North Long Beach On Road to Renaissance

Article by Gazettes Staff Writer,

Jennifer Rice Epstein

 

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Councilman Rex Richardson called for a renaissance in North Long Beach Wednesday at his State of the Ninth District address.

His “Roadmap to the Renaissance” is composed of three main areas of focus: parks and open space; revitalization of Artesia Boulevard and rethinking Atlantic Avenue.

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By this time next year, Richardson said, the Houghton Park Community Center will have an approved, final design, and the first phase of restoration of the DeForest Wetlands, which runs alongside the Los Angeles River from Del Amo Boulevard to DeForest Park, will be completed. He also is calling for the development of open and green spaces in neighborhoods north of the 91 Freeway, where he says many community members do not live within a half mile of a park.

Richardson also plans to work with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Gateway Council of Governments to reduce congestion along Artesia Boulevard and create an Open Streets event, a “mini-Beach Streets,” to bring attention to businesses along Artesia.

For Atlantic, Richardson said he aims to “attract new residential, commercial and community service development” on a number of empty and blighted lots.

He said he hoped to build on the success of the recent Beach Streets to further enliven the portion of Atlantic Avenue that runs through his district.

Richardson, who has just completed his first year in office, also ran through a list of his key accomplishments from the past year, including lowered crime and neighborhood improvements.

Crime in North Long Beach is at a 41-year low, he said, with significant reductions in burglaries and theft. And, to date, there have been no murders in his district this year.

Unsafe sidewalks in the College Square neighborhood were replaced, and the area is now safer for pedestrians and wheelchair users, he said. Three streets in the neighborhood, including Artesia Boulevard, have been repaved. And more than 2,000 potholes were repaired.

But these were not the accomplishments of which he was most proud.

“The number of potholes you fill is not a demonstration of leadership,” Richardson said.

He said coordinated efforts between city leadership and community members have played a role in the reduction in crime, and the formation of his Ninth District Leadership Council has illuminated the issues and concerns of residents. 

North Long Beach also piloted a project where community members decide how to spend a portion of public funds, called participatory budgeting. About 2,700 district residents aged 14 or older voted for a new marquee at Jordan High, solar powered lighting in DeForest Park, and a number of LBPD security cameras in high-crime zones.

Richardson and LBUSD School Board member Megan Kerr have coordinated efforts on youth programs, including a series of street banners, installed in June, that celebrated every Jordan High School senior who would be attending a four-year college or the enlisting in the armed forces. 

One such student, Diana Pliego, spoke at the meeting.

“Coming from two immigrant parents, I see the struggle they go through and the lack of opportunities they have,” Pliego said, noting that her mother, who works two jobs, could not get the time off to attend the meeting and watch her speech.

She said seeing her family’s difficult path made her value her education. In addition to studies and extracurricular activities, Pliego also worked part-time in high school to contribute to the household. She made minimum wage, just as her mother does.

In fall, she will be a freshman at UCLA’s prestigious nursing program, which, she said, only admitted 40 students this year.

“Seeing those banners makes me feel recognized,” she said, crying. 

Richardson handed out a number of Empower Uptown awards — modeled on Mayor Robert Garcia’s Go Long Beach awards — to local businesses and community leaders. 

Staffers passed out copies of the Roadmap as Richardson read from a recent KCET article that extolled the hidden treasures of North Long Beach. The mood was lively and enthusiastic as Richardson asked for help to “kick the renaissance into high gear.”

“One thing I know is that if there’s gonna be a change in North Long Beach, we’re gonna do it,” he said. “They’re not going to do it without us.”

 

Gazettes | By Jennifer Rice Epstein | Staff Writer

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