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Each year, the Downtown Long Beach Alliance produces an Annual Report to highlight major milestones, initiatives, and projects over the past 12 months and to provide an accounting of the organizations’ finances and operations. DLBA’s Annual Report for 2020 is unique among those of previous years in that it not only captures this key data and information, it also is a time capsule documenting how the unique challenges of the year impacted Downtown and how the organization responded to assist and uplift the community.

What follows is the introductory letter to this document penned by DLBA President & CEO Kraig Kojian and Fiscal year 2019-20 Board Chair Silvano Merlo, which provides a high-level summary of the organization’s work in 2020 and the contents of the Annual Report, interspersed with  graphical highlights from the publication. To view the full Annual Report, click here.

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To overstate the obvious, 2020 was a year unlike any other, and despite its challenges, the strength, resiliency, and compassion of the Downtown Long Beach community has carried us through. We could not be prouder of how our residents, workers, businesses, and property owners came together to support one another through the COVID-19 pandemic. True character is never clearer than when it is tested – and the character of Downtown Long Beach is shining bright.

The public health and economic crisis coupled with the politics surrounding the pandemic were the defining aspects of 2020 across the globe and made a profound impact on our Downtown. With businesses under tight operating restrictions and physical distancing protocols in place, local businesses, government, and community-serving organizations like the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) became creative, nimble, and fiscally assertive.

At the outset of these events, when everyone was essentially drinking information from a firehose, DLBA set its sights to manage the crisis on three major tenets and deliver assistance to its stakeholders by providing accurate information on a consistent basis, alleviating fear, and helping build a road to recovery.

DLBA’s Placemaking Department helped facilitate 27 new parklets, 3 blocks of Open Streets and 11 new sidewalk dining permits in Downtown in 2020.

These objectives quickly took shape with the creation of such programs that included, but were not limited to, a higher touch of communication and outreach to stakeholders, creation of landing pages such as the COVID-19 Resource Page to manage the amount of information that was being produced, launching a gift card promotion to continue to keep businesses front of mind and help instill some funds back into the local economy, and the Open Streets Program.Most notably, the DLBA Clean & Safe Team was deemed an essential service provider during the pandemic. The Team stepped up to provide enhanced sanitation of the public sphere in Downtown, including frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces and street furniture, increased refuse collection efforts, and expanded pressure washing to complement the Open Streets Program.

Emergency assistance grants funded by Farmers & Merchants Bank. were provided to Downtown businesses at the start of the pandemic. Storefront recovery grants (funded by donations from Zwift, Waterford Property Company, and Panattoni Development Company) assisted businesses affected by crime on May 31. Also in partnership with F&M Bank, 3 local women-owned businesses received grants to expand their operations.

Never more apparent than in 2020 was the incredible value and flexibility of our public realm. Through the Long Beach Open Streets Initiative, streets, sidewalks, and parking spaces were converted to facilitate safe outdoor dining. In addition to acting as a lifeline for restaurants, the parklets and “streateries” created over the past months have emphasized the importance of public space by establishing a sense of community and illustrated what heights can be achieved when the public, private, and nonprofit sectors partner for the greater good.The past year was also defined by a renewed and invigorated social justice and racial equity cause. The local center of the Black Lives Matter movement was in Downtown Long Beach, where over the summer months many demonstrations took place drawing people of all backgrounds and ages. On May 31, when the largest of these events occurred, thousands of people took to the streets of DTLB to voice their desire for change. Unfortunately, that message was taken advantage of by illicit elements who stayed hours after the protest dispersed, causing extensive losses and damage to many businesses. The evening had lasting impacts on many in our community, but none more lasting and reflective than our community’s capacity to move forward together, demonstrated during the clean-up held the next day when hundreds of people returned to Downtown to help sweep up broken glass, remove graffiti, and take inventory of damages. As our community continues to navigate conversations addressing social equity and justice, DLBA is committed to take part and support these discussions and our community’s right to free speech in the public sphere.

The DLBA remains resolute in its mission to cultivate, preserve, and promote a healthy, safe, and prosperous Downtown. While the immediate future continues to hold a level of uncertainty, we will continue to help lead our community through these last months of the health crisis and build Downtown’s recovery by realigning the strong trajectory of investment, growth, and progress it has experienced for several years.

Clean & Safe Team Highlights 2020

Through a suite of economic development and marketing programs, ongoing advocacy on behalf of the community, creation of beautiful and active public spaces, and maintenance of the safety and cleanliness of our streets, DLBA continues to promote and solidify Downtown as a destination. Community development is a never-ending process, and we are unrelentingly committed to our work as a leader and guardian of progress for Downtown Long Beach.

This annual report is offered as an in-depth look at this past year — its challenges, opportunities, and the successes it produced — and captures the resilient spirit of our community. To read the full report, click here.

Kraig Kojian, President & CEO

 

 

Silvano Merlo, Board Chair, FY 2019-20