A developer that wants to transform the old Fire Station 9 in Long Beach into low-cost housing says he has been stymied in the effort by an alleged glitch in the city’s application system.

The city announced earlier this month that it was looking to partner with a broker to sell the space after it received zero responses to a request for proposals to develop the site. But Taylor Rudd said he was under the impression his bid, which would have transformed the 85-year-old station into three affordable apartments, was submitted on time.

Rudd believed he sent his bid on Jan. 16, the day before the application period closed, but the city says he did not.

“At the very end it asks if you want to cancel and resubmit,” Rudd said. “That implies that if you’ve gone through this entire packet you’ve submitted a bid, but that didn’t happen because we didn’t hit submit.”

Rudd said the reason why he didn’t click submit was because there was no “submit” button. Now, he’s asking for the city to accept his bid and allow him to move forward with the project that would restore the outside station instead of leveling it, something community members have called for since the city first floated the idea of demolishing the station in 2021.

Screenshots of a bid to buy the firehouse dated Jan. 16 were shared with the Post by Rudd and his team, however, the city disputes Rudd’s claim and says it determined there wasn’t an issue with its RFP website after looking into the allegation.

“Since no bids were submitted through this RFP, of which the deadline was extended on more than one occasion, the city is now proceeding with listing the property,” Bo Martinez, the city’s director of economic development, said in an email.

Martinez said the city will review and consider all offers.

Station 9 closed in 2019 after the city said that recurring mold was causing firefighters who worked and slept there to develop illnesses. The building was constructed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s but has not been designated as a historic site, although some residents think it should be eligible.

In January, Long Beach City Councilmembers approved plans for a new Station 9 just north of the old one.

Rudd said his plan is to convert the inside of the former station into three two-bedroom apartments with the back of the station possibly being left open as a community space. The units would be reserved for people living in the city who need time to save up money to move onto more market-rate units or even purchase a home.

A similar project developed by Rudd in Oregon turned a Victorian home into multiple living units where tenants pay about $600 per month, Rudd said. Residents are allowed to stay for multiple years.

“All through the pandemic, everyone paid their rent, and that’s because we weren’t trying to gouge them or running it up,” Rudd said.

The outside of the firehouse would remain as it is, with a few minor upgrades. City officials have said that roof drainage issues had contributed to the recurring mold, but Rudd said that his goal would be to restore the outside and install a plaque honoring the firefighters who worked there.

“It needs to be around,” Rudd said.  “That just knocks everything out of the park when standing back and saying, ‘Yep, that’s a fire station all right. An old one.’”

He said he fears someone will buy it and knock it down to build condos or something that could generate more revenue than the affordable units he’s proposing. The area is zoned for up to three stories for future development.

When the building does get listed for sale, Rudd might not be alone in pursuing it.

Bob Gill, president of the Los Cerritos Neighborhood Association, which Fire Station 9 served before closing, said a coalition of neighborhood groups could also pursue the station.

Before the request-for-proposal window closed, Gill said there was talk of forming a nonprofit to acquire the building to be used as a community center and possibly office space for other nonprofits, which would help pay the monthly bills.

With the nearby Petroleum Club gone and the Expo Arts Center busy, Gill said having a space where community meetings could be held more easily would be a good thing for the area.

He said the city’s decision not to let the group inside the building before the RFP opened up was to blame for stifling those neighborhood groups’ efforts.

“We didn’t know if it was going to cost a whole bunch of volunteer hours and $10,000, or if it was going to cost a whole bunch of volunteer hours and $1 million, because they wouldn’t give us access,” Gill said.

Gill said the group is still interested in acquiring the building, and it will be a topic of discussion at its upcoming meeting. But now that it’s gone from a secret bid process to a negotiation process, he expects it could get more expensive and potentially price the neighborhood groups out.

Rudd’s bid for the property was $350,000, something that Gill said is outside of their price range.

“It’s really disappointing that we could have done something to make this a community building,” he said.

Long Beach turns to broker in attempt to sell old Fire Station 9 site

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.