New Long Beach Central Project Area Council Launches; First Issue, To Take on Title Loan Business

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Long Beach Central Project Area Council

Photo by Jeremy Brooks

On Thursday evening, July 5, 2012, at its inaugural meeting the new Long Beach Central Project Area Council (LB CPAC) officially established itself as an organization, identified an important issue to pursue, and offered its support to a long term project.

The new Long Beach Central Project Area Council replaces the Central Project Area Committee for Redevelopment which ceased to exist when the Redevelopment Agencies were eliminated by Governor Brown earlier this year. Since there is no longer an RDA the new LB CPAC will no longer receive funding or staff support from the RDA or the City; however, the goals remain the same. The LB CPAC will focus on the central area of Long Beach. The boundaries of the area are roughly Redondo Blvd. on the east, Ocean Blvd. on the south, the L.A. river up to Pacific Coast Highway and then over to the western edge of the city on the west and Wardlow Road on the north.

New members were inducted by the organizing group, officers elected and dues collected. Many of the members and officers carry over from the RDA CPAC. They include renters, home owners, community associations and businesses within the Central Project Area. The officers are: President, Annie Greenfeld; Vice President, Patricia Paris-Appleby; Secretary, Pepper Russell; Treasurer, Jana Shields and Parliamentarian, Don Darnauer. The initial dues will be used for startup costs as well as ongoing expenses. The organization is in the process of filing for non-profit status as well as registering with the state. New By-laws were adopted at the beginning of the meeting.

The first issue the group is taking on involves a title loan business threatening to come into the Pacific Ave. and Pacific Coast Highway area. Title loans are “short term” loans using vehicles as security for the loan. Lee Fukui and Mauna Eichner – neighborhood residents and activists – made a presentation about the business, expressing their concerns for the impact the business will likely have on the area. They feel the location is at an important gateway to the Wrigley neighborhood and Pacific Ave. business corridor (now known as Wrigley Village). It is an area long ago designated as “blighted” and where the RDA was heavily involved in improving.

According to the presentation and previous information members have received from the company, the lowest interest rate anticipated for such loans will be 1/3 of 1% per day – approximately 122% per year in the beginning – but will vary and follow market rates. In other parts of the country this company typically charges upwards of 300%. A typical mortgage or new car loan rate these days is in the area of 3%. (see here)

The discussion amongst the members made it clear the group considers such predatory lending to be financial blight and a danger to continuing the revitalizing of that area of Long Beach. Under the RDA the improvements included new medians, landscaping and lighting. Fukui, Eichner and their team of community volunteers have collected more than 200 signatures opposing the project with many more pouring in from concerned residents in the area. LB CPAC also heard from a local banker who was able to give expert opinion regarding such businesses and their impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. The expert cautioned that, unlike payday loans, the interest rate for title loans of this kind is not regulated.

LB CPAC passed a motion to write a letter to the Planning Commission, with copies to the Mayor and City Council, encouraging the company to not open at this site. The company is also considering opening in other areas of Long Beach and the group felt that this site is a test case for the company – that success in opening here will open the door bringing this company and other similar companies to other parts of Long Beach.

As for a longer term project, LB CPAC received an update on the Long Beach Blvd Task Force, a subcommittee of the former CPAC and headed by Pat Paris-Appleby. The Task Force will continue working with the City on improvements to the Long Beach Blvd. corridor. The group received the following update from community activist Evan Patrick Kelly of Hancock University.

Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) grant money has been received and a consultant, Orange County based Cooper-Carey has been hired. They have completed their initial studies of the Boulevard. The project goal is to develop guidelines as well as accomplish actual improvements along the corridor that will improve the quality of life and business climate. It will cover Long Beach Blvd. from 10th Street to Wardlow Road. An initial pilot project will be executed from 10th Street to Pacific Coast Highway. Members of LB CPAC expressed excitement that the Task Force and project are continuing without the RDA. Funding will be a challenge and will, no doubt, involve obtaining significant grants.

The first meeting of the Long Beach Central Project Area Council was a busy one. They officially established themselves as a group, inducted membership, elected officers, took the title loan business on as an important issue and expressed its ongoing support for the Long Beach Blvd. improvements. The LB CPAC meets the first Thursday of each month at 6pm at Mental Health America, 456 Elm Avenue.

For more information, contact the President, Annie Greenfeld at 562-225-9462.

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