This month marks the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA), which, since its inception, has played an essential role in the evolution of Downtown.

Begun in the late 1930s as a collective of 15 Downtown businessmen, DLBA has developed into a community-driven organization focusing on a variety of core functions such as advocacy, marketing and special events; business recruitment, retention, and job creation; activating the public realm; and maintaining cleanliness and safety. To see several timeline highlights over the past 85 years, click here.

By 1937, the young City of Long Beach had already undergone seismic shifts in its growth — literally and figuratively. Downtown was still recovering from the earthquake of 1933, which had caused widespread damage. The U.S. Navy, with a base just west of Downtown, was becoming a huge presence. Pine Avenue, which had started out around the turn of the century as a dirt road with plenty of hitching posts for horses, was beginning to resemble a small version of New York City’s 5th Avenue.

This was the setting in which a group of 15 Downtown business executives including Harry Buffum, President of his family’s department store, and Fred S. Dean, co-owner of a Downtown electronics store and an advocate for local radio, became incorporated as the Long Beach Retailers, Associated (LBRA). This was the first iteration of DLBA, mainly focused on a cooperative advertising campaign in local newspapers.

When World War II began, The Port of Long Beach and the nearby Naval Base were considered prime targets, so LBRA expanded its focus to include employee and shopper protection; An article from a LBRA Bulletin from early 1942 speaks of “store defense coordinators,”fire watchers,” and “what to do in case of a direct hit.”

The years following the war brought prosperity to Long Beach, along with an influx of people moving into the town’s rapidly expanding suburbia. LBRA attracted folks to Downtown by promoting innovative shopping events such as night sales, special holiday events and “Good Ol’ Days,” a yearly promotion in which attendees were encouraged to dress in early-1900s garb.

By 1957, LBRA had over 1,000 members and had solidified its place in the positive development of Downtown, providing steady support to the business community, raising its profile and prestige by attracting major entertainment figures to be honored at its annual meetings, and maintaining a “boots on the ground” approach to clean streets and alleyways. That year, LBRA became re-incorporated as Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA).

DLBA increased its Downtown impact in 1973 when the Long Beach City Council empowered it to manage the Downtown Parking Improvement Area (DPIA). In 1998, DLBA was named to manage the funding and programs associated with the newly established Downtown Property- Based Improvement District (PBID).

The PBID was renewed by property owners in 2003, including a unanimous vote by Long Beach City Council, and again in 2012 with approval from Downtown commercial and property owners (NOTE: the Downtown PBID is up for renewal this year).

In 2016, DLBA rebranded itself, changing from “Associates” to “Alliance” to better reflect its role as a community-driven organization representing about 5,000 stakeholders spanning from residents to businesses to property owners.

While reflecting on DLBA’s past, we thought this was a good point to update you on what will soon be part of our collective history. As you may know, DLBA is in the process of finding its next President and CEO, the first time in 25 years that the position has been available. The formal search process launched in March and has generated interest from several experienced candidates.

The DLBA Search Committee’s anticipated working timeline, subject to change, is to interview semi-final candidates at the end of June, potentially making an offer in mid-July with a start date in mid-August. As a reminder, the process includes Board approval.

DLBA’s mission today is clear: we strive to cultivate, preserve and promote a healthy, safe and prosperous Downtown for all. Those last two words, added to the mission statement during our strategic plan update process in 2021, are perhaps more critical than ever.

DLBA is intently focused on ensuring that diversity is a cornerstone in all that we do. Our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access (DEIA) Steering Committee continues to make progress on development of a new framework for the organization this year. It will enable DLBA and its stakeholders to once again shape the future of Downtown Long Beach.

(Click the following link for DLBA’s Organizational Equity Statement)