Long Beach City Council puts rent repayment plan on hold

The City Council chooses to wait on a controversial rental plan and will work toward rental assistance instead.

Community+of+Long+Beach+signing+the+official+%22Notice+of+Intention+to+Circulate+Recall+Petition%22+addressed+to+Mayor+Robert+Garcia+at+City+Hall+on+Tuesday%2C+June+23.%0A

Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune

Community of Long Beach signing the official "Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition" addressed to Mayor Robert Garcia at City Hall on Tuesday, June 23.

At its June 24 meeting, the Long Beach City Council discussed the future of the rental repayment plan, fireworks in Long Beach and the framework for reconciliation.

For another consecutive week, community members protested at City Hall and LB Strong organizer and activist, Franklin Sims provided an update on the the community’s recall of Mayor Robert Garcia.

Sims presented the collaborative 200 word statement that gives Garcia notice of their intent to recall him and explains why the community believes Garcia is unfit for office.

At the previous protest Sims stated that 10 signatures would be needed, around 50 individuals ended up giving their signatures. The next step is to submit it.

Around 50 signatures were signed on the Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition addressed to Mayor Robert Garcia at a protest at City Hall on Tuesday, June 23. (Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune)

Rent
The City Council decided to table a rental repayment plan, and instead, it voted to approve a motion to begin looking into developing a rental assistance program.

Councilmember Rex Richardson led the charge against the repayment plan on concerns that such a system could trigger evictions, which the Council placed a moratorium on back in March.

“I think we should address the fact that come August 1 when people are paying full rent when the moratorium period is over, those people are going to be struggling,” Richardson said. “[…] We should target our resources to help them with the back rent so that they don’t have a problem in the future.”

Instead, Richardson made a motion to have the City look into starting a rental assistance program that would help renters by matching any payment that renters make toward their back rent.

The new program would be in addition to another rental assistance program that the Council approved at its June 10 meeting. The assistance program provides $1000 a month for three months.

Richardson’s proposed program would be limited to renters who have back rent from the beginning of the rent moratorium and will only apply to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councilmember Jeannine Pierce also supported the motion stating that she could not support the repayment plan if it could trigger evictions.

“We told [people] there’s a moratorium to evict you. We told them, ‘Hey, pay what you can’ because we the government told them you can’t go to work,” Pierce said.

“We the government told them you need to stay home. I cannot support anything that we then turn around and create a mechanism that would evict tenants for doing what we told them that they could do.”

Fireworks
The Council voted to approve two separate agenda items to fight the rise of illegal fireworks across Long Beach.

Councilmember Suzie Price presented a public service announcement video developed with the help of California State University Long Beach about how illegal fireworks affect veterans.

Price also stated that a new website would also be launching soon to allow residents to upload videos of people using illegal fireworks so that the City can issue citations.

“We have that for price gouging,” Price said. “We’re going to do a similar thing for fireworks, and that will allow for the opportunity for homeowners to also be held accountable for activity that’s taking place off their property. Even in situations where the police officer doesn’t witness the violation– which is necessary for a misdemeanor offense.”

The Council also voted to approve an item asking the City to draft stiffer penalties for people who use illegal fireworks in Long Beach.

The item proposes to hold the person who owns, rents or leases the property responsible for any activity on the premises. Under the new ordinance, this will include storage, use, sale or possession of illegal fireworks.

Additionally, the item will increase the penalty for anyone cited or arrested for the use of illegal fireworks. Currently, the fine can go up to $1000 and is considered a misdemeanor.

The item also calls for more avenues for residents to report an incident, including a hotline, a virtual map of where illegal fireworks occur, and an app.

Catching suspects in the act has been one of the City’s significant issues regarding the fireworks. When the incident occurs, the people are usually gone, and the police arrive too late– if at all.

According to Robert Luna, the Chief of the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD), the LBPD has been stretched thin in recent weeks and is not always able to respond to calls about fireworks.

Luna stated that one of the reasons for the lack of response is the recent protests in support of Black Lives Matter across Long Beach. According to Luna, the LBPD has responded to around 60 total.

“As those [protests] hopefully will slow down a bit, we can go out there,” Luna said. “But for anyone in the public who is listening to me, please as a reminder [remember] that fireworks are illegal in this city. We want you to be respectful to your neighbors.”

Framework
The Council voted to adopt a resolution acknowledging racism in Long Beach as a public health issue and adopting the Framework for Reconciliation.

“The events that are taking place in our country, in respect to racial injustice, it’s important for me personally and for a lot of members of this Council, Richardson said.

The Long Beach City Council meetings are held on Tuesday, except for the last Tuesday of the month. Council meetings are held in council chambers in the civic center plaza, 411. W. Ocean Blvd. To watch this week’s city council meeting, click here.