Throughout its existence, DLBA has been active at the local, state, and federal levels in its advocacy of programs that improve the quality of life and business environment in Downtown. Presented with a huge challenge this year in the form of the public health crisis, DLBA has continued pushing forth Downtown-friendly ideas, issues, and initiatives without losing a step. The organization has remained focused on three key policy areas: production of housing, addressing the homelessness crisis, and supporting small businesses.
The meaningful production of housing is a vital component of any vibrant Downtown, and over the past few years DLBA has provided input on several of housing policies. Inclusionary housing, a concept defined by the requirement that new residential development includes a percentage of housing affordable to people with very low to moderate incomes, is a huge issue not only for Downtown but the City of Long Beach as a whole.
Since last year, DLBA has partnered with the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Association, the California Apartment Association, and Downtown commercial property owners to examine the City’s proposed inclusionary housing policy.
Austin Metoyer, DLBA’s Economic Development and Policy Manager, explained: “We joined with our partners and developed a policy position with three key goals: The first, grandfathering in existing developments so as to not add additional financial burdens to projects in the pipeline. Second, looking at how to stagger the policy over a three- to five-year term to allow the development community to adjust for the additional cost. And lastly, creating a review period to ensure our community has a way of tracking progress. We presented these ideas and hope to see them in the proposed policy when it is acted upon by the Long Beach City Council.”
DLBA has also supported the approval of several housing developments being presented to the City’s Planning Commission. All of them aligned with DLBA’s strategic plan to develop more residential inventory while meeting the design standards and goals set forth in the Downtown Plan created by the City in 2012. Three projects – The Mid-Block Civic Center Project (321 West Ocean Boulevard), the Third + Pacific Project (at the corner of Third Street and Pacific Avenue), and the West Gateway Project (600 West Broadway) – will bring 1,600 new residential units to Downtown.
Furthermore, DLBA has supported the streamlining of interim housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.
“Zoning regulations were very limiting as it relates to quickly providing interim housing for individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Metoyer. “Around the state, we’ve experienced a huge spike in our homeless population. So, how do we provide quick temporary housing options for individuals as they wait for permanent supportive housing to be built? Early this year, DLBA supported the City’s approval of interim housing zoning updates, which created greater flexibility and streamlined approval processes.”
The COVID-19 health crisis that developed in March prompted massive small business assistance efforts at the federal level. “The CARES Act passed by Congress, while necessary, did not go far enough to reach many of our small businesses. This was evident in the results of our COVID-19 Impact Survey.
“To address this shortfall, DLBA partnered with the Main Street Alliance, a national organization, to push for the approval of the Saving Our Streets Act. This bill would provide additional grant funding for businesses with 10 or fewer employees – and for businesses with 20 or fewer in low-income communities. The funds can be used for anything: payroll, rent payments, equipment purchases, or other needs. Grant amounts range from $2,000 to $250,000.” The Saving Our Streets Act was announced by Senator Kamala Harris and Rep. Ayanna Pressley on May 7, and has not yet formally been introduced to Congress.
Furthermore, the DLBA has also worked closely with state and local officials to support the slow and careful reopening of the Long Beach economy. Facilitating roundtable discussions with elected officials and business owners has helped develop the guidelines for which specific industries would open under while pushing for creative alternatives for businesses to generate revenue.
In today’s rapidly changing Downtown business climate, DLBA is doing its best to provide its stakeholders with a steady presence, offering educational, financial, and moral support to help lay the groundwork for an even better Downtown.