At its Tuesday March 17 meeting, the Long Beach City Council converged via teleconference. Like many social settings affected by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the council was not able to meet due to the restrictions placed on large groups. Mayor Robert Garcia sat in the chamber alone, while the rest of the Council participated in the meeting by calling in.
The council voted 9-0 to cancel the March 23 and the April 1 meeting, and resume council meetings for the rest of April through teleconference.
The City was granted a waiver from the Governor’s office that allowed the Council to hold meetings by teleconference due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus.
The vote also canceled Non-Charter Commission Meetings up through April 30, 2020, unless requested by the Acting City Manager Tom Modica.
The council voted to move forward on looking into a moratorium on evictions in relation to coronavirus COVID-19, as well as other measures to stop the spread of the disease.
The proposed bill will place a freeze on rent for tenants who are unable to pay rent due to the loss of jobs or work hours due to coronavirus.
Under the ordinance, tenants will be given a four to six-month grace period after the lift of the moratorium to back the deferred rent along with current rent. The proposed ordinance suspending rent and evictions are set to sunset on May 31.
Also discussed, was a freeze on evictions during this period due to the need to quarantine as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
One topic of debate concerning the emergency ordinance was the range of eviction ban.
Third District Councilmember Suzie Price argued against a total ban on evictions and asked that it be limited to evictions relating to non-payment due to COVID-19.
“I do not think we should be eliminating property owner’s right to evict tenants, under the law, who violates a term of their rental agreement by virtue of committing one of the enumerated offenses that’s listed in our California code,” Price said.
Ninth District Councilmember Rex Richardson argued against limiting the moratorium except in extreme cases due to the ongoing health crisis.
“The idea here isn’t necessarily to help bad guys. The idea is to limit movement. You can’t shelter in place if you don’t have shelter,” Richardson said.
Also discussed were small interest loans for small businesses and deferment of property taxes.
The council also asked the city attorney to establish language in the ordinance that would require employees at the airport, hotels and the convention centers to wash their hands every 30 minutes.
The city attorney said that he could potentially have an ordinance drafted by Tuesday, March 24, or Thursday, March 26.
Housing on Midblock site
The Council also voted to authorize the city manager to move forward on development on the Midblock site downtown.
As part of the project, Garcia announced that the City has been working with California State University Long Beach, Long Beach City College and Long Beach Unified to develop a teacher’s village.
“[As part] of that teacher’s village, which will be part of the development, […] half of those units will be affordable units,” Garcia said. “The other half will be more market-rate units, but all of the units will have benefits that could include no deposit payments, free Long Beach transit, free Bike Share, and access to community space.”