The Long Beach Utilities Commission agreed Thursday to let the Utilities Department develop one of its surplus properties near Long Beach Airport into a site where people living in their recreational vehicles can dispose of their waste appropriately—but it could be weeks before it opens for operation.

The commission voted unanimously to allow its site at 32nd Street and St. Louis Avenue, which is north of the 405 Freeway near Cherry Avenue, to be temporarily used as a dump and water-refill site.

Chris Garner, the general manager of the Utilities Department, said that the department would only be responsible for the water and sewer hookups for the site, which is expected to be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with other tasks associated with security and operations likely being performed by other city departments.

“Who that is? We don’t know yet, but we’ll bill for it,” Garner said of the ongoing costs to operate the site.

Tai Tseng, the assistant general manager for the department’s water operations, said that he expected the development of the site to take around 60 days, depending on how long it takes the city to present a plan to the department and procure materials like sewer dumping screens.

“After that, we could execute the construction in probably a week or so,” Tseng told the commission about the project, which could include about two or three RV hookup sites.

No overnight parking will be allowed at the site, and a department memo said that the city plans to bring in portable showers to the site within the next six months.

The total cost of the project is projected to be around $200,000, but Tseng and Garner both believe it could be much lower than that. It’s unclear how much the city might pay to operate it beyond the utility hookups.

From 2020 to 2022, Long Beach saw a 62% increase in people living in some state of homelessness across the city. Of the 2,287 people who were counted as unsheltered, 21% (about 480) were estimated to be living in vehicles, according to the city’s count, although it did not provide data specifically for RVs.

Paul Duncan, the city’s homeless services bureau manager, said that while people will be required to receive advanced permission to use the site, the city is looking at ways to make that as easy as possible, which could include the use of a voucher.

While it wouldn’t be the end of the world if a person not experiencing homelessness used the site, the city is trying to ensure that those in need are the people being served, Duncan said. This could happen through being contacted by one of the city’s outreach workers in the field or simply having a person contact the city through a phone call and providing their license plate number before heading to the facility.

“We’re trying to make it as low-barrier as possible for people getting there,” Duncan said. “We don’t want people dumping sewage in the storm drain or onto the street, and want to make sure that people have space to do that legitimately.”

While the original proposal called for a 12-month lease agreement with the city, Commission President Gloria Cordero asked for the contract to be linked to the city’s proclaimed state of emergency. The city announced in January that it was declaring a state of emergency for homelessness, with the initial timeframe being 180 days with an option for the City Council to extend it.

The declaration was followed by the council suspending certain zoning codes that made the use of this surplus site as a dumping station possible. Next week, the council is voting on a contract that could lead to the construction of 33 tiny homes at the Multi-Service Center in West Long Beach, and it’s also expected to announce the location for a second winter shelter Friday.

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