of any future murals in the area, the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission approved a permit Thursday for a proposed LGBTQ+ mural to be installed at Bixby Park in August.
Some more immediate ways the corridor could see changes include business organizing to host events to bring visitors to the area, like the Fourth Fridays held on Retro Row and the First Fridays in Bixby Knolls.
Developing neighborhood and business associations along the corridor, adopt-a-tree events and hosting ongoing LGBTQ+ events along the corridor are other ways the report said the area could be improved through activation.