Letters to the Editor

Lipstick on the Pig

Usually the drab, ordinary caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly, but only in Long Beach would the beautiful butterfly turn into a drab, ordinary caterpillar. Most municipalities work very hard to change their industrialized city into an attractive and livable place to be – but leave it to Long Beach to go in reverse.

When people speak of Long Beach, they often refer to what used to be: a bustling resort with a dazzling beach for vacationers and residents alike to enjoy the excellent weather; the Pike, an amusement pier offering tourists a myriad of entertainment possibilities; a movie studio and spectacular homes housing the famous movie stars of the era; lively shopping on Pine Avenue; and many more attractions that made Long Beach the exciting and vibrant city it once was.

What happened? Oil, greed, the Naval Base, the breakwater, the Port and more greed. The Long Beach skyline, once viewed from beneath the beach umbrellas that dotted the shore, is now crowded with the looming silhouettes of oil pumps and shipping cranes. The once-beautiful beach became almost unusable: in place of the majestic waves that once broke across the sand is a choked, stagnant pool too polluted for swimming.

Even the honky-tonk thrills and laughter of the Pike are gone, replaced by a bland shopping center ringing with the sounds of gunshots. The butterfly has been stuffed all the way back into the cocoon.

As a result, Long Beach is left with no identity, living at the dark intersection of the shadows of Los Angeles and of Orange County while mimicking bits and pieces of both. It has gone through several attempts at establishing its own identity, none of which stuck for very long: the Queen Mary – but it’s sinking, the new “Pike” – a fake roller coaster and a very tiny Ferris wheel.

Attempts at revitalizing Pine Avenue as a shopping and dining destination have become a matter of putting different colors of lipstick on the same pig (remember the green lasers and the color-changing lights?), all the while attempting not to acknowledge that the pig is dead. The historical, once-charming downtown is quickly being replaced by City Council-endorsed quick-buck developers and their generic skyscrapers.

There were attempts, too, at giving the city a title: it was “The Aquatic City,” but the pool is closed and you can’t swim in the ocean. “The International City” it may well be, but with no marketing or advertising, no one knew about it. Our city government has not been interested in the city itself, but only in how it can be used to further their own political careers. Perhaps “The Stepping-Stone City” will be the next title to go on the welcome sign.

The poor abused Long Beach butterfly has retreated so far back into the cocoon that it is unrecognizable as the beautiful city it once was. What would it have to take for it to emerge again? A committed, attentive and caring city government motivated by citizens who aren’t so beaten down that they’ve given up on believing they could have any influence.

I am just afraid that it’s too late.

Merry Colvin


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