LB Council Recap: Long Beach budget manager reports General Fund surplus

Council also discussed tenant protections, cultural center and parking for food trucks.

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At its Feb. 18 meeting, the Long Beach City Council discussed Food Trucks, an update on the proposed African American Center and the ordinance on no-fault evictions.

Budget Performance Report

The city council voted to receive and file the Fiscal Year 2019 Year-end Budget Performance Report.

Budget Manager, Grace Yoon, said that the City’s general fund reported a surplus of approximately $7.98 million. Yoon added that the surplus is less than 1.5% of the General Fund, but that it is larger than in past years.

Yoon contributed the surplus to an assortment of factors including what was described as “unexpected one-time revenues, general positive economic growth, and sales tax, as well as proactive management of the budget to generate departmental savings.”

Yoon continued by saying that the budget staff is determining ways to include one-time revenues, such as construction materials and equipment into the budget. In the past, the department avoided including these kinds of purchases in the budget due to their volatile nature.

However, in a strong economy, the department believes that they can predict which purchases will continue and is determining the best method to do so.

As part of her report, Yoon also listed recommendations for the general budget surplus.

“In summary, the funds are recommended to be allocated towards addressing homelessness, operational carryover underfunded Council approved initiatives and infrastructure and other liabilities,” Yoon said.

In other budget news, Yoon announced a surplus of $4.3 million in unallocated Measure A funds. Recommendations for these unallocated funds include converting the former landfill into Davenport Park, field turf renovations at El Dorado Park, Irrigation pumps and tree stump removals.

Additionally, the budget department recommended that the first $3 million be allocated to the police academy project.

During the public comments, one resident opposed the field renovations at El Dorado park due to the plans to replace the natural grass with artificial turf.

Another resident, Corliss Lee, expressed her satisfaction with the surplus but said that the funds should be spent on other things.

“[It] should be spent on bringing back the police and doing street maintenance,” Lee said. “That was what was originally promised with Measure A funds. The two things people are most interested in.”

Housing Ordinance

The council voted to approve an amendment to the Long Beach Municipal Code, requiring landlords to obtain permits proving the need for substantial repairs before evicting tenants.

The amendment was discussed last week after complaints from residents that they were being evicted from their apartments due to a loophole in the Tenant Protection Act.

Residents claimed that the loophole allowed landlords to evict them by claiming that buildings needed substantial remodeling– only to pull permits after their tenants were gone.

After hearing from housing activists, the council instructed the City attorney to draft an ordinance that would effectively close the loophole, and providing another layer of protection for tenants.

The new law will require landlords to acquire permits before issuing eviction notices and clarified what constitutes “substantial remodel.”

Additionally, the emergency law also voided all eviction notices that were issued after Jan. 1.

In regards to complaints from landlords, the council discussed implementing an online service for applying for permits.

African American Center

During the meeting, Deputy City Manager, Kevin Jackson, provided an update on the development of the African American Cultural Center.

The initiative was originally approved by the city council in February 2018, when the councilmembers directed the city manager to identify possible sites for the center.

Since then, the city staff developed a list of possible locations. Furthermore, the project leaders hosted meetings and workshops to receive input from residents on details such as location, programs, facilities, and more.

During the process, City staff developed a business plan that recommends a site of 40,000 square-feet, an annual budget of $2.2 million and 17 full-time employees to serve. The plan estimates that the center will serve about 60,000 visitors annually.

The department also consulted with other cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Latin Art, Long Beach Museum of Art, Aquarium of the Pacific, Queens Historical Society and the Universal Hip Hop Museum.

During the planning phase, City staff also developed a new independent committee that will continue the development of the center as the City moves into an advisory role.

“This was one of the challenges at the beginning of the process,” Jackson said. “There was not an actual organization for us as city staff to work with. And so, the process itself worked to build the capacity to achieve this result.”

Food Trucks

The council voted to approve a request to have the City manager look into the issue of food trucks parking too close to traditional businesses across Long Beach.

The recommendation, brought forward by First District Councilmember Mary Zendejas, would determine options for increasing regulations on where food trucks can park relative to businesses.

Zendejas started her statement by describing herself as a fan of food trucks but wanted to address issues she has heard from the community.

“My office has received a number of complaints from brick and mortar businesses that are concerned about the impact of their livelihood that these trucks can sometimes pose,” Zendejas said.

“They feel that it is unfair for food trucks to operate under a different set of rules and regulations than more traditional restaurants and storefronts. While still courting the same customers at the same time and locations.”

Zendejas continued by stating that the goal was not to ban food trucks from Long Beach but to provide a fair playing field to local businesses.

In his comments, Mayor Garcia voiced his support of food trucks and how some vendors activate public spaces through their presence.

“I want to make sure that as we are looking at these regulations, that we’re thinking about these spaces and these trucks that are activating our corridors at night, and creating, in my opinion, even safer streets,” Garcia said.

During the discussion, councilmembers proposed regulations that could affect street parking, vehicle fees, and opening up city-owned lots for use.

The mayor also asked for more information on lighting and sign ordinances on trucks. Additionally, the mayor also asked the acting city manager to determine how to avoid affecting food trucks that have business arrangements with brick and mortar shops.

The Long Beach City Council meetings are held on Tuesday, with the exception of the last Tuesday of the month. Council meetings are held in council chambers in the civic center plaza, 411. W. Ocean Blvd.