Civically Speaking is a weekly newsletter on the latest local government news from the lens of the Long Beach Post’s City Hall reporter, who sits through so many city meetings for us. Subscribe here.

A new city ordinance could bar some people from libraries

In September, our now-editor Kat Schuster wrote a really in-depth story about the challenges city library employees face as they’re increasingly on the front lines of the homelessness crisis. 

You should read it here if you haven’t already. 

Libraries are community resources that give people free access to books, movies, podcasts and other materials. They also serve as a lifeline to less affluent populations, who use the library as a hub to access the internet and computers, which they might not be able to afford at home. 

I lived that reality as a child who grew up in a household that didn’t have the money to buy a computer until I was in the seventh grade. Libraries can be a critical equalizer of sorts as people try to better their standing in life.

For the unhoused, the city’s libraries can be even more critical. They’re a space where people can go to try to access sensitive documents, like birth certificates, and fill out applications for jobs or housing opportunities. On a more basic level, they can provide a quiet, air-conditioned place to rest or an electrical outlet to charge a cell phone.

Those basic services could be denied to more people under a proposed ordinance headed to the City Council Tuesday night. It would implement a new framework to enforce the library’s code of conduct, and it could suspend peoples’ ability to borrow library materials if they rack up fees of more than $25. 

If a person is suspended from the library, something that could last up to one year, and they return during that suspension, they could be subject to a misdemeanor charge, a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

The ordinance also sets up an appeals process, with the director of Library Services having the final say on those appeals. 

While the ordinance doesn’t explicitly mention unhoused people, some of the issues outlined in the library’s code of conduct appear to target that demographic. The same could be said of a new play area and meeting space that’s planned outside the Downtown library, where unhoused people frequently sleep.

Violations like bringing their possessions inside the library, sleeping on the ground or furniture, not wearing shoes or “sufficient clothing,” or not “reasonably” managing their hygiene can get a person’s library privileges revoked for three months for non-compliance or repeat offenses. 

I contacted the city because I had a few questions about the proposed ordinance, like who gets to determine what a “severe” violation of the rules is — something that could trigger a one-year ban.

I also wondered how the city would send notice of a hearing if a person chose to appeal and didn’t have an address. The ordinance says that in that case, the notice would be served personally — but what if the person can’t be found? 

(I haven’t gotten an answer yet. I’ll let you know when I do.)

One last question though: Can this proposed law open the city up to a future First Amendment lawsuit? 

I wrote about this issue last year when these changes began to make their way through the legislative process. You might remember Richard Kreimer, the unhoused man who sued a New Jersey town when he was banned for being too smelly and disruptive. 

He won that case (Kreimer v. Bureau of Police) on the grounds that there is a First Amendment right to receive information. But it also established the right for libraries to create and enforce a code of conduct. 

Time will tell if whatever the City Council votes on Tuesday night will successfully toe the line between preserving an atmosphere in the city’s libraries without violating anyone’s constitutional rights. 


Out with the old and in with the ube? This week was full of news about Fire Station 9. The construction contract for the new station was approved by the City Council Tuesday night, and next week the council could vote to approve the sale of the old station to the popular Filipino bakery, Gemmae Bake Shop. Gemmae is known for its ube-infused treats and is looking to expand its production capacity by turning the old Fire Station 9 on Long Beach Boulevard into a bakery and dining location. It could bring to a close years of uncertainty over Fire Station 9. The new station could be completed by 2027, according to city officials, and the council’s vote at its March 19 meeting could start the process of offloading the historic station to the family who owns Gemmae. 


It’s always budget season. If that’s not a saying already, I’m coining it now. ™ The City Council is set to hold a special study session Tuesday night where it will get an updated view of what city officials believe next year’s budget will look like. Earlier this year, the council was told that it could need to close a budget deficit of over $28 million for the fiscal year that starts in October. Without finding new money to account for that gap, that could mean big cuts to city services and potentially jobs. What could make things worse is news this week that the federal government might not reimburse cities like Long Beach that helped provide emergency shelters in motels during the pandemic under the belief that they would be made whole. For Long Beach, that unpaid bill could be as large as $6.2 million, and the city said earlier this week that it doesn’t know how not receiving a refund would affect its budget.

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