LONG BEACH — After years of focusing on luxury hotels and high-rise office buildings, city leaders have signaled their intention to shift gears and concentrate on stimulating development of housing, stores and entertainment centers, and rehabilitating buildings in the city's Downtown Redevelopment Project Area.
Roger C. Anderman, assistant executive director of the city's Redevelopment Agency, said the goal of next year's financial plan is to begin "filling in the gaps in the fabric of downtown life."
The change in direction is not abrupt. City officials have long sought to create an "18-hour-a-day" downtown environment where people could live, work, and play, but in the 10 years since the downtown redevelopment area was created, most of the agency's resources have gone into building hotels and offices.
Some of these retail and residential projects may require a subsidy from the Redevelopment Agency, Anderman said. "If they (the projects) had been economically feasible without agency financial support, they probably would have been undertaken already."
The 1986-87 budget, which agency members adopted by unanimous vote Thursday, sets in motion a series of plans which may take far longer than a year to complete, and it will undoubtedly be amended before the year is out. Agency officials caution that Redevelopment Agency budgets are notoriously unreliable they are contingent on unpredictable factors such as developer confidence in the marketplace.
Next year's budget leaves unsettled just how much money will be set aside for low- and moderate-income housing.
Redevelopment agencies are obligated under a recently amended state law to "make a good-faith effort" to set aside some money for subsidized housing, Anderman said. Earlier this year, agency members approved a special resolution that prevented their being bound by new legislation which would have required them to set aside 20% of tax income from redevelopment projects for low- and moderate-income housing.
Tax money from the nearly complete, commercially oriented West Beach Redevelopment Area, and from the industrial West Long Beach Redevelopment Area, may eventually go to pay for low- and moderate-income housing in other parts of the city, Anderman said. Redevelopment forced many of those who lived in the West Long Beach area out of their homes, he said, and even though they may have relocated, the overall effect was to reduce the amount of housing available in the city.
This year, the agency received about $13 million in tax income, but nearly two-thirds of it went to repay agency debts. By law, the agency has until Sept. 1 to hold a public hearing and adopt a statement explaining what prevents it from subsidizing more housing, a statement of existing housing programs, or both. A budget amendment will follow, agency officials said.
The City Council will consider a summary version of the 1986-87 agency budget on Tuesday, when it is expected to vote on the overall city budget.
Next year's agency budget calls for expenditures of $78.7 million in the city's four redevelopment areas, compared to $105.8 million last year, when agency resources were augmented by sale of $50 million in bonds.
Next year's budget "will make extraordinary demands on the agency's financial resources," Anderman said. It will probably use up the rest of the bond money and exhaust funds which have been accruing for 10 years to support the West Long Beach industrial project area, which was mostly dormant up until last year, he said.
Most of the money --$54 million--will go for downtown area land acquisition, appraisals, and demolitions. Nearly half of that will go to stimulate redevelopment of the four-block area bounded by Pine Avenue, Third Street, Long Beach Boulevard and First Street, especially along the downtown Promenade, the broad walkway that bisects the area.
City officials hope to attract retail and entertainment uses to the ground floors of buildings flanking the Promenade, Anderman said.
The budget also identifies at least three run-down downtown blocks city officials consider ripe for residential development, and sets aside $18.6 million to acquire them. Two of the blocks are between Pine Avenue and Pacific Boulevard bounded on the south by Third and 6th streets. The third is southeast of the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and 3rd Street.
Actual development is dependent upon approval of an amendment to the Downtown Redevelopment Plan, which, in general, would allow residential development north of Ocean Boulevard. The current plan calls for 7,000 units, most of them south of Ocean Boulevard. Anderman said he hopes to have the amendment approved by January.
For the inner-city Poly High Project Area, which is nearly complete, this will be a planning year. City staff is examining the feasibility of amending the project area to include a corridor around Atlantic Avenue.
In the West Long Beach Redevelopment Area, stalled for years by a lawsuit, efforts will center on upgrading public facilities, encouraging redevelopment of under-utilized property, and facilitating expansion of existing businesses, in what Anderman called "essentially a continuation and significant expansion of last year's efforts." The budget allocates $12.2 million for expenditures next year.