The Long Beach City Council could approve up to $85 million in bonds later this month to pay for the recent purchase of a Downtown building that the city plans to turn into a new crime lab and senior center, as well as to fund a variety of public infrastructure improvements.
Councilmembers approved the purchase of an old Southern California Edison building on the corner of Elm Avenue and First Street in October for $21 million. Some of the bond money will go toward replenishing funds the city fronted to acquire the property, Financial Management Director Kevin Riper said.
The remainder of the bonds are part of the $150 million the City Council approved to finance road repairs, parks and other city infrastructure projects as part of last year’s budget cycle. The plan would issue bonds and use Measure A revenue generated from sales taxes to repay the bonds.
Measure A was originally approved in 2016 as a temporary tax, but voters reaffirmed it as a permanent tax in March 2020. It was approved by a margin of 16 votes.
The city’s Bond Finance Authority met last week to recommend the council approve the issuance of bonds, something it’s expected to do at its April 18 meeting, Riper said. The terms of the bonds, like the interest that the city will be charged, won’t be determined until the day that the bonds are issued.
A preliminary estimate projects that the city will pay over $152 million over the 30-year life of the bonds, but that is contingent on an interest rate of 4.2%, which was the rate as of March 17. The actual rate could change by the time the council votes on them and they’re issued.
Projects that could be included in this first wave of Measure A bonds are pedestrian, bikeway and traffic safety enhancements as well as street resurfacing across the city. Upgrades to city parks, libraries and Fire Department facilities were also listed in a report attached to the bond proposal voted on by the Finance Authority last week.
A plan presented by the Public Works Department in August outlined a five-year plan to invest $521 million on infrastructure projects across the city with the $150 million in bonds issued against Measure A being dedicated primarily to mobility projects ($95.2 million) with the remainder going to things like water quality improvement projects and repairs to public buildings and parks.
Some projects, like the $36.2 million Artesia Corridor revitalization that broke ground in February, will have a small portion ($500,000) of its work paid for by the Measure A bonds, with the bulk of the funding coming from outside grants. The bonds will also help fill a roughly $10 million funding gap for an overhaul of Studebaker Road in East Long Beach, which is expected to break ground in the fall.
Other public facilities are in need of funding, like Fire Station 9, which the City Council approved in January. That station, which will be built at 4104 Long Beach Blvd., could cost over $20 million, and the city currently has about $7.7 million set aside with another $3.2 million that was allocated in the five-year plan.
Street repairs and other mobility improvements made up the largest share of the five-year plan, with $322 million of the $521 million expected to go to those projects. However, the bulk of that money will likely come from outside funding like state and federal sources, as well as local transit agencies like Los Angeles County Metro, which granted the city $30 million for the Artesia Corridor project.