2014: A Year of New Beginnings!

 

Ninth District

2014 Year End Review

 

What a year 2014 has been!  We have a new City Council, new staff team, a new field office, and, personally, my wife Nina and I welcomed our first child, Alina,  into the world.  We are humbled to have had such a meaningful year and pleased to have shared it with all of you. 

2014 has been a year of transition and new beginnings.  As former 9th District Chief of Staff, I have been able to hit the ground running as a Councilmember and continue the Uptown Renaissance that began under my predecessor, Councilmember Steve Neal. 

I am extremely proud of the work we have accomplished together in our first 5 months in office, and we’d like to take some time to share some highlights with you.

Legislative Update:  

Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Representative - 
In September, I was elected to represent District #29 on the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Regional Council, which encompasses parts of Long Beach and Avalon.  SCAG is an association of local governments and agencies that voluntarily convene as a forum to address regional issues, with a focus on regional transportation planning.  I attended the SCAG Economic Summit in December, and look forward to serving in this capacity as a means to improve planning and mobility in North Long Beach.

My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge - At City Council in October, we asked for a full report on President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative and methods on how the City of Long Beach can support the initiative to improve conditions for boys and men of color in Long Beach and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.  This report is expected back in January 2015, and will include a review of current programs and policies within the City of Long Beach support the goals of the MBK Initiative and an evaluation of the ability for the City to accept the MBK Community Challenge. 

Artesia Blvd. Master Plan - In November, I led a motion at the City Council to create an Artesia Boulevard Corridor Committee in partnership with the Gateway Cities Council of Governments.  The establishment of the Artesia Boulevard Corridor Committee will help facilitate planning efforts across multiple jurisdictions and improve connectivity of transportation projects along this corridor.  The proposed local jurisdictions who will participate in this committee include Long Beach, Compton, Bellflower, Lakewood and Cerritos.

64th Street Traffic Signal Study - 
In December, we were able to make progress on a longtime problem intersection along the border of Long Beach and the City of Bellflower.  While the intersection of Downey Ave. and 64th St. is in the City of Bellflower, it is a safety issue for many of our residents, and various neighborhood associations have led the effort with us to get the matter resolved.  We were able to get Council approval to move forward in funding a traffic study and negotiating with the City of Bellflower to help pay for a signal, if warranted.  We are confident that with this action, a solution for that intersection will be found in the near future.

Proposed Long Beach Veteran Affairs Commission - 
On Nov. 11th the City Council meeting was held on Veteran’s Day and took place in the 9th District at Houghton Park.  At this meeting, I introduced a motion to create a Veterans Affairs Commission.  This proposed Commission will serve as an advisory body to the City Council concerning the well-being of military veterans in Long Beach. 

Retention of Former RDA Property Proceeds - 
Also at the Nov. 11th meeting, the City Council took a major step in ensuring that proceeds from the sale of former RDA proceeds will be retained to improve the local project areas. We were successful in passing a Council policy to allocate 75% of proceeds from the sale of city owned properties to fund blight removal, revolving loan funds for small business establishment and growth, and key infrastructure investments in the project areas where the former Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA) properties are located. The other 25% will be set aside for citywide economic development priorities that impact all portions of the city.  This was a major victory for the former RDA communities of North, Central, Downtown, and West Long Beach, and will enable the City to invest the proceeds in alignment with the original mission of the former Long Beach RDA. 


2 New Initiatives:  Placing a Focus on Youth and Civic Engagement

WV__1.JPGNorth Long Beach Whole Village Initiative
In October, I, along with Long Beach Unified School District Board Member Megan Kerr, established the North Long Beach Whole Village (NLBWV) Initiative.  The Initiative is a dual effort to support schools and the community in the North Long Beach area, with a focus on improving conditions and outcomes for youth of color.  The NLBWV Initiative focuses on four main areas to help students (K-12) and families succeed:  after school programs, mentoring opportunities, college readiness, and jobs and Internships.

A Task Force of 31 key North Long Beach stakeholders, educational experts, clergy, and community organizations have been appointed to advise the work of the Initiative.  The Task Force committees have assembled for the past two months and will continue to meet monthly in 2015.  The Task Force will be developing a plan with recommendations in all four focus areas to support positive outcomes for North Long Beach youth of color.  The planning phase will end in Spring 2015, with the release of the task force recommendations and a timeline for implementation.   

In order to support the efforts of the North Long Beach Whole Village Initiative, Board Member Kerr and I formed the North Long Beach Education Foundation to fund programs and activities that directly affect the four focus areas of the Initiative. We look forward to being able to support our North Long Beach students, families, and schools.

PB_1.jpgEmpower Uptown” Participatory Budgeting Project

In July 2014, we kicked off a district wide project called Empower Uptown Participatory Budgeting (PB).  PB is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget.  And in fact, the Ninth District is the first Council District in the Southern California region to implement PB.  While participating in Participatory Budgeting, residents:  1) Brainstorm community improvement projects at neighborhood assemblies and on an online platform, 2) Develop these ideas into proposals, and 3) Vote on a ballot for those proposals to be implemented.


We have set aside $250,000 of one-time infrastructure funds to support projects through this PB process.  The Empower Uptown team, a Steering Committee of 20 dedicated Ninth District residents, have been driving this process.  Over the past three months, we have held four major neighborhood assemblies, engaged more than 300 people, and collected more than 250 ideas from residents and stakeholders within the district.  We are entering next into the proposal development phase, and in 2015 will be voting on project proposals to fund.  For more information, you can visit www.pblongbeach.org.  I can’t wait to see what projects our residents vote to fund!


Project and Infrastructure Updates:

Complete_Streets__2.JPGAtlantic Avenue Complete Streets Project
This past Spring, former Councilmember Steven Neal broke ground on the Atlantic Avenue Complete Streets Project and construction took place through the City Council transition. This project was completed on time in October, in advance of the Long Beach Veterans Day Parade.

This comprehensive project included reconstruction of Atlantic Avenue, installation of landscaped medians, decorative crosswalks, bike lanes, and over 100 new street trees that were planted as part of the citywide inaugural day of service in partnership with Mayor Robert Garcia.

The next phase, which includes decorative pedestrian lighting, new decorative trash cans, new bus shelters, designation signage, and bike racks will take place in early 2015. 

North_Library__2.JPGNorth Branch Library Groundbreaking

In August, the City Council approved the construction contract to WoodCliff Corporation for the North Branch Library, and we celebrated the Groundbreaking Ceremony on October 25th. In addition, we hosted a pre-construction community meeting on October 23rd to ensure that community concerns about construction impacts were vetted. 

The new library will be the anchor to the “North Village Center” mixed-use development, and will bring much needed economic vitality to the Atlantic corridor. We expect to see structures begin to take form in January, and construction is estimated to last 18-24 months. 

Imagine_Houghton__1.jpgHoughton Park Community Center Visioning
On September 23rd, the City Council approved Studio Pali Fekete (SPF) Architects to begin the visioning process for a new Houghton Park Community Center.  We hosted our first design meeting sessions on November 19th with 90 participants. In addition, we hosted additional sessions at the Breakfast with Santa event on December 20th with 85 participants respectively.

While we’re still in the initial design phases, I am confident that with our residents’ help over the next few years, we will design a community center that will meet the dreams and needs of the community for years to come.

Please visit www.imaginehoughton.com to keep up with design progress and submit a survey about how you utilize the current community center and changes you would like to see made.  

After_CS_Sidewalks.jpgCollege Square Sidewalks Improvements
In July, major sidewalk improvements were completed in the College Square neighborhood along 67th near the CA Aquatic Therapy and Wellness Center and a number of key locations throughout the neighborhood. These sidewalks were in desperate need of repair and now feature ADA compliant ramps for wheelchairs. 



New_Office.JPGNew Field Office and Open House
At the end of October, we held our first fall Open House at our new Field Office and it was a blast!  Remember if you’d like to drop in, our regular Field Office hours are Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10 AM to 2 PM.


Neighborhood Association Updates
Our neighborhood associations and community groups continue to grow and flourish in the 9th District.  We currently have 10 active neighborhood associations and one new association that will begin to meet in 2015, the McKinley Neighborhood Association. 

Here are just some of the notable successes from the Neighborhood Associations since July: 

  • Coolidge Triangle Neighborhood Association has been enjoying a transformed Coolidge Park this year.  With improvements having gone in last winter, numerous residents have commented on how nice it is seeing the park being used for all kinds of activities, with youth playing basketball late into the evenings, families enjoying the playground, adults enjoying the fitness equipment and dog-owners taking advantage of the new dog park.  Coolidge also had a change in leadership and elected former secretary Carlos Valdez to serve as neighborhood’s new president. The association hosted their annual yard sale and was successful in hosting informative meetings to wrap up the remainder of their year.    
  • College Square Neighborhood Association also elected a new president, naming Deborah Shelton the head of their neighborhood. The association hosted its annual Block Party and shut down 67th Way, where neighbors enjoyed food and games. 
  • Starr King Neighborhood Association received a visit from Long Beach Police Department Acting Commander Rudy Komisza, who is filling in for Commander Bob Luman, while he recovers from back surgery. They have advocated and won significant lighting improvements on the corridors adjacent to Long Beach Blvd, and will continue to see progress on the corridor in 2015. 
  • Longwood Neighborhood Association has reactivated after a short hiatus and has a new president, Julia Brown.  In addition, Long Beach Community Action Program (LBCAP), one of Long Beach's largest and most successful non-profits, announced they will be relocating to the neighborhood! 
  • Hamilton Neighborhood Association enjoyed a great deal of attention recently, with a major traffic study being completed north of the 91 Freeway, especially during school drop-off and pick-up times.  A number of improvements including stop signs, other signage slowing traffic down and improved street markings were added to address longtime traffic concerns along 68th, Walnut, Penfold and Milmark Avenues.  
  • DeForest Park Neighborhood Association continues to be a strong voice in the 9th District.  The association appointed two new leaders, Joni and Keith, who will serve on the association’s board.  In 2015, they’ll have their hands full with the DeForest Wetlands restoration finally moving forward as well as street work on Elm St. 
  • Houghton Neighborhood Association kicked off my term in office in a very rewarding way, as we partnered up with then newly-elected Mayor Robert Garcia, hosting a day of service in North Long Beach.  Over 100 volunteers gathered and planted over 100 trees along Atlantic Ave. In 2015, we look forward to lots of exciting park projects and the design of the new community center. 
  • Grant Neighborhood Association partnered up with our office and warmly welcomed us into their neighborhood, as we relocated our field office into old Fire Station 12. The official open house took place on October 30th, when our office and the neighborhood association hosted a Costume Party Open House and Potluck.  The Grant Neighborhood Association has also hosted several successful neighborhood cleanups and alley cleanup projects this year. 
  • St. Francis Neighborhood Association quarterly meetings never fail to turn out a large crowd. Led by Eileen Oien, the group’s long time efforts to bring a traffic signal to Downey Ave have finally paid off, and in November we were able to secure the traffic study for new traffic controls at the intersection of Downey Ave. and 64th. 
  • Ramona Neighborhood Association and neighborhood saw the opening of the long awaited Ramona Park Senior Apartments, which restored a previously vacant lot and has provided much needed affordable housing to local seniors.  

Ninth District Casework By The Numbers:
While we have only been in office for the past five months, we have managed to complete a variety of constituent cases and continue the momentum and quality casework of the previous staff.  Since July, we have logged over 550 cases, including calls for illegal dumping, animal control, and referrals for Code Enforcement, LBPD and Public Works.  Here are some highlights from 2014: 

  • Major repavement of Walnut Ave. from South St. to Harding St.
  • 29 streets sidewalks repaired
  • 82 smaller sidewalk sites patched for safety
  • 949 potholes repaired in our streets and alleys
  • 5246 instances of graffiti processed and abated
  • 90 trees trimmed outside of the City’s tree trimming cycle 

2014 was a great year, not only for North Long Beach, but for Long Beach as a whole. This month, the City of Long Beach was awarded one of 14 prestigious Innovation Team Grants from Bloomberg Philanthropies to improve the capacity to design and implement new approaches that improve citizens’ lives.  We have also embarked on the process of negotiating a citywide Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to encourage training and employment for disadvantaged residents in major city construction projects.  

Finally, the City Council recently voted unanimously to move forward with the approval of a project team, Plenary-Edgemoor Civic Partners, to build a new Civic Center for all of our residents to utilize and be proud of. These are all major steps forward for the city of Long Beach, and I look forward to the new year and the opportunities to come.

Sincerely,

rex-sig2.png
Councilmember Rex Richardson

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