Long Beach’s 1st District city council seat has been vacant for months following former Councilmember Lena Gonzalez’s election to the state senate in June. A new face will represent the 1st District’s residents and business owners once a councilmember is elected during a special municipal election on November 5.
Ahead of the election, the Business Journal reached out to business owners in the Westside industrial area of Long Beach to gather their thoughts on what they would like to see in their new councilmember. Six responded to the query. Although responses varied, nearly all business owners emphasized the need to address a pervasive homelessness issue in the area. Visual blight and employee safety are also paramount concerns.
One Westside business owner expressed concern about the Port of Long Beach’s Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility project, which is intended to expand and enhance the existing Pier B rail facility that currently borders Anaheim Street and the 710 Freeway. Some businesses in Westside Long Beach are in the direct path of the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility project and may have to relocate. Other business owners desire a councilmember that will listen to community feedback and frequently meet with Westside residents and business owners.
Some of these establishments, many of which offer services in disciplines like manufacturing and woodworking, have been staples of the Westside industrial area for decades. Although distinct in their business offerings and priorities, all six business owners shared a desire to improve the Westside. The following responses outline the issues these business owners believe the new 1st District councilmember must prioritize for the Westside of Long Beach.
Matt Cullen, Owner and President, Amber Resources, 1543 W. 16th St.
As a longtime Westside business resident and major employer in the City of Long Beach, we are looking for a councilmember that will serve as an advocate for our area. The Westside is a core economic engine for the city, yet employers in the district receive little support or basic city services. A quick trip around our neighborhood provides you with an example of what I have described. [We have] numerous broken-down motorhomes parked with trash surrounding them, [and] our streets and alleys are littered with garbage. We need someone who will demand action and provide the business owners with a clean and safe neighborhood to create value for the city and its residents. Business owners on the Westside are working together to revitalize the Westside Project Area Council (PAC), and we welcome our new councilmember to be an active participant.
German Ibarra, President, Snugtop, 1711 Harbor Ave.
2019 has become the year that Westside Long Beach experienced a dramatic increase in homelessness and drug abuse. This is greatly due to the change in law that now makes it illegal to reside along the riverbed. This change has forced so many homeless individuals to relocate to neighborhoods, such as those surrounding Snugtop. The owners of these motorhomes understand that they simply need to move their vehicles every 72 hours at a minimum of five feet in order to be in compliance. They dump all of their trash just outside their vehicles, and when they move their vehicles, they leave their trash behind. They dump their bodily fluids (human waste) on the street. We have seen them carrying gallons of this and disposing of them near street corners. This poses a severe hygienic and safety hazard for all of our employees. The reality is that Snugtop isn’t in one of the safest locations in Long Beach. There are some days we can see as many as six or seven vehicles parked in front of our facility and as many as 13 in the first two blocks from Pacific Coast Highway. This doesn’t leave much room for our nearly 200 employees making our employee parking even worse than it already is. Employees report that it takes them more than 30 minutes to find parking and are forced to park blocks away from Snugtop. Tuesday and Wednesdays are the worst because that is when street sweeping is scheduled. By parking so far away, employees are unable to keep a close eye on their vehicles to try to discourage vehicle thefts and vandalism.
Stan Janocha, Chief Operations Officer, Superior Electrical Advertising, 1700 W. Anaheim St.
The most important things I am looking for from the new councilmember is honesty, integrity and support of the Westside business community. Long has Westside Long Beach been ignored by the mayor and council. During the approval process for the Pier B On-Dock Rail Project, which will certainly bring noise and pollution to the Westside, we certainly did not receive support from our councilmember. Business owners on the Westside – more than 300 – were lied to and betrayed. There was no honesty and certainly no support from our councilmember. The Westside needs help with the homeless situation, the marijuana industry, street maintenance and monitoring of traffic on Anaheim Street and Pacific Coast Highway. I would like to see a councilmember that visits the Westside more than once or twice a year and pays attention to us as much as they do to the downtown area. We generate a lot of tax dollars on this side of Long Beach. Visit us sometimes and attend a few WestPAC meetings. Be honest, be sincere and have a genuine interest in the Westside.
Tania Lopez, Co-owner, RTL Woodwork, 1660 Hayes Ave.
They must have a passion for the City of Long Beach! He or she must want to build upon those things that make Long Beach a great city to live and work [and] know the great quality the city possesses. In addition to having courage to ask difficult questions and able to hear responses that they do not necessarily agree with, [they must have the] ability to listen to the community. [That’s] what is most important. Despite being a great city, there are business owners who feel like they aren’t being heard, and the candidate needs to hear the comments and complaints of the business owners. They [must have the] nerve to make decisions with the city’s best interest in mind. Sometimes the best decisions are not the most popular.
Shawnte Marquez, Owner, Joyful Paws Pet Hotel & Daycare, 1701 Fashion Ave.
The Westside district creates the most significant revenue stream, [more] than any other region in Long Beach, yet our neighborhood doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. I’d love to see a more considerable effort from the councilmember to keep our streets free of trash and graffiti, removal of recreational vehicle dwelling and homeless encampments and an increase of assigned police patrols to our area. The neighborhood can often look uninviting, which makes it tough for business owners to attract customers. In years past, the Westside business community has been a thriving district with much pride. It would be great if we could inspire that again!
Mike Zupanovich, President, Harbor Diesel Industries, 537 W. Anaheim St.
As a property and business owner on the Westside in the Magnolia Industrial Group area since 1976, I have been part of one of the, if not the most, neglected areas in the City of Long Beach. The quality of life in the area is very poor for residents, businesses, employees and property owners. The area is inhabited daily by homeless criminal, drug-addicted and mentally ill vagrants that bring blight, theft, health and safety issues to all of us Westsiders. I want to be clear: our problem is [not with] homeless individuals looking for a helping hand to get back on their feet and contribute to society, for whom I support doing what we can to give them the help they need. The next councilmember needs to work for 1st District residents and businesses alike and not focus only on social issues to attract more business and create more jobs. [We need to] give the Long Beach Police Department what they need to enforce the law and remove the . . . vagrants from the Westside. There are streets deteriorated beyond repair all over the Westside [that] need to be replaced. [We can] reach out to the Port of Long Beach for help to subsidize new infrastructure in the industrial area. A significant amount of businesses are doing business in the port, and the heavy truck traffic has, and is, contributing to the deterioration of our streets. [We need more police] patrol on the Westside regularly, especially in the industrial areas. Streets, alleys and sidewalks need to be cleaned up promptly for everyone’s health and safety.