Projects that Long Beach officials hoped would provide shelter for the city’s homeless population this year have been delayed to at least 2024, including plans to build “tiny homes” in West Long Beach and the conversion of a motel in North Long Beach.
A combination of factors are to blame, city officials said.
The tiny home project planned at the city’s Multi-Service Center in West Long Beach will have to be relocated after officials determined that a pending 24-hour rail facility near the Port of Long Beach would create quality-of-life issues for those who moved into the homes.
The city is working to find a new site for the 33 homes.
The city has considered purchasing property, “but knowing how long that can take, our main focus has been looking at city-owned sites,” said Paul Duncan, the city’s homeless services bureau manager.
Long Beach received a $30.5 million grant from the state in June 2022 to help build the tiny home village and purchase a motel to convert into housing.
However, during Mayor Rex Richardson’s weekly livestream at the end of September, it was announced that the project site would be relocated, something Richardson called “a stumble.”
Duncan said that the operations from the Pier B rail project being built by the Port of Long Beach would not only create noise issues for the people who would ultimately live in the units, but it could put them near exhaust and other pollutants.
Despite already being in the middle of the permitting process for the tiny homes project, city officials decided to pull the plug and look for a new space, something Duncan said the city hopes to identify in the next month.
“We’re looking at a space that is going to be conducive to 15 years of operation, that’s our deal with the state,” Duncan said.
A city meeting Monday revealed few details about where the city might be looking, other than that the space needs to be paved, have existing utility connections and be accessible to things like public transit, libraries and grocery stores.
The conversion of the 78-room Luxury Inn Motel in North Long Beach into temporary housing has also been delayed.
In September 2022, the City Council approved the $16.6 million purchase of the Luxury Inn, which had been designated a “nuisance motel” by the city. The plan was to renovate the motel’s exterior and interior and convert it into temporary housing, something the city originally projected would be complete by October this year.
But then the contractor dropped out, Duncan said, leaving the city to find a new contractor, which will push the anticipated opening date to mid-2024.
Duncan said the contractor that had been enlisted was not “fully prepared” for the city’s project labor agreement, which sets minimums for union employment on municipal construction projects.
The same thing happened with a smaller 12-bed youth navigation center that the city planned to start construction on this year. The center would have provided storage and sleeping quarters for unhoused youth, but Duncan said that with the forecasted El Nino season, the work on that building’s roof could be pushed to the spring.
Improvements to the former Best Western property on Long Beach Boulevard are on schedule, but that project’s completion won’t free up any beds, Duncan said, noting that the units have remained occupied through the construction.
Long Beach won’t have to look for a winter shelter this year after its purchase of the former Rescue Mission thrift store location on Anaheim Street near the Los Angeles River.
The site is expected to serve as a year-round shelter with 85 beds and Duncan said the city is looking for additional space for when the bad weather hits and city staff was recently directed to look into the feasibility of sanctioned tent villages.
In February, the city resorted to setting up temporary cots inside the Multi-Service Center to help get people out of the extreme cold and weather that hit the region.
Duncan said that the city is not currently planning to do that because of the strain it placed on employees who had to set up the cots and tear them down each morning before the center opened, but he did not rule it out in the event of an emergency.
“I think there is definitely some reason to feel a little nervous and concerned about how bad is it [El Nino] going to be,” Duncan said. “I think one thing that is a positive is the amount and practice and resources we have, that we can move projects pretty quickly.”