The following perspective pieces were written by Alan Pullman, the new Chair of the DLBA Board of Directors for Fiscal Year 2020-21, and Past Chair Silvano Merlo, who served during Fiscal Year 2019-20. Both include reflections upon the past fiscal year, which ended in September, as well as upcoming plans, challenges, and highlights to look forward to in the coming year.
Alan Pullman, Chair of the DLBA Board of Directors
Founding Principal, Studio One Eleven
In 2000, I founded Studio One Eleven in Downtown Long Beach because, after years working on architecture projects across the nation, I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to work and contribute in the city where I lived.
Working with DLBA seemed like a very natural progression, because if you’re going to dedicate yourself to revitalizing your community, it is important to become involved with organizations and entities that share the mission of creating a fantastic city.
When I accepted the position of Chair-Elect for the DLBA a year ago, I of course had no idea that when I took on the role of Chair in October, we would be in the midst of a pandemic and an economic crisis. Every Downtown has struggled tremendously through this COVID pandemic because urban places need to be lively. They’re about the creative combustion that occurs when people get together, whether it’s to socialize or do business together, or attend a performance event. We’ve really struggled through the pandemic shutdown because we haven’t been able to do that. We have a significant Downtown recovery to help facilitate at DLBA, and while it will be a challenge, I believe DLBA has helped many people and entities.
We are faced with many daunting tasks, including the need to rebuild our economic base and focus on attracting people into our Downtown – and we must accomplish this in a way that is equitable so that the benefits of our renewed economy flow to all members of our Downtown community. We have a resilient city. We have been through tough times before, and I feel that the community, the stakeholders, the City leaders, and DLBA are going to stick through this and rebuild.
I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the past several months and highlight the work DLBA did to assist its stakeholders. DLBA facilitated a dialogue that helped the City push forward on the Open Streets Initiative, which was a lifesaver for many businesses – I’m very proud of the work we did to help facilitate that and generate consensus around the Initiative in the Downtown. I think it has opened up even greater potential for vibrant streets into the future. Also of note was the cleanup event after the social unrest that occurred during Memorial Day weekend. That was a very painful time for our city. DLBA brought the community together at a challenging time, and it was a meaningful moment for the organization.
Looking to the year ahead, DLBA will begin the process of updating its Strategic Plan. As we move forward with this process, we will identify opportunities to diversify our board and bring more inclusive voices into our organization. We are also gearing up for a renewal of our Property Based Improvement District in 2022 and will engage the community in that process.
I am ready and eager to continue working with my fellow board members, our incoming chair, Loara Cadavona, and the DLBA staff. We have such a dedicated group of people who care deeply about the Downtown, and I am thrilled to be working with them for another year on our efforts to create a healthy, safe, and prosperous city.
Silvano Merlo, Past Chair, DLBA Board of Directors
General Manager, Courtyard Long Beach Downtown
Serving as Chair of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) Board of Directors has been a fulfilling experience that will remain with me for the rest of my life. Motivated to become involved in the community and its business district, I joined DLBA’s Board seven years ago when I began working in Long Beach managing the Courtyard Long Beach Downtown. I look forward to continuing that journey as Past Chair.
Reflecting on this year, one of the things that stood out to me the most was the dedication of DLBA’s staff and the way they have communicated with, assisted, and promoted Downtown stakeholders through the pandemic. As a Board, we are there to make recommendations and provide our two cents to staff, but it’s their job to get the work done and they’re doing a fantastic job. One moment in particular stands out – DLBA’s role in organizing volunteers to clean up Downtown after the night of unrest on May 31 was a significant moment for our community.
A major accomplishment to highlight is DLBA’s publication of a study by Beacon Economics regarding the potential effects of an inclusionary housing policy on Downtown. That report was presented to the City staff, elected officials, and our community, and it provided excellent context for City leadership to examine the matter.
The past year has been a learning experience – challenging times often serve as strong lessons. Experiencing this pandemic both from the perspective as DLBA Chair and as a businessperson has really put things in perspective when it comes to what is critically important to our community. One of the things that really hit home is that people need to continue to have conversations about socio-economic differences that we have experienced not only in Downtown Long Beach but also in the entire country.
Moving ahead, I look forward to the forthcoming process to update DLBA’s Strategic Plan, which is already a solid framework for the organization, as well as the more long-term process of renewing the Property Based Improvement District. DLBA is one of the leading improvement district organizations in the United States, and I am confident it will continue as a positive example and innovator.
I wish all the best to Alan Pullman as he takes the reins as Chair. If I could offer him one piece of advice, it would be to take risks and act quickly when the times demand it – and to have faith in the decision-making process among DLBA’s Board and staff.
Thank you all for this wonderful opportunity and I appreciate your contributions to the DLBA and our Downtown community.