The City Council has approved a plan to bring new lighting, historical plaques and murals to Long Beach’s Broadway corridor, highlighting the area’s legacy as a historically gay district.

Over the next two years, residents should expect to start seeing new streetlight banners, pieces of neon artwork along the walls, educational sidewalk tiles and decorative string lighting intended to liven up the area’s nighttime look and give visitors a glimpse into the corridor’s LGBTQ+ history.

After that — over the next two to four years — the city intends to plant dozens of new trees and augment them with decorative lighting along the 1.4-mile stretch between Alamitos and Temple avenues.

The borders of Long Beach’s new LGBTQ+ cultural district.

So far, the city has allocated $2.5 million in Measure A sales tax revenue for the project, with the possibility of more funding coming later for more items like decorative crosswalks, art on utility boxes, gateway signs, and lighting for business facades and pedestrian walkways.

The plan is the culmination of two years of studies and community surveys where the city collected hundreds of opinions about how it should go about establishing the district.

“This particular corridor has been an LGBTQ+ cultural distinct for a very long time, … but with this, we’re actually making it official, and that really excites me,” Councilmember Mary Zendejas said before she and other City Council members voted unanimously to approve the plan.

The stretch of Broadway has long been home to many of the city’s LGBTQ+ businesses and residents, being dubbed a “Gay Mecca” by the Los Angeles Times in 1984.

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In the past, the area “had an estimated 25 to 50 percent of gay-owned businesses and an estimated 30 percent gay residents, compared with to 8 to 13 percent citywide,” according to a city report on the corridor’s history.

Long Beach Pride was also founded in 1984 and is still going strong — attracting thousands of attendees annually — 41 years later.

Despite the corridor’s reputation, the LGBTQ+ population in Long Beach was far from immune from persecution. Even as the number of LGBTQ+ residents boomed in the 1900s, they suffered threats of violence, targeted arrests by police, and even a firebombing at the city’s first gay dance club, Club Ripples, in 1973.

Today, there’s less of a concentration of gay businesses along Broadway, but historic bars like The Brit or Mineshaft remain, along with LGBTQ+ eateries like The Wild Chive and Hot Java.

With the strategic plan for the cultural district adopted by the City Council on Tuesday, the next steps will be to identify and start work on specific projects.

“This is going to help a lot of local businesses,” Councilmember Cindy Allen said before voting for the plan. ” … At least I hope it does.”

The full plan is available here.

Jeremiah Dobruck is managing editor of the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @jeremiahdobruck on Twitter.