North Long Beach's Pro-Bono Real Estate Agent

By: 
Steve Propes

In the Fourth and Fifth Council Districts, it’s “city, no thanks.”

In the Eighth Council District, it’s “city, do more.”

It’s not every day the proprietor of an admittedly “dive bar” takes on the responsibility of changing the business-scape of his admittedly troubled neighborhood. Such is the self-assigned task of 29-year-old Patrick Conlon, owner of Muldoon’s Saloon at 5646 N. Paramount Blvd., just doors away from South Street in the Eighth Council District.

Match that effort with those in the Fourth and Fifth Council Districts that are fighting the city’s development agency, which might well allow developers to replace existing apartments, businesses and even churches with multi-story residential to conform to California State laws that mandate increased residential, citing increased congestion and parking woes, among other problematic scenarios. However, other areas in the city aren’t receiving the laser focused attention the eastside is getting, case in point, Conlon’s eastern Eighth District neighborhood.

Conlon, owner of a mobile bartending service called Stir It Up based in Costa Mesa, bought Muloon’s on Aug. 10, 2016. “It was cheap and owner wanted to get out. I own a mobile bartending business, so I know about liquor. I had no experience in dive bar culture, which is different from a craft bar.” The 44-year-old Muldoon’s “has always been an Irish Bar.”

On a very heavily traveled route generally favored by businesses, South Street and Paramount Blvd. is used by both area residents and business travel. “The area we are in is starting to turn around,” said Conlon. “The Seaport Village Apartment Complex is under new ownership and they are cleaning it up. Domino’s Pizza opened up earlier in the year. Davenport Park is being developed. I am helping form the Davenport Park Neighborhood Association.”

In a nutshell, that’s the attitude Conlon wants to foster in his area. “I am this area of North Long Beach’s pro-bono real estate agent,” said Conlon. “I am that because many of the landlords in the area are willing to rent out to messed up tenants that only want to pay month to month in cash.”

Take the example of the newly opened Stache House Barber in the same strip mall as Muldoon’s. Despite some resistance from local bad guys, who wanted a storefront for their activities, Conlon said, “‘No way.’ I found a legit barber from the west side,” and has recently opened his shop.

When Conlon noticed the shell of a night club called Aja’s, just a few doors to the north of Muldoon’s, at 2706 South St. at Paramount Blvd., it had been vacant for about ten years. The building dates back to the 1940s, when it was known as Sherry’s Barn, a spot popular among western music fans.

“Aja’s was Long Beach’s most messed up bar by far. It was shut down because it was a major source of crime for the area,” said Conlon. “People would get stabbed up in the bathroom, people were getting shot there, it was gnarly, so bad that the city decided it no longer wanted a bar there ever again by changing the zoning from commercial and residential to residential.

“No one has wanted to touch it because they just assume because it’s residential zoning you have to tear it down and build some housing. But there are codes on the books that say commercial non-conforming buildings in residential neighborhoods can still have a commercial use. I have had several conversations with Long Beach planning about this.”

Conlon decided to take on the job of finding the right kind of tenant with the thought, “It would be cool to have a hip restaurant in the building” to bring a more upscale feeling to the area. He compared his idea to the Smog City Beer spot, in which Steelcraft has a commons area with five different vendors, including Pig Pen Delicacies.

In an updated email, Conlon said he just met with the landlord and a prospective tenant, “who wants to put a brewery/tasting room in the building. The landlord has approved our idea and has agreed to pay for the administrative use permits needed to turn a nonconforming commercial building in a residential zone into a CNP zoning usage which allows the manufacturing of beer.”

Conlon also said, “I’m forming a neighborhood association with Douglas Champion, a local religious leader.” Conlon opined that the Eighth District has two separate identities, the hip west end with the very successful Bixby Knolls area and to the east, Conlon’s less attractive business and industrial strip.

At first, Conlon focused criticism on Eighth District Councilman Al Austin. “He’s trying to run for state senate. He concentrates attention to other parts of the district like Bixby Knolls,” which has higher propensity voters and potential campaign contributors. “Our area needs crosswalks. He backed Davenport Park and throws money at the project as it goes. It’s still not finished, it’s a ten year project.”

In his new email, Conlon said, “Davenport Park recently opened a walkway the public can use. It is about the size of a running track around a football field. It is no longer a derelict parking lot with weeds growing out of it surrounded by a chain link fence.” The park was also expanded to Paramount Blvd.

“Al Austin from what I understand received federal money to put all those medians in middle of Paramount Blvd between Candlewood and South Street,” said Conlon. Austin did not respond to several requests for comment.

Conlon’s Lakewood demographic comes from what he calls “a pretty boring town.” According to Conlon, the average age of North Long Beach is 27; Lakewood, late 30s and early 40s. “People in Lakewood don’t drink in the area. In Lakewood, if you want to go to a restaurant that serves good food, that isn’t a hole in the wall, try to find that place. There is a lot of potential in our area.”

With Conlon’s yeoman efforts to upgrade businesses in his area, this Eighth District issue was presented to the city’s Communications Officer Development Services, Kevin Lee, who noted much of Paramount and South is industrial. “The City doesn’t want to take industrially zoned land and allocate that to housing because it is important to keep a good balance of jobs and housing. Industrial jobs provide many of our highest wages especially providing jobs that may not require a college degree but pay better than retail.”

Lee also referenced “potentially contaminated sites which could be challenging. That is not the best use of land for residential,” which he clarified as “a general statement and not specific to the area.”

As to the Seaport Village Apartment Complex at 5400 Paramount Blvd, previously known as Parkwoods, as it is not industrial, “it would be available for apartments and other housing,” Lee said. “The properties on Paramount north of South Street are all industrial. 5400 is about six blocks south of South St. There is a mobile home park on one side of Paramount there at Candlewood, and that is not proposed for height increase, however across the street (where the apartment building lies) is eligible up to four stories.”

“If Parkwoods were to be redeveloped it would send an economic shock wave through the entire community,” said Conlon. “If they can minimize the gentrification that would result by offering affordable housing units to their current valued tenants, it would be exactly what this community needs. It would complement my efforts of building the community.”

steve@beachcomber.news

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