Long Beach could soon begin the process of transferring three parcels of land in North Long Beach to Long Beach City College, which hopes to build a 36-bed affordable student housing development next to the Michelle Obama Library.
The City Council on Tuesday is expected to label the three vacant, city-owned properties as surplus land, a technical step that would allow the transfer to LBCC, which has proposed building a center that would include housing, two classrooms, a food pantry and study areas.
Located north of the Michelle Obama Library between Atlantic Avenue and Lime Avenue, the three parcels are currently being used as a staging ground for construction equipment and traffic signs.
Stacey Toda, a spokesperson for the college, said in an email that the proposed housing development is projected to cost about $32.3 million.
While the project has been tapped for a $1 million federal grant, the remainder of the cost would likely come from future bond proceeds, Toda said. If the college is able to secure bond funding, construction could start as soon as December 2025, she said.
The college hopes that the student housing will become part of its planned expansion into North Long Beach where it’s also working to open a higher education center on South Street, just a block away from the proposed housing project.
The higher education center would include a 30-person computer lab, some non-credit classes and other services like small business advising. The college has yet to sign a contract with the city to use the space, but construction is nearing completion, according to the college.
Affordable housing is something that the college has recently started to look at as a service it could provide, but funding it has seemingly hit a wall.
Earlier this year, the college applied for funding from the state to build a four-story, 421-bed housing project at its Liberal Arts Campus in East Long Beach. College officials were originally optimistic that it would receive funds for the $103 million project, which would have provided housing for low-income students, but they have since tempered their confidence.
“Given some of the recent funding challenges that we’ve seen, we think it is probably unlikely that our project will be funded, which was a disappointment for us,” Chip West, the college’s vice president of administrative and business services, told the board of trustees last month.
LBCC Superintendent President Mike Munoz told the board during its April 26 meeting that the college would likely have to issue bonds if it wants to complete the two student housing projects.
The college hired a consulting firm last year to gauge community support for a bond measure on the November ballot, but it was determined to be “not a viable option” after polling indicated that the bonds might not pass.
It was seeking $285 million for a renovation of Veterans Stadium, which could have included student housing. The bonds would have added a $19 tax for every $100,000 assessed value of properties in Long Beach, Signal Hill, Avalon and Lakewood. It needed 55% support to be passed by voters.
It’s unclear how much funding the school might pursue in a new attempt to put a bond measure on the ballot, but if it includes funding for all three projects, it could easily eclipse $400 million.
The college attempted to hold a workshop to seek out a public-private partnership for the stadium project in December, but just six entities showed up to the open house and none of their proposals were considered viable.
“Really at this point, that is going to be the most likely path to be able to achieve the two big outstanding projects, student housing as well as the modernization of vets stadium which has to be a teardown and rebuild,” Munoz said of the bonds.
Munoz said the board could be updated later this year on a path forward if it wants to start the process of placing a bond measure on the 2024 ballot. The board’s next meeting in May could provide more details on a timeline for making that decision.