2021: A Year of Living Harshly

By: 
Steve Propes

Two years ago, the new term was porch pirates. In 2021, there are two freshly-coined terms representing our reality: street takeovers and supply-chain slowdowns.

Medical Matters

Long Beach Community Hospital began accepting patients on Jan. 4 in a partial reopening. After eleven months of operation, on November 24 they began discharging all patients in anticipation of a complete shutdown on Dec. 3, with remaining patients transferred to other facilities.

In January, the Long Beach Convention Center became a mobile COVID vaccination site with more than 215,000 vaccines administered before closing on July 17, replaced by 11 mobile clinics operating throughout the city.

Municipal Matters

On April 22, contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Long Beach Convention Center became one of several nation-wide emergency shelters for migrant children, with the local shelter accepting mainly girls five years and older. Before closing on July 23, 1,583 migrant children were reunited with family members or sponsors.

All city libraries which closed in March 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns reopened on a staggered basis. The brand new Billie Jean King Main Library, Bay Shore and two other branches reopened on May 18, followed by the Bret Harte and Los Altos branch on June 29. Ruth Bach, Brewitt and two other branches reopened on July 6. During the closure, some library personnel were assigned support roles at COVID testing and vaccination clinics. Shortly after reopening, the Bach branch closed for a week for air conditioning work.

Crime Concerns

Since April, street takeovers by free-lance drivers doing donuts for attendant crowds have been on an upswing. On July 9, the intersection of Stearns St. and Bellflower Blvd. was subject to a 20-minute street takeover. Recently the area of Orange Avenue and Harding Street has become the preferred intersection for these takeovers.

On Sept. 27 at the 6200 block of Spring Street, LBUSD School Safety Officer Eddie Gonzalez witnessed two females in a fight. He shot 18-year-old Manuela Rodriguez who was in a sedan with two others, which had driven very near the officer. She died on Tuesday, October 5. On Oct. 6, the LBUSD Board terminated Gonzalez. On Oct. 29, the L.A. County District Attorney’s office arraigned Gonzalez on charges of second degree murder, which carries a sentence of from 15 years to life in prison.

Market Matters

The recent port supply-chain slowdown was about too many incoming ships and insufficient infrastructure to handle the cargo. In September, as many as 73 vessels waited accommodation. Ranging from a November count of as many as 111 vessels to a mid-December count of about 28 waiting boats, this apparent easing was enough to erase the local situation from national news coverage.

As of Oct. 24, telephone customers the 562 area code were required to dial the full eleven digits of the telephone number called including all numbers within the same 562 area code. The change allowed for a three-digit nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline, 988, which is not yet active. Only two area codes, 626 and 562 were affected by this change. Area codes 213, 323, 714 and 310, which Long Beach once was, were not affected.

Just south of the new 2nd and PCH development, according to a Dec. 2 press release, the 6.17 acre Marina Shores Shopping Mall between Pacific Coast Highway and Marina Drive was sold for just under $68 million to an investment company that will most likely turn the mall into multi-family housing.

People

On Sept. 8, Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna announced his December retirement, saying he intends to run for L.A. County Sheriff, following a trend set by former Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who succeeded the appointed replacement for four-term and convicted criminal Lee Baca. In 2018, McDonnell was overthrown in an election by current Sheriff Alex Villanueva who might well oppose Luna. On Dec. 22, Assistant Long Beach Police Chief Wally Heibeish, a 27-year veteran of the force was promoted to the top job as chief.

Val Lerch, who served as District Nine Councilman from 2002 to 2010 and two years as vice mayor and who was battling cancer since March 2020 passed away at age 69 on Nov. 21. Lerch was perhaps best known as the founder of the Long Beach Veteran’s Day Parade.

Doris Topsy-Elvord, the first African American woman to serve on the Long Beach City Council, representing the Sixth District, in Central Long Beach, for two terms from 1992, and serving as vice mayor twice, died at age 90 on Dec. 15. Topsy-Elvord also served a five-year term on the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, acting as board president in 2005.

Politics

On Sept. 13, President Joe Biden visited the Liberal Arts Campus of Long Beach City College to campaign for California Governor Gavin Newsom who was facing an ultimately unsuccessful recall. At the arrival of the presidential motorcade, about 300 citizens lined four corners of Clark Avenue and Carson Street, mainly on the Heartwell Park side. Trump signs dominated “recall Newsom” signs about five to one, including one room-sized “Trump won” banner.

Redistricting became a hot-button issue with newly approved city council district boundaries opposed by some longtime residents. As examples, the Third Council District will incorporate south-of-Atherton CSULB, the Fourth will grow a tail, wagging most of El Dorado Park from the Fifth, which will stretch west past the airport, incorporating Bixby Heights, leaving it much less compact than it has traditionally been.

On Dec. 16, five-term 47th District Congressman Alan Lowenthal, 80, announced he’d not seek reelection with his term ending in January 2023. His retirement creates a field for a competitive race for the newly-created 42nd Congressional District stretching from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles. Almost immediately, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced he will run, as did California State Assembly Member Cristina García from Maywood.

Events

Traditionally held in April, but shuttered since 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions on events greater than 250 attendees, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was moved to the weekend of Sept. 24. Because of the relatively short period to its regular April 2022 start date, the city allowed some of the concrete street buffers to remain in place after the September race.

After taking a two-year COVID-caused break in 2020 and 2021, the 37th Annual Long Beach Pride Parade & Festival will wait until the weekend of July 8, 2022 at Shoreline Drive.

On Dec. 4, Belmont Shore’s Winter Village replaced the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade, cancelled since 2020. The 75th Annual Naples Boat Parade was held as scheduled on Dec. 18.

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