At its May 19 meeting, the Long Beach City Council discussed a proposal for an open street program, an extension for the eviction moratorium, protections for workers and the City’s financial future.
The City Council voted to have the city attorney draft an emergency ordinance that would extend the eviction moratorium and tenants’ length of time to pay back past rent.
The orders issued by the Council would extend the moratorium by 60 days, and allow for the Council to consider an extension two weeks before the ordinance would expire.
Additionally, the ordinance would extend the period residents have to pay back the rent to July 31, 2021.
The moratorium was initially passed in March and suspended rent for tenants who were unable to pay due to financial hardship related to the coronavirus.
The order extended included rent from March to May, and had a sunset date of May 31. Tenants would then have until November to become current on back rent.
The Council also asked the city attorney to return with the best ways to protect tenants from harassment from landlords.
The City Council held a study session last night to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the City’s financial outlook and how it will affect the budget in the future.
In his comments, Mayor Robert Garcia stated that the health crisis had a substantial negative impact not only on workers and business owners but also on the City.
“I think we’re all aware that we have some significant budget challenges here, both in the near future and in the years ahead,” Garcia said. “Budgeting was already going to be difficult, as we all know. With COVID-19, it becomes a major economic challenge for us as a community.”
Garcia also stated that Long Beach, like the rest of the state, will have to make tough decisions and prioritize what programs are essential to the City and its residents.
The City’s financial situation was presented to the Council by the City Manager, Tom Modica, who explained that the economic downturn is one of the worst seen.
“We have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. We have businesses that are shut down. We have unemployment skyrocketing. Some of the highest that we have ever seen– including the Great Recession,” Modica told the Council.
Beyond the closing of businesses, the City is suffering from a lack of other revenue sources.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the City has stopped collecting on parking fines, rental fees from businesses and other fees.
Looking at the 2020 General Fund, officials are projecting a 17 percent drop in sales tax, a 43 percent decline in the Transient Occupancy Tax, a 30 percent decline in oil revenue and an 11 percent decline in parking citation revenue.
Adding to the issue is the fact that Long Beach did not qualify for the “large city” funding package from the CARES package.
To qualify for the larger sum, Long Beach would have to have a population larger than 500,000, but the City was only able to report between 484-485 thousand residents.
To offset this setback, the City is hoping to receive a portion of state funds allocated for COVID relief. The State of California could also receive more federal funding but is waiting for legislation to be approved by the senate.
The City Council voted to direct the city manager to begin developing an open streets initiative to help small businesses impacted by the coronavirus, as well as provide community events for residents.
The potential ordinance would help the City look at how to safely reopen certain streets and sidewalks to provide better transit locations for residents and allow restaurants to open.
Under the ordinance, small restaurants would be allowed to offer sidewalk dining to customers.
In his comments, Garcia supported the initiative, saying that the current pandemic is not only a health issue but also an economic crisis for many small business owners.
“What we have in front of us is a new open streets initiative that is going to want to explore ways to open up more public space throughout our city for increased outdoor activities, safer access to transit, a stronger economic recovery and to allow us to physically distance and be safe within our own City,” Garcia said.
The proposed plan would also create pedestrian safe areas by setting up barriers on streets to create space for street dining. The program will also use a mixture of fully closed and partially closed roads to create safe zones for residents.
4th District Councilmember, Daryl Supernaw, stated that he wasn’t sure if this program would be beneficial to his district and said he did not receive a lot of support for the project in his community.
Supernaw also stated that this project might not be a good idea for areas that are low in parking and that some residents may not want to give up their lots for dining.
He also asked if residents located next to restaurants have any input on whether or not a restaurant can offer outdoor dining next door to their homes, and whether or not these neighbors have any rights regarding the location.
Another concern from the councilmember was related to creating situations where cars generate traffic and how police will be used for crowd control.
“Today in the fourth district that donut shop […] had to be shut down due to gridlock from cars queued up,” Supernaw said. “We just have to be very wary of these types of situations.”
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The City Council decided to pass a motion forgiving street sweeping citations for residents who are financially affected by the health crisis.
Last month, the Council voted to resume street sweeping due to health and environmental issues created by trash throughout the city. The Council had voted to freeze street sweeping due to residents staying home under the City’s safer at home order.
The Council previously chose to resume issuing citations, but did not issue tickets to residents until this past Monday, May 18.
On Monday, the City issued about 950 citations, almost double the amount that it usually issues.
The Long Beach City Council meetings are held on Tuesday, except for the last Tuesday of the month. Council meetings are held in council chambers in the civic center plaza, 411. W. Ocean Blvd.