The City Council approved the first step of a land swap that could see the city give three parcels of land in North Long Beach to Long Beach City College, which hopes to develop it into affordable student housing.
With the council’s unanimous vote Tuesday night, the city declared three parcels north of the Michelle Obama Library between Atlantic Avenue and Lime Avenue as surplus land. The city will now be able to negotiate with the college on the terms, but college officials believe a deal will be struck.
LBCC officials say the college wants to build a 36-bed affordable housing project that would be joined by two classrooms, a food pantry and study areas as it tries to push into the North Long Beach area, which is far from its East Long Beach and Central Long Beach campuses.
The college is also in the process of opening a higher education center just a block away from the proposed housing development where a 30-person computer lab, some non-credit courses and small business advising are expected to be provided.
That project was originally proposed by now-Mayor Rex Richardson, who requested the city look at creating a higher education center in the area in November 2018. Earlier this year, Richardson sent letters to city educational institutions asking them to partner with the city in creating more affordable housing.
Richardson called the vote “great progress” after noting it had been delayed because of the pandemic.
Councilmember Joni Ricks-Oddie, who represents the area, said that the project is a unique way to address both the city’s affordable housing issue and the need for a higher learning institution in North Long Beach, where students have been shown to favor Compton and Cerritos Colleges because of their proximity.
“Legitimately, that commute is difficult if you don’t have a car,” Ricks-Oddie said Tuesday. “Going from Jordan to LBCC can take you two hours if you’re on the bus.”
Councilmember Daryl Supernaw said he supported the proposal, but said maybe the city should look into addressing transit times for bus riders if it truly is taking people hours to traverse the city.
How the college will pay for the project is unclear.
If the city finalizes a transfer of the parcels to LBCC, the college will have to find roughly $32.3 million, the current projected cost to construct the affordable housing project. Depending on when funding is secured, a college spokesperson said last week that the project could break ground as soon as December 2025.
While the project has been tapped for a $1 million grant from Congress, a college spokesperson said the college could pursue bonds to help cover the rest of the cost.
In a meeting last month, the college’s Board of Trustees was presented with an option to explore putting a bond measure on the 2024 ballot to help fund this project and other affordable housing initiatives it’s looking to build, like a 421-bed development at its Liberal Arts Campus in East Long Beach.
LBCC had applied for state funding to help pay for that $103 million project, but college officials said that it appears unlikely it will receive that funding.
The board of trustees opted not to put a bond measure on the 2022 ballot after the idea of raising property taxes to pay for $285 million renovation of Veterans Stadium did not poll well with residents.