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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Long Beach Has DNA to Be a Great City

English: "Rosie's Dog Beach" is the ...
English: "Rosie's Dog Beach" is the 3-acre, off-leash dog beach in the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach, California. The only dog beach in all of LA County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Cranes at the Hanjin Shipping termina...
English: Cranes at the Hanjin Shipping terminal at the Port of Long Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Larger version with slight color adju...
English: Larger version with slight color adjustments. Category:Images of Long Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Long Beach has the DNA to be a great city. I should know. I was born here and have written three books on its history.

From the very beginning, Long Beach used its location, natural resources and labor to build an economy and eventually grow into the 6th largest city in the state.

Its pragmatic approach resulted in many successes. It wanted people to visit, so it became the terminus for the railroads and trolleys and opened a pier and an amusement center, it developed parks and farmers markets. It wanted a port - it built one right next to the LA Port. When it needed a library it asked Andrew Carnegie to fund it. It discovered oil – then used the proceeds to establish an airport which caught the Army’s interest as a location for the Douglas Aircraft Plant. It used its safe harbor to lure the Navy to anchor.

When the Navy left Long Beach, former Mayor Beverly O’Neill was extremely pragmatic when she announced that the City needed to focus on “3 Ts: trade, tourism and technology.” While some criticized her for then casting off anything related to Long Beach’s long history with the US Navy, she got it right.
 Because for too long, Long Beach had lost site of who it was and it let others define who we were.

It would well serve any future Mayor or Council to filter its decisions through the “3 T” exercise. Is what we are doing helping or hurting trade, tourism and technology? If it hurts, then don’t do it. If it helps, then by all means do it and more.

Let’s talk about trade. The Port of Long Beach is the economic engine in this region. It generates 30,000 jobs (about one in eight) in Long Beach and 316,000 jobs (or one in 22) in the five-county Southern California region. It needs a stable Board of Harbor Commissioners and strong management that is free from political interference.

Most importantly, the Mayor’s office needs to leverage its leadership role to promote global business opportunities. There are so many opportunities to expand the exporting of goods and services to our Asian partners. I recently met with a group of Chinese businessmen who are eager to import California wine and another group that is seeking professional services for establishing and operating long-term care facilities to deal with the lack of family caretakers for its elderly that resulted from the single child policy. Helping identify local businesses that could become involved in exporting would boost our economy.

Tourism has been helped tremendously by the improvements at the Long Beach Municipal Airport and the Arena. One of the most convenient and attractive airports in the region, Long Beach is also the least expensive from which to fly.  The enhancements at the Arena have transformed the space into a modern, flexible space that can host numerous events at the same time and will bring in more conventions.

However, the gateway to the Belmont Shore area at 2nd and Pacific Coast Highway remains an eyesore – mostly due to the owner’s neglect. Just recently the brightest from UCLA and USC competed in the NAIOP Annual Contest to present development proposals for the best use of this very piece of property. The winning plan (Belmont Yards) is stunning, works with the existing SEADIP plan and shows us just exactly what thinking big can do for Long Beach.

Years ago, a local columnist described Long Beach as an “elegantly dressed woman with a piece of toilet paper stuck to her shoe.” And without a doubt that would describe some of our shoreline problems. The beautiful scenery is spoiled by trash that flows out of the mouth of the LA River and a poorly circulated area behind the breakwater that prevents waves and makes for dirty water. Dealing with these two problems must be a priority of a city who took its name from its greatest asset -- a long beach.

The Clean Tech Revolution
The Clean Tech Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I introduced legislation to explore establishing a “Clean Technology Zone” in Long Beach as has been done in Los Angeles, it was with the thought that we have just as much to offer.  It doesn’t make sense that this city has 4 major hospitals, a major healthcare system, a university and a community college, yet we can’t figure out how to attract and grow incubate technology. With Boeing’s announcement that it is closing operations in 2015, Long Beach needs to focus on replacing these lost good paying jobs.

Many cities are re-branding themselves in an attempt to lure high tech jobs. Wouldn’t it be great if Long Beach could become known as the city where you can “Come Start Something?”

Yes, Long Beach is a great city and can be even greater, if we’d only just focus.

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