LB City Council: $20K reward on information regarding arson, eviction moratorium extension still on hold

The City Council also discussed a program that will create housing for homeless residents and creating a new initiative called the Long Beach Violence Interruption Strategy.

A+protest+against+a+proposed+rental+repayment+plan+in+the+Alamitos+Heights+neighborhood+of+Long+Beach+on+June+23.

Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune

A protest against a proposed rental repayment plan in the Alamitos Heights neighborhood of Long Beach on June 23.

At its Tuesday, July 7 meeting, the Long Beach City Council discussed the rent moratorium, homeless assistance, a new violence-interruption plan, and announced a bounty for information about a recent arson case.

Consent Calendar
The Council voted to approve the Consent Calendar, including item one, which cancels the Council’s July 21 meeting.

Moratorium
As the end of the eviction moratorium looms, the City Council decided to wait on an extension, and instead observe how the County of Los Angeles handles their own extension which also ends on July 31, before returning for a vote at a special meeting later this month.

The current moratorium, which the Council approved in March, has an end date of July 31.

According to Rich Anthony, the city attorney, LA County currently has its moratorium on evictions, which applies to cities that do not have one. Since Long Beach has it’s own moratorium, the County one does not apply to the City.

Anthony stated that he is unsure if the County will move to extend the moratorium past its July 31 end date. He also warned the Council that if it chooses not to extend the City’s eviction ban, he is unsure if the County’s moratorium will protect all of Long Beach’s tenants.

In response, Councilmember Rex Richardson moved to receive and file the city attorney’s report and wait until the end of the month so that the Council can react to the County’s decision.

Councilmember Mary Zendejas supported the motion and the plan to return at a later date. In her comments, Zendejas stated that the current situation is a crisis and that the Council needs to recognize that residents need assistance.

“We don’t know what the […] near future holds for us,” Zendejas said. “So, […] the faster we can get this approved and extended, and hopefully aligned with the County, the better because we really are facing some very uncertain times right now.

Oil Tax
The City Council voted to have the City Manager, Tom Modica, reach out to the California State Lands Commissions and other stakeholders regarding a proposed increase of the Oil Barrel Production tax.

Additionally, the Council’s vote also asked the city attorney to begin the process to have the potential tax increase placed on the November 2020 ballot.

The proposed ballot measure would place a progressive tax on oil production in Long Beach that would increase over time. The proposal would also outline which programs would be supported by the tax revenue.

They claim the tax revenue would support several programs that promote youth development, environmental and health equity, and economic inclusion.

Homeless Assistance
The City Council voted to have the City Manager work with relevant departments to develop a program that will create housing for homeless residents.

The new program, based on a State program, Project Room Key, will provide compensation to hotels and motels with extra rooms due to the health crisis.

In return, the rooms will provide temporary shelter for residents with nowhere to go.

According to Councilmember Mary Zendejas, Long Beach has seen a seven percent increase in homeless residents since 2019. She also stated that the City currently has 5000 mostly empty hotel and motel rooms.

“We all know that homelessness is a huge problem, and it needs to be addressed,” Zendejas said. “This said, our current circumstances have left us with opportunities to rethink what emergency housing looks like.

Zendejas also stated that Project Room Key had seen better results than many shelters.

While many shelters have a low occupancy rate, Project Room Key is operating at 97 percent capacity.

Part of the reason for this, Zendejas explained, is that Project Room Key makes it easier for tenants to stay with family and pets, while also providing a safer place than a shelter.

Violence Interruption Program
The City Council voted to have the city manager look into creating a new initiative called the Long Beach Violence Interruption Strategy.

Councilmember Rex Richardson brought forward the agenda item after the recent uptick in violence across Long Beach, which he described as an ongoing challenge.

“We haven’t made the types of investments necessary to really change the narrative and break the cycle,” Richardson said.

To develop the new program, the Council asked the city manager to look into creating the new program that will implement the best practices to disrupt violence, direct outreach to community leaders and direct funding to community-based organizations.

Councilmember Roberto Uranga supported the plan but expressed his concern that the City will cut funding to the program as it has done to similar initiatives in the past.

“Over the years, we’ve had budget challenges. We look at these types of programs as easy cuts, and we’ve paid the price over the years,” said Uranga.

Bounty
The Council voted to approve an expenditure of $10,000 to go to a reward for information connected to an arson fire at Men’s Suit Outlet from May 31.

Aftermath of the Men’s Suit Outlet on the corner of 7th street and Pine Ave. which is supected to have been destroyed as a result of arson. (Lissette Mendoza | Signal Tribune)

The arson occurred after looters began damaging local businesses across the City. During the incident, a fire destroyed the Men’s Suit Outlet at 655 Pine Avenue.

The fire also damaged four other businesses, including the Legacy Beauty and Barber Shop, 10th Plant Long Beach Jiu-Jitsu, PeopleReady, Urban School of Self-Defense.

The damage from the fire is estimated to be at around $5,176,200.

The money from the City and an additional $10,000 from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will make up a total reward of $20,000.

View the agenda for the July 14 city council meeting here.

The Long Beach City Council meetings are held every Tuesday, except for the last Tuesday of the month. Council meetings are being hosted through teleconference in council chambers in the Civic Center Plaza, 411. W. Ocean Blvd. The public is allowed to participate through online comments and limited telephonic public comments.