January 6, 2000 - From the January, 2000 issue

An Ambitious Strategic City Plan: Long Beach Envisions Its Future

Cities often set out on "strategic visioning" exercises. The document is produced with much fanfare before gathering dust for another ten years. But Long Beach is unique: It has largely met the goals of its last strategic plan. So, continuing to move forward, the Long Beach Strategic Plan Commission, headed by attorney Doug Otto, has recently released a bold new document setting a vision and goals for the next 10 years. TPR is pleased to present this excerpt.

Doug Otto

Moving Forward with the Plan

This Strategic Plan presents a vision for the future created by and for the citizens of Long Beach. In the following pages, we present a vision for Long Beach in 2010, along with the goals and actions that will help us get there.

Guiding Principles

In Long Beach, everything we do is guided by these principles:

Compassion ; Community Involvement ; Diversity ; Justice ; Equity ; Integrity ; Courage

Envision the Year 2010

The beginning of our journey

At the beginning of the millennium, we realized that we had achieved much of what we had set out to do in our 1986 vision for the City-Long Beach 2000. Our Port was thriving; it had become the largest container port in the nation. Our downtown had become an important part of our community with a variety of restaurants, attractions, and emerging housing opportunities from artists' lofts to luxury condominiums overlooking the ocean. Both residents and tourists flocked to downtown .

The economy, having recovered from the loss of the Navy and downsizing , had never been better; but we realized something was still missing. Our neighborhoods and sense of community-the assets that had drawn people to Long Beach in the first place-had been neglected . We realized that a truly great city has a great downtown but [also] is a community of distinct neighborhoods with the kind of vitality only diversity can provide.

[W]e envisioned this community of neighborhoods as self-sufficient "minorities," with education, community service and the arts at the core. Similarly, we saw our economic engine diversifying-trade, technology, tourism and retail were still important, but we had also built on the entrepreneurial spirit of our immigrant populations, who were creating a new, more lasting base of jobs.

We also saw technology as being the "glue" that bound our communities together, increasing communication and shared knowledge, allowing quick access to services without the need to travel downtown, connecting communities with each other, and also enabling us to act smarter and more quickly in response to community issues.

Now we are in 2010.

Because we took the time to plan as we approached the year 2000 Long Beach has truly become a "community of neighborhoods"

Neighborhoods are individual places with special character reinforced through arts and streetscape programs that emphasize distinct design features of each community. Long Beach is recognizable as a city in itself-not an extension of the City of L.A. or Orange County.

In the communities of Long Beach, community centers have emerged as the "heart" of each community. Designed by local citizen leadership teams, community centers at schools or other sites combine the functions of schools, libraries, parks, and city service centers. Going far beyond the traditional "9 to 3" schedule of the school, in 2010, we find:

• A group of neighborhood senior citizens gather for morning Tai Chi in the park/play area.

• A father walks his kindergartner to school and his three-year-old to daycare before beginning work in the adjacent telecommuting center.

• After school, a young immigrant family is one of many who gather at the school for activities. The mother attends an ESL class to learn how to help her children with schoolwork. The children attend "afternoon camp," an entertaining tutoring program for students desiring extra help. The father goes to an entrepreneurial business-mentoring group.

• In the early evening and weekends, families and singles from adjacent neighborhoods flock to the outdoor markets featuring the ethnic specialties of the area .

Youth and Education Have Become the Focal Point of the Future

The City has taken a major step forward by making schools and learning the center of the new and emerging neighborhoods. Education is seen as everyone's business. Children and youth of diverse backgrounds have access to culturally sensitive, comprehensive services and programs that make them healthy, happy and well educated.

Safety for Everyone

Because citizens realized ten years ago that safety was more than statistics, in 2010 there is now a new definition of safety-a team approach to public safety in the community:

• Neighborhoods and their residents have joined with police as teams not only to protect the neighborhood from criminal activity but also to keep the type of environment that says "safe neighborhood." For example, a neighborhood council meets twice a month to mediate noise abatement and property appearance disputes.

• "Safe Place" has been expanded to include an entire network of safe locations-there are new substations where neighborhoods [can] learn about crime trends in their neighborhoods on computers.

• A citizen council meets once a month with their councilperson to design public safety programs and events for the community funded by sponsorships from neighborhood businesses and major Long Beach-based corporations.

Economic Opportunity

In the late 1990s, the trend was moving away from jobs in "mega-industries" and manufacturing and toward service and retail employment. This concerned some, who saw that low unemployment rates weren't necessarily raising the standard of living. In fact, the percentage of people at or below poverty level was 24 percent. Fortunately, the City recognized the potential of the new immigrant cultures, who were bringing an entrepreneurial spirit along with new growing businesses into the community. While Trade, Technology, Tourism, and Retail were still the cornerstone of the City's economy, the City also saw that the future was in nurturing the small business communities that enabled people to work close to home. Now, in the year 2010:

• Many residents are able to walk to work along streets lined with small businesses that employ local residents and also provide a "taste of home" to newer immigrants. Shops stay open into the evening and do a thriving business on weekends, when cultural events draw visitors from other Long Beach neighborhoods and beyond.


• Light manufacturing and Internet-based high technology businesses have located in a new industrial park on former airport land. Because of the synergy between small-scale cargo flights and these businesses, there is keen competition for the industrial space and employees.

• From late afternoon through the evening and also on weekends, both young people and neighborhood entrepreneurs take advantage of classes, try out new business equipment and the latest technological tools, and receive business coaching at community centers located at school sites and other convenient locations.

A Progressive Environmental


With the 1986 Strategic Plan, the City set a course of managed growth. But more growth has occurred than was anticipated . Between 1990 and 1999 alone, it is estimated that Long Beach added nearly 40,000 new residents. As the end of the century approached, people were concerned that Long Beach was not known as a beach city-or as a recreational destination. As a result, they embarked on a plan to put the beach back in Long Beach and to "green" the City. As a result in 2010:

• Downtown Long Beach rivals Miami as a culturally rich beach destination. Long Beach has been voted the city with the most swimmable beaches in the Southland. Families with children ride the Blue Line to the beach . The Bikestation, started in the mid-1990s, has expanded to have satellite locations in Belmont Shore, at CSULB, and at the Wrigley Marketplace, allowing car-free access to over 10 square miles of waterfront .

• Green parks that are habitats for the largest variety of bird life south of Santa Barbara line Long Beach's two rivers. Outdoor exercise clubs located in these parks have replaced the big indoor gyms of the 1990s .

• This exercise is made easier by the clean air. [B]reathing in Long Beach is now worry-free, with substantial reduction of particulates from the harbor areas and carcinogenic emissions from dirty diesel engines.

• Street trees canopies are the pride and responsibility of neighborhoods, which also take on the greening of school sites.

Network Technology and Neighborhood Development

Long Beach will inevitably reshape itself around the new emerging network technologies. Public policy questions, such as who [has] access to this technology and to what extent, are as important to our future as which industries we pursue and how we nurture neighborhood organizations.

In Long Beach, the answer must be to include everyone. To turn our backs on the less fortunate and to deny access will seal our fate as a city defined by the digital divide between the haves and have-nots. The City should adopt a policy of open access to this new technology.

In order to create economic and social linkages throughout the City, to compete more effectively in the global economy and to revitalize our neighborhoods by enriching the community life of our residents, we need to create a network of neighborhood communication facilities. These facilities will provide the tools for each neighborhood to take on more responsibility for producing the services it needs. They will also provide the means through which each service provider will cost-effectively produce and distribute its services at the neighborhood scale. The leading [providers] can shift their services to telecommunications networks accessible through the neighborhood communications centers. [E]very neighborhood will have access to telemedicine, distance education, e-government, and e-commerce.

By bringing the neighborhoods into a more intimate and profound connection with the municipal corporation, the network of neighborhood telecommunications centers enables residents to play a more active and integral role in the civic life of their neighborhoods and the City as a whole.

Finally, this new infrastructure will also help close the digital divide and simultaneously improve non-automotive access to work and services. Neighborhoods will become network-oriented communities.

This system of neighborhood communication centers could make Long Beach the first city in the nation to ensure that every one of its citizens and businesses has non-commercial access to the technologies that are being forecast as the defining economic tools of the new century. If it does so, the City will also gain the intelligence edge, forged by improved connections between its residents and the municipal corporation, that will be required to be a truly great city in the 21st century.

Plan Implementation

In the end, this Plan seeks to affect a cultural change in our community [and] to forge new partnerships among the municipal corporation, neighborhood organizations, and the education, business, not-for-profit, and faith-based communities .

The first step is  to establish a collaborative partnership organization to facilitate the various partnerships and outcomes recommended by the Plan. Coordinating the public service institutions in the City is a task that can be best accomplished by an independent organization, which can act as a facilitator, convenor, and educator

The second step is for the new organization to develop a community scorecard to monitor progress toward identified goals . Such a scorecard serves many purposes: it ensures accountabliity, identifies trends, allows quick responses to emerging problems, and guides strategic investment choices.

The advent of technology means that strategic planning must become a continuous process, which requires an implementation board [like the ones in Oakland and the Silicon Valley]. The municipal corporation should pledge seed money of at least $100,000 per year for two years in order to establish this organization.

[Effective implementation] is ensured by developing a consensual process through which the municipal corporation and other stakeholders:

• Accept responsibility for implementing the specific components of the Plan.

• Establish scorecards or benchmarks to measure progress for each component of the Plan.

• Devise a schedule/timeline by which specific milestones are expected to be achieved.

• Identify entities or persons responsible for the attainment of specific goals and actions.

Numerous models for such implementation organizations have emerged . They all appear born from desire to facilitate partnerships among those interested in civic life and to measure outcomes to ensure accountability and success. Most importantly, however, they emanate from a realization that the task at hand cannot be left to the municipal corporation alone. Unless the work of the community is done by the community, the problems of the past-mistrust of the government and an unwillingness of the community-at-large to engage in community building-will doom the new Plan to failure.


© 2024 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.