In spite of our budget concerns that we are facing vigorously, we have many reasons to be excited about the future of our city, and I’d like to spend a few minutes describing some of those reasons.
Cities should not stand still, they either move forward or fall behind—and our community is anything but static. Anyone driving in Long Beach today has to be impressed with the number of construction projects that are under way.
Our skyline and the very fabric of our downtown is changing with the development of residential units that will bring us a new urban energy. We are seeing a downtown vibrancy that we have not experienced for over 25 years.
This revitalization is a reflection of what is happening all across our nation in cities where citizens and businesses are rediscovering the strength and appeal of urban America. We are entering the century of cities.
Older deserted buildings are finding new uses and residents are discovering the convenience of living, working and shopping all within walking distance. Camden Development, Genesis Realty, Brookfield Homes and Anastasi Development are all adding residential units to Ocean Boulevard, while loft living is being brought to downtown at the Walker, Insurance Exchange and Masonic Temple buildings.
PCS Development and Urban Pacific and Salter Company are creating condo and apartment living as part of CityPlace.
All of these developments will add over three thousand new residents to our downtown core—changing forever its face and dynamics.
The Redevelopment Agency is presently negotiating with three different residential developers regarding mixed-use retail and residential developments along the downtown Promenade while continuing to work with a number of developers concerning West Gateway -- a 13-acre area directly behind City Hall that will alter the look of our city for those who enter from the 710 freeway at Broadway.
New residential units require supporting retail and the development of CityPlace and the Pike at Rainbow Harbor will offer downtown urban dwellers choices that haven’t been available before -- including the new Albertson’s, Sav-On and Wal-Mart.
Upon completion this fall, the Pike at Rainbow Harbor will complete the overall development of Queensway Bay, which has included the Aquarium of the Pacific, Rainbow Harbor and the expansion of the Convention & Entertainment Center.
Many times our renaissance seems to be taking forever, however no other community in Southern California has accomplished so much in so short a time, and done it in the face of a recession, aerospace downsizing and loss of our identity as a Navy town and much of our economic base. Our ongoing revitalization is going to define our community as singular among all Southern California cities.
As our downtown continues to renew itself, we continue to have parking concerns. City staff is working with members of the downtown parking task force and the redevelopment agency for a timely solution to the parking issue.
Progress & Accomplishments
As we transition from what Long Beach had been for much of the 20th century into what it will become for the 21st century, we do so with new leadership -- a new Chief of Police, a new City Clerk a new Superintendent of Schools and a new City Manager to be chosen.
The infusion of new ideas and creativity that they bring will help us to forge a community that faces the future with confidence and optimism. Here are some of the reasons why:
- The City's new 911 Communications Center will be open in a few months, bringing together the heart of emergency services for the first time in our history.
- In addition to giving the community a more rapid response to emergency calls, the center will also allow anyone traveling through the city, using a cell phone calling 911, to be connected directly to Long Beach dispatchers.
- More than one billion dollars is being invested in downtown for 3,000 market-rate residential units, one million square feet of new retail and new hotel rooms.
- Building permits have been issued in the past two years for over $700 million of improvements or new construction of residential and commercial buildings throughout Long Beach.
- During those two years over 1350 new dwelling units were constructed.
- During 2002, Long Beach provided its residents with the lowest natural gas prices in Southern California
- Sales tax revenue to the City while down from 2001 still has increased 75% since 1994. This shows we’re spending more of our shopping dollars in Long Beach.
- Property values continue to grow and our property tax revenue has grown by 13% since 2001.
- With new residential developments currently under way, future property tax revenues for the City and Redevelopment Agency should increase nearly $3 million.
- Over 15 miles of major street work was completed in 2002 and 20 miles will be completed this year.
- The new Police Athletic League facility in North Long Beach was opened in November.
- $2,000 grants were made available during the year to help 71 neighborhood businesses get started.
- Our School District was awarded the 2002 Broad prize for Excellence in Urban Education as one of the best five large school districts in the nation.
- Our Water Department is spearheading the largest federally authorized desalinating research and development project in the nation.
- This cost-effective, energy-effective advanced technology desalinating system can make us drought-proof by the end of the decade.
- Department of Health & Human Services has begun construction of the Miller Family Health Education Center, which will feature the ability to offer education sessions in multiple languages.
These are just some of the reasons why, in spite of our financial challenges, we should maintain a positive view of the future.
Thanks to the dedicated work of Steve Goodling and the CVB staff working with David Gordon and the Convention Center, the Long Beach tourism business sector is as strong as it has ever been and is getting stronger.
During the past year we hosted some of the largest conventions and conferences of any community in California.
- National Guard Association Annual Conference 5,000 visitors
- Annual Girl Scouts convention 9,500
- The International Satellite Conference and Exposition 1,800. They’ll be back again in November.
- League of California Cities 3,000. They enjoyed the annual conference here so much that they will be back in 2004.
The Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center is receiving national attention from entertainment publications.
Pollstar named the Terrace Theatre one of America’s top 40 theatre venues, and the Long Beach Arena was designated one of the top ten venues by Amusement Business news weekly.
We can also look forward to some outstanding future events that will be taking place at our Convention & Entertainment Center. Through the efforts of the CVB and the Convention Center staff, Long Beach will be hosting 1,000 meeting planners in June 2004.
This major trade show, for which Long Beach was chosen against heavy competition, will give us the opportunity to showcase our community to an important audience of trade show planners and travel sales decision-makers.
This event, in 2004, will immediately precede Long Beach becoming the center of the swimming world for the months of June and July. The Janet Evans Swim Meet will kick it off on June 10th, to be followed by the Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Finals and the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in July.
These aquatic events are expected to attract over 100,000 people in addition to extensive regional and national media coverage. The winners of these events will go directly from Long Beach to Athens, Greece for the 2004 Olympics.
We are honored today to have with us, the first American woman to ever win 4 individual gold medals in Olympic swimming-- Janet Evans.
Prior to that time, our tourist sector will be strengthened when Carnival Cruises transitions from San Pedro and sails into Long Beach bringing over 500,000 visitors -- many of them for the first time. Once the Pike at Rainbow Harbor is completed this fall, our waterfront will become a destination of choice. And those visitors will have the opportunity to experience our culture, our hospitality and our incredible climate.
- The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this year will be the weekend of April 12 & 13.
- During the last calendar year the Aquarium’s attendance increased 8 per cent over the previous year thanks in part to the new shark lagoon exhibit -- and gained national media attention on "Today" and the "Discovery Channel."
- The Aquarium also will be contributing $3.3 million toward its bond payment in the current year.
- Our oldest icon, the Queen Mary, celebrated its 35th anniversary in Long Beach with a host of festivities in December.
- They also attracted one and a half million visitors to a variety of events throughout the year.
Many of these visitors will be brought to Long Beach through the region’s most advantageous airport -- suddenly one of the most popular in Southern California. Whether our visitors fly on American, America West, Horizon or Jet Blue, the Long Beach airport now has a reputation for ease and convenience -- even with the additional passenger load and security precautions. Thank you Jet Blue.
Business Development / Boeing
Our ability to attract businesses is being augmented with the mixed-use development of PacifiCenter by Boeing Realty on Lakewood Boulevard and the California State Long Beach Technology Park on the City’s Westside.
The 260-acres of PacifiCenter, mixed-use development will offer a location with easy accessibility to Orange County and Los Angeles, and California State Long Beach’s 32-acre parcel on former Navy-housing property is designed as a smart technology / light industrial park.
Long Beach Boeing is the only location in California where commercial or military production aircraft are being built.
The world’s most cost-efficient, reliable and quietest 100-passenger short-range jetliner -- the 717 -- and the C-17 Globemaster III for the US Air Force.
Boeing not only delivered the 100th production C-17 last year, but also most importantly, received a follow-on procurement contract for 60 additional planes bringing total production under contract to 180 aircraft. Boeing remains our largest employer.
Even with the slump within the technology sector over the past two years, the Long Beach economy is diversifying into space activities, communications and software development. With our highly trained workforce and access to institutions of higher learning, we are positioned to attract even more firms and intellectual talent. And LaserFiche and Long Beach are doing just fine.
When those firms, employees and new residents arrive in Long Beach they will discover that we are the first community west of the Mississippi to offer a free wireless Internet zone. The hot zone along Pine Avenue and two future wireless zones at the airport and the Convention Center, are an important step in illustrating that we are a technology-friendly city.
Last week’s event, which attracted national media attention, is the result of a public/private partnership involving four technology firms, Strategic Marketing and the City.
We continue to have a worldwide technology presence through the achievements of Sea Launch, whose world headquarters are in Long Beach. The seven successful launches of Commercial satellites are serving over 100 nations and more than one billion people.
Long Beach presence on the world stage is also enhanced by our strategic location facing the vast Pacific.
The Port of Long Beach handled the equivalent of 4.7 million twenty-foot containers last year, an increase of over four per cent over the previous year. For the seventh consecutive year, the Port was named America’s best seaport by Cargo News Asia, a trade-related publication.
Hanjin Shipping moved into its new container terminal and the 375-acre facility will become fully operational this year. Shipping companies are creating bigger and bigger container ships that cannot traverse the Panama Canal, and for that reason shippers are taking advantage of our Port and the Alameda Corridor, completed last April, to quickly move products to the marketplace.
The Port is in the third year of its expansion efforts that will eventually create five 300-acre mega-cargo terminals at a cost of $2 billion.
Housing & Neighborhoods
For years our community emphasized the need to attract businesses and retail stores to Long Beach in an effort to provide more service and also to rebuild our retail base.
This revenue was needed to address the problems of aging infrastructure. Our revenue from property tax only covers about 14 per cent of our City needs and increased sales tax is required for us to meet the needs of our neighborhoods.
Quality of life in any neighborhood must begin with housing. With the cost of housing in California continuing its double-digit growth, our community is constantly challenged to find housing solutions for all citizens but especially those who are economically challenged.
One such program uses federal funds, to provide the down payment and the cost of rehabilitation. To date the City has made 28 loans to seven non-profits to acquire, own and manage 528 units in North Long Beach. This means that over 2,000 people have better living conditions than they did a year ago.
The City also has a first time buyer program that assists home owners with down payments and closing costs and have helped put over 2,500 people into their first home ownership situation.
Our City has also not forgotten the homeless. Over the past two years Health and Human Services has received over $5½ million to assist us in expanding services at the Multi-Service Center and at the Villages at Cabrillo.
No discussion of neighborhoods would be complete without discussing the ongoing efforts to attack the aging of our neighborhood infrastructure. Last year we repaired more than half a million square feet of sidewalks -- that translates to more than 26 miles of new sidewalks, curbs and gutters, repaired just a few feet at a time. With two contractors now under contract, we expect to do even more this year.
We also have a need to create more open space and parks for our residents with a plan setting an aggressive goal of reaching 8-acres per 1,000 of population.
If quality of life begins with housing in a community, then the overriding consideration is always public safety. We are incredibly fortunate to have the quality of public safety personnel that we have.
Finally the serial rapist is behind bars where he belongs after terrorizing this and other communities for far too many years. Tony Batts in the first 7 days as chief had achieved one of his primary goals.
For the first time in ten years, we had a rise in the crime rate during 2001 and the early part of 2002, as did most metropolitan areas.
But unlike most other cities, violent crimes have begun to decline in Long Beach during the second half of 2002, and if the trend continues we could be returning to the lower crime rate of the late 1990s. Our Police Department also continues to have one of the fastest response times for any large city in California.
Our Fire Department, in addition to handling over 54,000 emergency calls last year, helped to train over 1,300 community members and local employees to assist with local emergencies. Our Fire Stations have now been designated as Safe Havens for abandoned new-borns.
I can’t possibly discuss public safety without mentioning the November 3rd multi-car accident on the 710 freeway.
Involving 198 vehicles, it was the single, largest multi-casualty incident in Long Beach since the 1933 earthquake. Our public safety personnel responded quickly and professionally.
This coordinated response just reinforces a survey released by the Reason Public Policy Institute which ranked Long Beach third among large California cities in service delivery, and first in providing public safety related services such as emergency medical services and rapid response times.
Both of our public safety departments responded to the new requirements for homeland security as first responders. A Citywide Disaster Preparedness Committee was created to enhance the City’s disaster prevention efforts. We now have a well-coordinated First Responders plan that includes fire, police, health and public works to deal with emergencies including harbors, ports and marinas.
At this time I would like to introduce our Fire Chief -- Terry Harbour and our Chief of Police -- Tony Batts.
Thank you gentlemen.
In the field of arts and culture, Long Beach retains its pre-eminent relationship with the Smithsonian Institute as the nation’s only Smithsonian affiliate city.
The Public Corporation for the Arts has scheduled Smithsonian Week for March 2nd through the 8th and will feature four Smithsonian scholars specializing in Americana, our natural resources and American folk music. In addition to the many events scheduled that week, the scholars will also visit 27 schools.
This is another example of how the PCA is increasing its efforts to reach children throughout the City. It’s always an outstanding week.
Earlier I mentioned that our school district was honored as one of the five best large schools districts in the nation. One of the reasons is that seven out of ten schools here met or exceeded their academic achievement growth targets. That’s a far higher percentage than schools statewide.
The City and the Library Foundation collaborated on a festival of reading last spring and over 50,000 residents and 60 organizations participated in reading Tuesdays with Morrie.
That activity will be repeated this year between February 24 and March 1 with Long Beach reading To Kill A Mockingbird.
Unemployment in Los Angeles County is presently 5.8% and in Long Beach it’s 5.4%, and nearly 9,000 job seeker visits a month are occurring at the Youth Opportunity Center and the Career Transition Center. Over 300 businesses are taking advantage of this rich workforce pool.
Our Parks, Recreation and Marine programs for children, seniors and youth sports continue to be vitally important to our quality of life and I’m hoping that most of these efforts can be retained.
As much as we feel we are doing for our citizens, there is always more that needs to be done. Keeping neighborhoods safe, clean and free of code violations is a challenging task for any community, but we have taken a pro-active stance in this regard by creating the City’s Clean Streets effort.
During 2002, those efforts resulted in over 150 arrests, graffiti removal from over 250 locations, 433 potholes repaired, 485 health code violations and over 60 tons of trash and debris removed from streets and alleys. The Neighborhood Services Bureau assisted with 300 neighborhood street and alley cleanups.
Well, I’ve waited long enough. Regarding transportation we have good news and bad news. The good news is our award-winning, national model Long Beach transit system is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and is providing buses, shuttles and the AquaLink water taxi for more than 96,000 residents and visitors each day.
The bad news is we still have the 710 freeway.
We are working with elected officials at every level to ensure that the appropriate funding is made available to fix the 710 freeway and replace the Gerald Desmond Bridge.
Improving the condition, capacity and functionality of the 710 corridor and replacement of the Gerald Desmond Bridge are critically important economically to Long Beach and the nation. I wish I could tell you we were making more progress in this regard.
The completion of the median and shoulder work took a year longer than Caltrans planned and even the removal of the K-rail barriers seem to be a challenge. They promised the barriers would be removed by the end of January. For all its good intentions, Caltrans is the most frustrating bureaucracy. Working with them is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree.
I spoke earlier about the budget crisis that we are facing in Long Beach and how we are designing a three-year plan to bring our expenditures into line with our revenue sources.
Just last week Governor Davis released his proposed budget that focuses heavily on closing the State’s $34 billion deficit. His proposal, which must pass the Legislature, includes among other elements, the elimination of the Vehicle License Fee payments to cities and counties.
If approved, Long Beach would lose approximately $6.5 million this fiscal year and another $14 million next fiscal year. To put this into perspective, the total impact of this additional revenue loss is almost two times the Library’s annual budget. These revenue reductions will increase our structural deficit in 2004, and will require additional cuts in the three-year strategic plan. 488 California cities are facing similar cuts in their budgets.
This is just another chilling example that in spite of our best efforts to address our deficit and put into motion a comprehensive strategic plan to stabilize our finances, we don’t control all elements of our financial situation. It is disheartening that the Governor has again chosen to solve the State’s deficit by increasing the burden on local government.
We cannot control our future if we are continually held hostage by this process.
A recent almanac evaluates metropolitan areas according to eight factors:
- Health care
- Public safety
- Recreation and cultural opportunities
- Economics & jobs
I would venture to say very few communities would score as high as Long Beach. But in addition to those amenities, we have much more than what was being measured. If they knew the citizens of Long Beach like I do, if they had lived here for a majority of their lives, like I have, they would know the soul of Long Beach -- the amazing strength and resiliency of our people.
They would know the strength of our Non-Profits and the zest, zeal and fervor of their uncommon commitment to our City.
They would know and bless the more than 235,000 hours of volunteer time that we receive each year -- hours donated by those who want above all else to make this community a better place in which to live, work and raise a family. Their devotion and enthusiasm has never been as important to the growth of Long Beach as it is right now.
I’m not sure that groups measuring the effectiveness of cities could fully understand the creative spirit that exists here, the entrepreneurial spirit, the optimism and the decency.
They need to know the cultural diversity that exists here, the energy, the enthusiasm and the expertise.
There are things we can do.
We must create and sustain safe streets, quality schools, home ownership, a greener environment, more jobs, a trained workforce, respect for each other and respect for our differences.
All of you need to be involved. All of you working together can make a difference. We have all the ingredients to succeed.
President Franklin Roosevelt once said, "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward."
And today I say to all of you, in spite of our obstacles, let us move forward with a strong and active conviction to create a better community for all of us.
MAYOR, CITY OF LONG BEACH
January 14, 2003
Our transcription of Mayor O'Neill's State of the City Address as delivered is pending. Check back with this page and our front page for links forthcoming.
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