Skip to content

Posts from the "Long Beach" Category

2 Comments

Long Beach: There’s Nothing More Toxic than Nihilism

Photo courtesy of Brian Ulaszewski.

Photo courtesy of Brian Ulaszewski.

A handful of folk—some environmental experts, some local health advocates, some urban designers, some regular ol’ citizens—stood in the Century Villages at Cabrillo, a small neighborhood lining the Terminal Island Freeway. They were directly across from where BNSF Rail wants to build their massive Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) rail yard and just south of Hudson Elementary. As people chatted, a small, heavy contraption was passed around, a number on its facade that was continually bouncing between 23,000 and 35,000.

The P-TRAK was measuring ultrafine particulate matter (PM), the minuscule particles that is given off from the exhaust pipes of cars and trucks or carried by the winds from the pollution given off by port complexes, auto body shops, power plants, or factories or, or, or… The common range we want to aim for in order to prevent respiratory problems? Somewhere in the range of 3,000 particles per square centimeter.

The Terminal Island Freeway, across from Century Villages and Hudson Elementary Schoo. Photo courtesy of Brian Ulaszewski.

The Terminal Island Freeway, across from Century Villages and Hudson Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Brian Ulaszewski.

When handed to me, I stared down at the number as a diesel truck roared by some 40 feet away: 33,800. Perhaps it was an unconscious reaction, but I coughed—and continued to do so. Walking over to a patch of foliage, the number then dropped again: 12,400.

It is one thing to know, through general environmental science knowledge, the effects of pollution, of the way in which the goods movement industry contributes creates incompatible land sources—that is, polluting to such an extent that the radius surrounding is unable to escape the pollution. This is one thing. Even with backing, the knowledge itself remains abstract and very “up here.” But when you stare at a quantifiable measure of just what is precisely happening every second in real time—and the fact that you’re breathing in tens of thousands of PM with every inhalation—I find it hard-pressed to not become overwhelmed.

While I am tempted to make a joke about my fellow gay guys jumping on a bus while playing Britney Spears and traipsing around the Long Beach, the Toxic Tour last week of Long Beach was anything but glittery. After all, California is home to more than half of the nation’s dirtiest cities—and Long Beach and Los Angeles are two of the worst, largely thanks to the fact that the two cities’ port entries are responsible for taking in more than half of the nation’s goods. Read more…

3 Comments

What’s Next? A Re-Boot of Long Beachize

LBI

For just over a year, the Southern California Streets Initiative, the co-publisher of Streetsblog Los Angeles and publisher of Santa Monica Next, has teased that a “Streetsblog Long Beach” is just around the corner. After forming a local advisory Board, and publishing news/opinion pieces by the Long Beach Post‘s Brian Addison, we’re proud to make a little different announcement.

During the week of December 2, we are going to re-launch Long Beachize. The popular website for news and culture for Long Beach’s bike culture, which last published in March of 2012, will get a new editor, a somewhat new look (we’re not crazy enough to change too much the excellent branding of the website), and a broader range of topics. In addition to cycling, Long Beachize will cover Long Beach Transit, transportation issues around the port, open space, highway expansion and removal, public health, the unique culture of Long Beach communities and more.

“Long Beach is home to one of Southern California’s most vibrant biking and pedestrian-oriented communities. Tack onto this the fact that it harbors one of the nation’s largest ports, an increasingly active urban design culture, and a triad educational structure that is inherently connected to the employment and creative sphere, it becomes clear that the discussion of the implications of these structures in a city as large as Long Beach becomes essential,” writes Addison, the future editor of Long Beachize.

“I truly believe Long Beach doesn’t just need but deserves a media outlet that is solely dedicated to the subject of its health and well-being.”

In addition to Addison and myself, we’ve recruited a powerful team for our Long Beach Board of Advisors who have helped guide us and will contribute to Long Beachize in a variety of ways. This team includes former professional cyclist and president of Cruz Industries Antonio Cruz, Long Beach travel writer and photographer Kayte Deioma, Peace Builders founder and Millworks managing director Michelle Molina, program and design coordinator for City Fabrick and original co-editor of Long Beachize Baktaash Sorkhabi and executive director of City Fabrick Brian Ulaszewski.

Sorkhabi first pitched the idea of re-launching Long Beachize. Read more…

3 Comments

Long Beach: Garcia Follows Garcetti in Restoring LA River

A rendering of the RiverLink project. Photo courtesy of the City of Long Beach

A rendering of the RiverLink project. Photo courtesy of the City of Long Beach

Back in April, former director of Long Beach Park, Recreation & Marine Phil Hester sat in front of a bunch of urbanerds and bicyclists, pedestrian-oriented folks and designers, and discussed an idea that is both brilliant and needed on a community level: the 2002 RiverLinks projects. RiverLinks would vastly use the underused L.A. River by connecting the west sides of Districts 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9 to the river via biking/ped/green utopia.

Of course, as with many projects in Long Beach, there was a lot of talk but little action and the bold project soon became—like the I.M. Pei museum, like the Art Exchange, like, like, like…—a document and little else. After all, Hester was in April, unquestionably, preachin’ to the choir.

(The 2002 River Link Report is available off our Scribd Account.)

However, Councilmember and mayoral hopeful Robert Garcia wants to reinvigorate and update the 11-year-old RiverLinks project by not only including some of his own bold proposals (remember his enthusiastic idea to adaptively re-use the Shoemaker Bridge?) but also largely mimicking Mayor Eric Garcetti’s own reclaiming of the River by calling on Long Beach to partner up with Los Angeles.

Garcetti, no more than two weeks ago sought some $1 billion from the feds for River revitalization in a trip to Washington, D.C. The $1 billion is in addition to the roughly $200 million set aside to restore a massive section of the northern part of the LA river to make way for kayakers, hikers, bird-watchers, cyclists, and all those other strange creatures who actually enjoy a little nature in their urban landscape. Garcetti even scored 15 minutes with Obama—not that it will help much given the House’s perpetual cutting of federal spending along with the Army Corps massive list of awaiting-funding-projects (which total $60B—pocketchange, obviously).

According to Garcia’s logic, the fact that Long Beach is home to the river furthest down its stream makes the stakes greatest for the city. And the proposal to update the RiverLinks project and put focus on the river was met with a resounding yes from the council, as the resolution—co-sponsored by Councilmembers Suja Lowenthal and Al Austin—was unanimously approved yesterday. Read more…

1 Comment

Despite Calls for Boycott, Los Angeles and Long Beach to Continue Relationship with Troubled BYD

Protestors outside BYD's office off Figueroa.

Protestors outside BYD's office off Figueroa.

Several labor and social justice organizations—thirteen to be exact—called on the three public agencies engaged with bus manufacturer BYD Motors to boycott their engagement while protesting in front of BYD’s office in Downtown LA. However, despite all the shouting, chanting, and finger-pointing, all three agencies—LA Metro, Long Beach Transit (LBT), and the City of Los Angeles—are not making any moves that indicate they will abandon the troubled bus manufacturer.

BYD faces multiple issues since garnering two of the nation’s largest electric bus contracts—one with Metro and the other with LBT—including the recent admission at a LBT board meeting that seven of the nine subassemblies for the new fleet were not approved for use. This came just two weeks after welding issues were discovered in the frames and bracket installation and just two months after cracks were discovered near the rear of the BYD bus undergoing Altoona testing. They were also provided $1.2M by the City of Los Angeles to help build their offices off of Figueroa, where the protest was held.

Most recently, two major national stories—one for the New York Times and the other for the Los Angeles Times—has uncovered that the State of California is investigating BYD for labor violations that amount to 112 citations and nearly $20K in back wage violations after it was discovered that BYD had employed Chinese nationals with a $1.50/hr wage.

“They have been cited by the State of California so extensively that we know [these labor violations are] actually happening,” said Madeline Janis, National Policy Director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). “We call on these three public agencies [LBT, LA Metro, and the City of Los Angeles] to sever or at least reconsider their ties.”

However, these groups are going to have to do more than protest, as LA Metro was quite succinct in their response:

“We are continuing with the Board-approved zero-emission bus program,” said Dave Sotero of Metro. Read more…

No Comments

Long Beach: Re-Imagining East 7th Street

Design by Mario Cipresso/Studio Shift

Design by Mario Cipresso/Studio Shift

There’s something to say about collaboration in any sense of the term, be it social or political, design or communal. And the East 7th Street Collaboration–a congregation of the neighborhoods of Rose Park, Craftsman Village, and North Alamitos Beach–has opted to override the City in favor of getting their vision done themselves.

This is not an easy feat since their main focus is the massive arterial that is 7th Street. And while the group knows they can’t simply put up the buildings they want to see or immediately create the streets they want to create, they do know that by asking others what they want to see is the first step towards realizing a better 7th Street that is more efficiently connected to Downtown.

So they asked architects to stroll along East 7th, selecting one of 50 buildings, and showcasing how precisely they envision 7th Street.

The results were not only varied–ranging from contemporary to Classical French–but reflected the diversity of culture that inhabits Long Beach. Even more fascinating are the amount of entries from varied places: Santa Monica, Santa Maria, Fullerton, Fremont…

The winning design from Mario Cipresso of Studio Shift comes from a previous concept the architect submitted for the Anning River Aquatic Recreation Resort in Miyi, China back in 2009. Cipresso (literally) transplanted the massive building he proposed for Miyi–over 400 meters in length–and shrunk it down to size for 2700 E. 7th, making his East 7th Community Center both dramatic in flair and natural in its composition.

The design, a geometric, straight-edge silhouette that mixes metal, wood, and glass, echoes not just Cipresso’s style (his Tran Residence in Los Angeles comes to mind) but also harbors a similarity to the new courthouse downtown on a smaller scale with more natural hues. His design also happened to win him both top awards in the competition. Read more…

2 Comments

Long Beach Development Could Redefine Mixed-Income, Senior Living

The Annex by Studio 111 / Photography by Tom Bonner

The Annex by Studio 111 / Photography by Tom Bonner

Contemporary. Hip. Accessible. Vibrant. Artistic.

These are usually not the words associated with affordable housing, let alone senior affordable housing. But that is precisely what Studio One Eleven aimed for when it was handed the development key to a collection of land parcels sitting at Anaheim and Long Beach Boulevard. And it just might be the future of not just affordable housing, but housing development in urban spaces as a whole.

Let’s go into what is simple about the Long Beach Senior Arts Colony and its attached two buildings, one another affordable housing complex and the other a soon-to-be built 12-story market rate apartment complex.

Originally a redevelopment project, the parcels were then sold to Meta Housing Corporation following redevelopment’s dissolution. Originally, Studio One Eleven was just on board for consulting—until it was discovered that the developer that was heading the project knew little about housing.

“We didn’t initially get the job,” said principal Michael Bohn, laughing. “We weren’t even invited; just hired by the City to do the peer review.”

Senior Arts Complex in Long Beach CA.  by Studio 111 / Photography by Tom Bonner

Senior Arts Complex in Long Beach CA. by Studio 111 / Photography by Tom Bonner

Thankfully, the inexperience of the former developer led to One Eleven scoring the job and creating what is its most simple aspect: intelligently uses cheaper materials to make a beautifully well-made product.

Take, for example, its use of concrete blocks to simulate wood, even down to the reflection and varnish. Or, how the six-story building towers over the central, south facing courtyard. A developer building for market rate would typically set the top story or two back, providing dimension that would make the courtyard feel more open and less encapsulated. However, Studio One Eleven opted for a much more nimble approach by simply painting the top floor a differing coloring, giving the illusion that the sixth floor is actually set back. Read more…

No Comments

Is Long Beach Looking to Roll Towards Bike Share without Bike Nation?

As Los Angeles quietly (but directly) abandons Bike Nation and Santa Monica pirouettes past both cities to pave the way for its city-wide bike share program, one can’t help but ask Long Beach: Are we continuing to go forward with a company which largely ignores the media, lacks a fulfillment of promises, and ultimately seems to wear a name tag it put on itself instead of earning?

No, really...is this going to happen? Image via Bike Nation

The answer is… Maybe?

According to Andrew Veis of Supervisor Don Knabe’s office—Knabe, it should be noted, also sponsored the motion in encouraging MTA to find a viable bike share partner—it’s all up in the air.

“At this time it’s too early to tell what the implications of a bike share program are for Long Beach,” Veis said. “The motion you refer to was calling for Metro to look at the feasibility of a bike share program to connect Metro stations. It is still too early to know what kind of connection this would have with Mayor Garcetti’s plans for a City of Los Angeles bike share program.”

Or maybe the answer is… Yeah, Bike Nation is the bike share guy for Long Beach.

It should be noted that Long Beach doesn’t face the advertising revenue issues that Bike Nation faces with Los Angeles, which perhaps explains Long Beach Deputy City Manager Tom Modica’s acknowledgement.

“In Long Beach, we want to move forward,” Modica said, “so we are continuing to work with Bike Nation through our no-cost agreement as they roll their program out. If there were a Countywide Bike Share program as proposed below, we would be interested in discussing with Metro to see how Long Beach could benefit and perhaps supplement what Bike Nation rolls out. To this point there has been lots of discussion about regional bike sharing programs, but none actually moving forward.” Read more…

1 Comment

Long Beach’s Terminal Island Freeway Removal Project Scores $250k Caltrans Study Grant

The Terminal Island Freeway viewed facing west at Hill Street near Hudson Park.

After two attempts at gaining money, the three-year long dream to remove the northern portion of the Terminal Island Freeway (I-103) just took another step towards reality after the City of Long Beach scored a quarter-million Cal Trans grant for environmental justice transportation planning.

The grant—followed just six months after it was sought and following the same push in 2012 that ultimately failed in garnering monies—will provide a formal study of what could be one of the largest freeway removals in Southern California history, stretching a mile just south of PCH north to Willow Street.

What could largely be called one of the (many) babies of City Fabrick Executive Director Brian Ulaszewski—the same guy behind destroying one of the most deadliest intersections in Long Beach in order to pave way for a much-needed park—since 2010, the plan is rather simple: given the creation of the 20-mile Alameda Corridor and the modernization of the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility just west of Terminal Island, the northern length of the freeway is not needed. It would then be converted into a local street that fits into the grid, thereby alleviating traffic away from Santa Fe, the only other north-south arterial nearby.

What destroying this stretch of the freeway further (and more ultimately) does is remove large amounts of trucks passing by lower west side schools—such as Cabrillo and Reid High, and particularly Hudson Elementary, which sits directly east of the freeway—and various neighborhoods. The 20 to 30 acres of surplus land, most of which is weeds and dirt, can be converted to a mile-long public park. This, in turn, dramatically boosts park space on the West Side by roughly 50%. Read more…

9 Comments

Long Beach: Uh-Oh, (More) Flaws Discovered in BYD Electric Buses

Looks like the electric buses coming from China-based company Build Your Dreams (BYD)—the ones procured by both Long Beach Transit (LBT) and Los Angeles Metro—are becoming an even larger nightmare.

Dignataries from Shenzhen, China, Los Angeles and BYD at the grand opening of their North American Headquarters in L.A. Live. Photo:ECNS

First, we had the beyond-sketchy RFP process earlier this year where LBT went with BYD over Altoona-tested-and-ready-to-go South Carolina electric bus manufacturer Proterra. This was despite multiple questions regarding BYD’s capability to fulfill the buy America clause set forth by the TIGGER grant given to LBT to procure the vehicles. This was also despite a failure to have any form of Altoona testing done and their ultimately failure in establishing promised North American headquarters in Los Angeles and Windsor, Canada. And this was also despite the fact that they lied about who they had already built accounts with as well fibbing the results of a trial run of one their buses.

Secondly, after BYD scored the bid and finally began the process of Altoona testing, it turns out they were not fairing so well: cracks in the rear of the bus caused the bus to be returned with the problem ultimately being rooted back to “low-quality welding” in China.

Well, we now have more welding issues, all of which come from China. It was reported that LBT inspectors have found that the frames—the very ones that Executive Director and Vice President of Maintenance and Facilities at LBT Rolando Cruz said were the “tinker toy” parts being sent to the United States for assembly—are flawed.

According to the Long Beach Business Journal, the frames had “unacceptable” issues, including “improper bracket installation on the bus sidewalls and roof assemblies and inconsistencies with steel subassemblies on the chassis.”

Cruz has insisted that these flawed frames are for a BYD “engineering bus” separate from the actual LBT pilot bus. Well, that assurance… certainly alleviates worries. In the words of LBT Boardmember Maricela De Rivera—one of only two board members, joining Lori Ann Farrell, who voted against providing BYD the contract—”Why not wait to see if there are more problems before building an engineering bus?” Read more…

No Comments

Long Beach Introduces Its First Entirely ADA-Accessible Garden

Rendering of the Children's Gateway Garden.

Rendering of the Children's Gateway Garden.

“I think of a busy mother,” Kathleen Irvine–someone Long Beach can safely call our own Mother of the Westside–said. “And there she is: stressed out from work and wanting to cater to her children and herself. But how? I think of someone who doesn’t have the physical capabilities of most and there he is: unable to enjoy a park because he can’t even access most of it.”

And for Irvine, the answer revolved something tidy, uncomplicated, and (something that many forget) an endeavor which required work. This may seem counterintuitive to relieving stress–work–but we’re not talking office hours. Irvine went for the simple route: a garden that was not just in an urban environment, but entirely ADA accessible.

Her point brought me to my college days, when my cognitive behavioral professor noticed that my stress level–unbeknownst to me or, in the least, something I was refusing to admit–had increased. Sure, I was getting work done efficiently but my movements were slower, my energy was down, and my participation had dropped. She suggested something that, at that moment, baffled me: gardening.

Rendering of the Children's Gateway Garden.

Rendering of the Children's Gateway Garden.

Much to my amazement, my garden had provided me this odd sense of relief that occurred when I was both in and out of the soil.

The connection between stress relief and gardening is now scientifically backed as more and more research develops. This research largely correlates the human connection with nature as part of a behavior which steadily decreases acute stress. That is, generically speaking, a response to the body by its sympathetic nervous system which causes an increase in epinephrine, norepinephrine, and particularly cortisol. One of the most cited studies even discovered that though reading and gardening both decreased cortisol levels, gardening was significantly ahead of reading as a form of stress relief.

All of the aforementioned neurochemicals (as well as many of the other neurochemicals involved in stress) are beneficial–to the point of being essential. However, with cortisol for example, the build-up can be dangerous; that build-up is usually caused by dwelling on problems, which can occur in a variety of circumstances: immediately returning home and getting to “family work” instead of relief or exercising excessively without balancing your cortisol with proper nutrition or simply repressing stresses or…

And as always with the strange movement of the zeitgeist, you have probably noticed the vast amounts of gardens popping up in odd places–everywhere from alleyways to jails–and this is, essentially, a good thing.

But for Irvine, there was a sense of exclusivity about these gardens that most hadn’t taken into account. Read more…