Coffee and concerns, with a councilmember

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Coffee and concerns, with a councilmember

Long Beach 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga (right) listens to residents during his June 19 “Coffee with the Councilmember” community meeting.

Long Beach 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga (right) listens to residents during his June 19 “Coffee with the Councilmember” community meeting.

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune

Long Beach 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga (right) listens to residents during his June 19 “Coffee with the Councilmember” community meeting.

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune

Long Beach 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga (right) listens to residents during his June 19 “Coffee with the Councilmember” community meeting.

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During a “Coffee with the Councilmember” community meeting June 19, host and Long Beach 7th District Councilmember Roberto Uranga updated residents about recent developments and listened to their concerns.

About 15 attendees gathered at Fox Coffee House at 437 W. Willow St. on Wednesday evening to express to Uranga and his staff of four their apprehensions about a homeless camp near oil pipelines, as well as traffic flow along Willow Street and on Golden Avenue.

Uranga first shared details of the Long Beach City Council’s decision Tuesday to incorporate the 1.4-acre Tanaka Park at 1400 W. Wardlow Rd. into the city for about $1.1 million– an effort that Uranga had spearheaded.

He said that the owners of the former strawberry farm had allowed the city to lease the park from them 16 years ago but recently offered to sell it to the City.

Uranga said he was approached by developers to convert the land to high-density housing but pushed to secure funds to keep it as a park instead.

“Come July, we’ll close the deal,” he said. “Tanaka Park [changes] from a private entity to a public park, in perpetuity.”

Uranga also updated residents about recently completed tree trimming, pothole repair and roundabout improvement in the district.

On a citywide level, Uranga said that 2020 elections were coming up for even-numbered districts, plus District 1, which will hold a special election to fill a vacancy created by Councilmember Lena Gonzalez’s recent election to the state senate.

He also noted that the city’s election cycle had now changed from April and June to March for primary elections and November for general elections, matching the statewide election schedule.

During the questions segment of the meeting, a resident named Maria described a homeless encampment that was moved but has now reappeared near Tesoro oil pipelines on the Los Angeles River at Burnett Street and DeForest Avenue.

Uranga explained that while it’s not illegal to be homeless, the City asks those encamped to move on after about two weeks, though they may eventually come back.

“It’s a shell game with them,” he said.

But he added that a recent report shows the Long Beach homeless growth rate to be lower than other regional cities [2 percent in two years compared to 12 percent in Los Angeles, as reported in the Signal Tribune on June 7].

“It still exists, and it’s still at unacceptable levels,” he said. “We need to get them housed.”

Uranga said that the City is making efforts with such housing, such as building more inclusionary and affordable housing, converting nuisance hotels into transitional housing and building a 200-bed, year-round shelter in north Long Beach to complement the Multi-Service Center (MSC) at 1301 W. 12th St.

Converting a warehouse near the MSC to locker-storage space is another new idea the City is working on to allow the homeless to store their belongings and clean up in order to be free to look for work, Uranga said.

Resident Joan Greenwood said that the homeless in that particular area near the river have moved rocks from a levee there designed to prevent river flooding, which Uranga said he would speak to L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn about.

Another resident said she was concerned that the homeless there were also starting cooking fires near the oil pipelines. Uranga told her that she should call 911 if she sees any such dangerous behavior.

“If you see something, say something, but don’t say it on Facebook, don’t say it on NextDoor,” he said. “If you call 911, […] they keep a record. If they get another call saying the same thing, they know they have a situation and they can assign personnel to either increase patrol in that area or […] have a record of what’s going on.”

In terms of traffic, resident Janice Boron voiced concerns about speeding on Golden Avenue and congestion on Willow Street.

Celina Luna, Uranga’s chief of staff, said she would ask the City to test traffic signals along Willow Street to ensure they are synchronized.

Residents also discussed other traffic concerns such as how roundabouts are not good solutions for speeding because they are inconvenient for emergency vehicles and how cars run red lights on Willow and don’t follow speed limits.

“We could initiate traffic studies on Golden and park a patrol car on Willow to see if that has an effect,” Uranga said.

With Independence Day celebrations coming up on July 4, Uranga also said residents can request signs to post in their yards to remind neighbors that fireworks are illegal in Long Beach.

He added that the City is developing a mobile-phone app through which residents can anonymously report illegal fireworks, but it probably won’t be available until next year.