Bits 'n' Pieces

Incentives for Historic Property Preservation

The Long Beach Community Development Department (CDD) is opening the 2024 application cycle for its Mills Act Property Tax Abatement Program, an economic incentive program for designated historic properties in the city. The Mills Act application and guide is available to the public on the department website now through March 1.

Historic district property owners, owners of individual properties outside of the districts that have been designated as historic landmarks, and those who believe their property could be historic and are willing to landmark the property, are all encouraged to learn more about eligibility and potential tax savings to consider whether to apply. Detailed information regarding eligibility and process can be found on the city’s Mills Act webpage.

Those who wish to submit an application to be considered for the 2024 Mills Act incentive program are required to attend two public workshops to learn more. Those interested in attending are requested to RSVP in advance. Interpretation services will be available in Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog upon request. The department will also share promotional videos in various languages on the department’s webpage and social media channels.

The Pre-Application Workshop will be held Saturday, Jan. 20, 10 a.m. to noon, at the Ernest McBride Park & Cal Rec Community Center, 1550 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. The Virtual Application Workshop will be held Saturday, Feb. 10, 10 a.m. to noon.

All potential applicants or their representatives must attend the January 2024 pre-application workshop to determine eligibility and learn about the process for preparing an application. Eligible applicants interested in proceeding with the application process must then attend the February 2024 application workshop for their applications to be considered.

The Mills Act application and a non-refundable processing fee must be submitted by the March 1 deadline to be considered for the program. The applications will be reviewed by the Cultural Heritage Commission and then forwarded to the City Council for final action. Final property tax contracts will be sent to the Los Angeles County Recorder on or before Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2024.

For questions about the Mills Act Program, call (562) 570-6194 or email MillsAct@longbeach.gov.

Suit Filed on Minimum Wage Ballot Measure

The Long Beach Reform Coalition (LBRC), through its representatives at the Lex Rex Institute public interest law firm, has filed a Petition for Peremptory Writ of Mandate to correct the title and summary for Long Beach’s Measure RW.

Set for the March 5, primary election ballot, this measure has been presented as a hotel worker minimum wage increase. In fact, Measure RW, according to LBRC, would provide no guaranteed minimum wage nor wage increase whatsoever for the large majority of Long Beach hotel employees. It includes terms which make the minimum wage waivable by means of collective bargaining, effectively exempting union workers from its wage floor provisions, as well as a definition of “hotel” which makes it only apply to establishments of 100 or more rooms. Yet, with current ballot wording, most voters will be left unaware of these basic facts.

The current ballot title, written by the city attorney and passed by the City Council last October calls this, without qualification, the “LONG BEACH HOTEL WORKER MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE MEASURE.” This language is extraordinarily misleading, as most hotel workers will receive no binding wage benefit, according to LBRC.

The summary, which appears on the ballot just below the title, mentions “qualifying hotel workers” without defining what qualifies a hotel worker for the select privilege of this minimum wage. It certainly leaves voters in the dark as to the fact that, counterintuitively, a broad majority of hotel workers would receive nothing, no greater legal protection or wage guarantee as compared to any other worker in the State of California.

Significantly, it also takes away voters’ right henceforth to approve or disprove future changes to the ordinance governing the set wage (for the applicable minority of hotel workers in larger hotels and not under union contract). This power is vested in the voters by default as it was originally passed as a voter-approved ballot measure (Measure N).

Yet current language in the summary, stating that the measure would “[authorize] the council to make future amendments,” would leave many voters unaware that their Yes vote would deprive them of final approval for similar types of measures in the future. That this represents the subtraction of a voting right must be made abundantly clear, says LBRC.

Supernaw Launches Re-Election Campaign

Councilman Daryl Supernaw is launching his re-election bid with five key endorsements representing public safety, business and labor organizations: Long Beach Firefighters Association Local 372, Long Beach Police Officers Association, Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce PAC, Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) PAC and Western States Regional Council of Carpenters.

Councilman Supernaw is completing his second, four-year term serving the Fourth Council District of the City of Long Beach. He is launching his campaign for a third and final term. His weekly e-newsletter, restoration of El Dorado Duck Pond, council office operating efficiency, author of Street Takeover Ordinance and the restoration of Fire Engine 17 are hallmarks of his tenure in office.

Councilman Daryl Supernaw was born and raised in Long Beach and is a lifelong resident of the 4th council district. He earned both his B.A. and M.A. from CSULB. Having worked as a business and marketing consultant for 30 years, Supernaw has an extensive business background in industries ranging from port-related logistics to hospitality. Prior to being elected to city council, he was an active community advocate and applied his private sector skills in working with virtually every department at City Hall.

Amongst his accomplishments as a private citizen was the covering of the Atherton ditch. This $3 million infrastructure project was accomplished by a campaign of long-term advocacy. Councilman Supernaw was elected to City Council in 2015 and utilizes a hands-on leadership style in resolving constituent concerns on a daily basis. These include quality of life issues surrounding homelessness, road/curb/sidewalk repair and public safety. He continually promotes a positive sense of community that is exemplified by the 4th Council District motto, Go Fourth!

First Time Homebuyer Assistance

The City of Long Beach is announcing an expansion of the city’s First-Time Homebuyer Assistance Program (FTHA) that now enables income-eligible residents citywide to apply and increases the grant amount from $20,000 up to $25,000.

The expansion of the program, which is for first-time, first-generation homebuyers, is intended to enable more Long Beach residents to qualify and receive assistance to purchase their first home in the city. The expansion removes the requirement that applicants must currently reside in certain federally designated census tracts. Applicants can now reside in any part of the city. In addition to raising the grant amount, the current income eligibility limit for applicants is increased from 150 percent to 200 percent of the area median income.

More details about the expansion, along with updates regarding the application and grant award process, are available on the Community Development Department website at longbeach.gov/lbhomegrant.

FTHA, which is a grant and not a loan or mortgage service, provides down payment and closing cost assistance and is designed to help low- and moderate-income families traditionally underrepresented in homeownership with purchasing their first home and building multi-generational wealth.

The program is made possible by the Long Beach Recovery Act, a plan to fund economic and public health initiatives for Long Beach residents, workers and businesses critically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, please contact the city’s program partner, FORWARD, at (855) 582-3973 or FirstTimeHomebuyer-support@livestories.zendesk.com.

Utility Bills 64% Lower

Long Beach Utilities’ customers continue to enjoy the best natural gas pricing protections statewide. In January 2024, the average overall utility bill for customers will be 64% less than a year ago.

“This winter, Long Beach residents are significantly better protected from spikes in natural gas pricing than they were last year,” says General Manager Chris Garner. “Actions the Long Beach Utilities Department took after the merger are proving their worth. As temperatures cool, and heating becomes more important, Long Beach will have the second lowest residential natural gas bills statewide.”

New contracts enacted by Long Beach Utilities provide residential customers with locked-in price protections for the next three winters. For the month of January 2024, the average bill paid by Long Beach Utilities customers will be:

23% lower than that paid by customers of SDG&E.

9% lower than paid by customers in Palo Alto.

27% lower than paid by customers of Southwest Gas.

35% lower than paid by customers of PG&E.

Last January, the cost of cooking and heating for an average single-family home in Long Beach was more than $200. As we begin 2024, those same residents can expect to pay closer to $75 for the same amount of natural gas usage.

Recently adopted contracts negotiated by Long Beach Utilities lock in natural gas pricing at a cost on par with prices paid in 2021. Without these contracts, market volatility could lead to record-high natural gas prices, as was the case last winter.

For more information on natural gas prices, assistance programs, and helpful tools to estimate your bill, visit longbeach.gov/energyresources. For questions or concerns, call (562) 570-5700.

Two LB Port Division Directors Appointed

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners on Monday approved the appointment of directors for the Port of Long Beach’s Program Management Division and the newly created Central Procurement Services Division.

Monique Lebrun, who has served as the port’s assistant director of program management since December 2022, will become director of program management. She joined the Port in September 2008 and has worked in several roles within the Design and Program Management divisions. The program management division, part of the port’s engineering services bureau, oversees improvements to harbor, wharfs, terminals, railroads, bridges, roadways and utilities.

Terra Van Andel, the port’s Streamlines project manager since 2022 within the finance division, will become the port’s first director of the central procurement services division, which was formed to standardize purchases and contracts across the Long Beach Harbor Department’s 19 divisions. The Central Procurement Services Division will centralize how external contracts and purchases are initiated, processed and executed in an effort to heighten consistency, transparency and efficiency.

The appointments are effective Jan. 13.

Ombudsman Requested to Stop Ballot Harvesting

Public advocate Gerrie Schipske recently sent a letter to Janette Tovar, Ombudsman Regional Manager, (Region IV– Long Beach) requesting that as the Long Beach Long Term Care Ombudsman, she investigate what precautions are in place to protect residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing facilities, assisted living and board and care facilities in Long Beach, from being coerced into voting for specific candidates, while ballots are being “harvested.”

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman investigates allegations of abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities, including nursing facilities, assisted living, and board and care facilities throughout Long Beach.

Schipske, a Registered Nurse Practitioner and Attorney, wrote Tovar because California law states that a person voting by mail ballot may designate another person to return the ballot if the voter cannot do so themselves anyone to return a ballot as long as that person isn’t compensated based on the number of ballots returned. However, it is legal to be paid a flat rate for ballot harvesting. Prior to the law being changed in Sacramento, only a relative of the resident could be designated.

“There are no safeguards in place to validate that the nursing home resident has specifically designated a person to return their ballot,” says Schipske. “Paid operators can go to these facilities and tell a resident they are there to ‘help’ with their ballots.”

Schipske also noted that currently there are no provisions in state law that the person collecting the ballot in the nursing home must identify him or herself as working for a specific candidate or political party. Nor are there any safeguards requiring nursing staff to make sure that no one is forcing anyone to vote in a certain way.

 “I think it is important that safeguards be put in place so this does not happen. We need to protect these vulnerable voters,” states Schipske.

While the person returning the ballot(s) must sign the envelope and return the ballot in person or by mail within three days of receiving it, or before polls close on Election Day, the signatures are not verified.

“In other states, trained bipartisan teams (“Special Voting Deputies”) appointed by the election supervisor, travel to residential care facilities and help residents fill out absentee ballots,” adds Schipske. “We need something like that in Long Beach.”

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