Tuesday, March 20, 2012

West Long Beach

West Long Beach has the 710 freeway running through it. The 710 has provided our group with several possible story angles to follow up on. One lead our group has is to meet with the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, because of the heavy amounts of pollution produced by port traffic.

Another lead we have deals with redirecting port traffic to an abandoned rail yard near a park; this story can work in conjunction with the LBACA angle. Our group has relevant contact information for both leads.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Downtown Long Beach

   Our group will cover downtown Long Beach for the final project. A few ideas that have been discussed include the coverage of events within this area that help better the community. We plan on using a video of the events and film some interviews. Some potential sources would be the attendees of the event as well as the organization(s) holding it.
    We also may focus on how the downtown plan is going back into effect. We would interview people on both sides of the issue about how it will affect them and their neighborhood. This can be incorporated into an audio slideshow or an interactive text. Further background research will have to be conducted on both of these topics as well as anything else we choose to cover.

North Long Beach: A Journey

Many choose not to venture into north Long Beach. They think it's a dangerous, gang-ridden ghetto. But they're mistaken. North Long Beach is a vibrant, diverse area that's home to dynamic Hispanic, Samoan, and Jewish communities. Our group intends to examine these communities along with issues regarding the lack of businesses in the area, and the disparity between the wealthy and the impoverished.

4th Street, Carroll Park, Bluff Heights, Belmont Shore area

4th Street, Carroll Park, Bluff Heights, Belmont Shore area- group blog

Our group plans to focus our efforts on the 2nd street and 4th street areas. On 2nd st., we plan to cover the chocolate festival and scavenger hunt events and get in-depth interviews with the business owners who are participating to see if these events help local businesses during a bad economy. Visuals on 2nd. street will focus on videos and stories that showcase the good/bad effects of running a business on 2nd. street. On both 2nd. and 4th st., we will focus on bike-friendly saturdays and how a bike-friendly community will is good for the reputation of long beach and also for businesses. Multi-media for bike-friendly Saturdays will include an interactive map of participating business with plenty of bike racks. We'll also take more photos and video. Lastly, we'll cover local bands that are being showcased on 4th street every wednesday on their emerging sounds of wednesday series for an audio podcast.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Central Long Beach: Mission Statement

     My group and I will cover everything South of PCH with the 710 on the West, and Junipero on the East. This is a Massive area, but one filled with stories. A few point of interest in out section are LBCC, the Museum of Latin American Art, The Pine Street corridor, the Atlantic corridor, and a small section West of the 710. It is this small area of a few dozen blocks that will likely present the most difficulties to coverage as it is an area without any popular destinations to focus on. We have started our plan by agreeing to all do out photo slide show on a relevant story in our area. -Patrick Moreno, of team Central (downtown).
Howard Smith smokes a cigarette outside his Westgate of long beach apartment, this photo was taken from a Press Telegram article from November of 2007 about residents living under the poverty line in Long Beach. Photo By Stephen Carr 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ambicious and Thriving : Long Beach Gay Community

Hot Java on East Broadway in Long Beach California
by Nayeli Carrillo
Long Beach is known for its diversity and with a strong LGBT community we have not only seen a stronger health awareness but an emphasis of how open and bonded the entire LB community is.

Interviewing The Center's newly promoted Administrative Director Porter Goldberg he discussed the establishing of the Center and its growth from a living room discussion to a social service organization.  According to him their formation came from a “a need into the community for our community to come together and get to know each other” especially with the lack of acceptance at the time in 1977.

 He’s extremely proud of their ability to not only help the LGBT community but also provide information, services, assistance and culture programming to the over all Long Beach community, further strengthening the connection among the city’s residents.  Some of the services include youth empowerment, overeater anonymous support group (people battling compulsive eating) , minority support groups, a hate crime hotline and the LGBT film festivals.

A recent event being hosted is a Women’s History Month Speaker series every Friday in March and the second in April at 6:30 to showcase accomplished women in traditionally male-dominated fields.

Long Beach’s Cal State University is also strong in aiding its gay community with their Delta Lambda Phi chapter, the first chapter was established in 1986 in Washington D.C. The group is set apart by its striving to creating a brotherhood, quality and lifelong bonds of friendship and support Proud member David Pham says he is active member of the fraternity, which is in fact the only gay fraternity in the nation, recently becoming international as they established a chapter in Montreal, Canada. 

The Long Beach chapter was actually established only 3 years after the original one and by far one of the oldest chapters.  They are striving by being involved in the community with projects such as Relay for Life, Glaad Media Awards, Gay Days at Disneyland and Long Beach Pride.

The LB gay community presence was actually one of the reasons David came to Cal State Long Beach. “ I was definitely scouting the area and whether it was gay-friendly or not, so I definitely knew what a huge gay community that Long Beach had.  I was aware of the many services they had from gay youth chats to support groups to gay coffee places”, he adds. He even mentioned how one of our own alumni is co-owner to Hot Java, a hotspot for LGBTQ group meetings.

A great event the Delta Lambda Phi is particularly proud to organize and present every year as part of their way to support their Philanthropies tis Dragilicious.  The event, which raised $1,200 in ticket sales last year, with proceeds going to the LGBTQ center on campus, invites people to come out and perform in drag.  This year’s proceeds will go to two projects, the “It Gets Better” Project and the “Trevor Project”. 

The Trevor Project is a leading national organization, which “provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth” with recent spokesperson actor Daniel Radcliffe.

The other project is the “It Gets Better Project” which not only deals with suicide as a secondary prevention service but rather a primary prevention service by showing LGBT youth and groups their potential of happiness and positivity with their lives.  It helps them to look past the obstacles to their maximum capacity and that life “WILL get better.” 

Co-chair for Dragilicious and Delta Lambda Phi member Jose Miguel Santiago says his involvement with Dragilicious came from his desire to volunteer and in turn it makes him empowered and optimistic for the gay community as a whole.  It’s become clear that support continues to grow with people attending and supporting the cause showing the growing acceptance that organizations like The Center hoped to create through their establishment. 

The number of Gay friendly establishments in Downtown Long Beach such as cafes and bars and Long Beach Pride growing in years is not only a result of a growing LGBT community but the amount of press the city has. 

Part of what is evident in their success is this specific community’s ambition to strive for equality.  Miguel actually re-established the Gay-Straight Alliance at his high school during his junior year through which he actually created a more gay-friendly campus and helping his students educating them about Signs of Suicide prevention presentations and Bullying/Gay bashing prevention.  He has also become involved with volunteering in the LB Aids Walk and volunteering at the LB Pride.

Goldberg has said that he’s proud of seeing the city thrive and their embracing of the community’s diversity.  The city’s local government, businesses and community organizations have all been incredibly supportive and show just how strong the Long Beach Community is.    

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Palace Offers Foster Kids New Hope

Foster youth of the city of Long Beach find new hope and a promising future with the grand opening of The Palace Hotel, a renovated apartment building that houses and guides 13 emancipated youths to becoming successful in the future.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Mayor Bob Foster, Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell, 4th District, The Long Beach Housing Development Company (LBHDC), LINC Housing, and United Friends of the Children (UFC) celebrated the grand opening of The Palace in Long Beach.

The Palace hotel was once notorious for a center of drugs and prostitution in the 1920s and a place that offered little hope. Today, with the help of United Friends and LINC Housing, The Long Beach Housing Development Company was able to gut out the entire building and in a 6.2 million dollar project aimed at supporting and guiding at risk foster youth in Long Beach.

“The 13 youth chosen to live at the Palace were given the opportunity based on certain criteria- a willingness to learn, a willingness to succeed, and a perseverance for personal achievement,” said Carolina Diaz, Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator of United Friends of the Children.

According the Press Telegram, it is estimated that of the 1,400 to 1,500 youths who leave foster care each year in Los Angeles County, a shocking 36 percent face homelessness and many more struggle with chronic unemployment within two years. Also, in California, 36 percent of foster youth become homeless within 18 months of emancipation, as stated by Everything Long Beach.

These statistics are what brought about the union of LINC Housing, UFC, and the Long Beach Community to respond to a need of the community.

The 13 chosen residents will be staying for about 18 months as they learn to support themselves. These youth are required to find a job and pay rent while they receive “social, educational, mental health, job training and life- skills services” offered by Pathways, a transitional living service run by United Friends of Children.

“This programs gives kids who once had little hope and guidance towards a promising future, a second chance at life. A chance to succeed and be independent,” said Mauve Linder, a local resident of Long Beach who strolls the area daily.

Part of the ground floor of the renovated apartment building houses iCracked, an iphone and ipad repair company founded by AJ Forsythe who started the company as a college student. The Press Telegram notes that the CEO, Forsythe, “hopes to hire at least 4 or 5” residents of The Palace to help several youth gain work experience under the Pathways program.

United Friends of Children is a non- profit organization dedicated to “bettering the lives of foster children and supporting foster youth in their journey to become successful, independent adults.” The non- profit organization joined with LINC Housing, a company dedicated to building affordable and sustainable housing for those in need, to build a program in Long Beach to reach the foster youth of the community.

The renovation began early summer in 2010 to include 13 studio apartments and a multitude of sustainable features. Some of the features include Energy Star appliances, recycled materials, a high efficiency HVAC system, and dual-flush toilets. To reduce building costs, photovoltaic solar panels and ClearEdge5 fuel cell technology were incorporated into the design. According to the Everything in Long Beach website, the building is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.

The Palace Hotel is a wonderful example of “public and private sectors” that joined forces to meet the needs of the community not only in services offered, but also with renovation and an effort towards sustainability.

- Crisitna Szewczyk

New Community Center to be Built at Re-Opened Orizaba Park

Orizaba Parks recent re-opening has been welcomed with a surge of recreational activity. Citizens now have a place to walk their pets and play recreationally. Orizaba Park is located near the corner of Anaheim Street and Obispo Avenue. Soon a new community center will be built at the park.

Programs at the nearby Freeman Community center in Long Beach will be moved to the Orizaba Community Center.

The Freeman Community center currently offers free after school programs for children in the community ages 5 to 14. Students are free to come and go as they please. Loraine, a worker at the Freeman Community Center said programs will be moved to Orizaba a summer from now.

Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine, in partnership with the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency, recently re-opened Orizaba Park on January 21. The community center located at the park is still in the planning phase and is estimated to cost around $2.2 million.

Freeman Community Center is still a temporary location for the after school programs in the area and all the programs will be sent to the Orizaba Community Center upon completion.

“Freeman will not be open any more once Orizaba opens,” said Connie Oden, supervisor of the after school programs at Freeman.

Oden went on to mention that there have been discussions of keeping the Freeman Community Center open alongside the center at Orizaba but it is unlikely that will happen.

Long Beach Redevelopment funded the Orizaba Park re-opening with a total of $5.3 million. To help pay for the cost of the new community center, Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine applied for a Proposition 84 competitive grant that reimburses the cost of the development of sustainable community plans, of which they were successful in acquiring.

Construction at Orizaba park began late in 2009. New features developed include a new basketball court, picnic areas, soccer field, landscaping, flora, sidewalks, skate-park and outdoor exercise equipment. Also included was an extra 1.1 acres of land, increasing the park to a total of 3.7 acres.

Three warehouse buildings formally occupied the extra 1.1 acres bought by the Redevelopment Agency after it was proven that the removal of said buildings would not produce further unemployment. The buildings did not provide permanent jobs available to the community.

The Orizaba park expansion opens up more open space in a part of Long Beach that has very few parks with many low income residents.

“[The city] was not able to build the building and the land at the same time,” said Oden. This was in part because the city had not received the Prop 84 grant until late 2010; at that time work was still being done on the landscape.

Park Development Officer Anna Mendiola has been in charge of the project on behalf of Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine.

There will be more programs created on top of the youth programs moved from the Freeman center. More youth programs will be available and there are plans to begin new adult and senior services.

The Orizaba park location has belonged to the city since 1923. In 1983 it became an abandoned street development yard and was given its current name by students at Robert E. Lee Elementary School.

Bike Long Beach

           On a typical Saturday afternoon here in Long Beach you may notice more bicyclists riding around areas such as Retro Row, Belmont Shores, and Downtown.  “Going green” has been a trend that has popularized within the last few years in America, and now Long Beach is making their contribution to improving our environment.  Bike Long Beach is an organization that has introduced Bike Saturdays, which offers bicyclists discounts at participating locations. 
            Bike Long Beach is an organization that was created with the vision to “be the most bicycle friendly urban city in the nation.”  As part of their mission statement they want to “provide an environment and culture where cycling is a sage, viable, and preferred mode of transportation in the city of Long Beach.           
            Don’t have a bike?  That’s no problem! Every Saturday Bike Long Beach provides free bike valet in the districts that participate such as Bixby Knolls, Cambodia Town, and the East Village Arts District.  Also, Bike Long Beach provides bike racks and the liability is on the city, so you can use the bike worry free.           
            “It’s nice to see the community coming together to support our local businesses as well as showing their appreciation for our environment,” says Diane Gershuny, 4th Street Business Association.  “When asked to participate in the pilot for Bike Saturdays, I didn’t hesitate.”  “This organization has showed me that the community of Long Beach is capable of making positive changes and is an inspiration for others who want to make a similar impact,” she concluded.
            Riding your bike as an alternative to driving has many benefits.  Not only does it minimize traffic and parking issues, it reduces air pollution.  And not to mention, you’re getting exercise and improving your own personal health.
            “I think it’s great—keeps people healthy and conscious about not driving everywhere” says Atlantic Studio salon manager, Carole Tokudomi.  Located outside of Atlantic Studio is one of many bike racks provided by Bike Long Beach.  The bike racks range from quirky designs such as palm trees to simple ones with the Bike Long Beach logo.  When customers ride their bike to the salon they can receive 15% off products and retail.  “We haven’t had many cyclists come in on Saturdays, but I believe the program is capable of being successful.” “They just need to get the word out and improve their marketing.”  Tokudomi suggests “creating multiple rental stations, so you can rent a bike in one district and then drop if off in another.” “That way you could ride from Cambodia Town to Retro Row, without having to be limited to one district,” she concluded.
            Shops and eateries that participate in Bike Saturdays are posted on their website www.Bikelongbeach.org.  Places such as Lola’s Mexican Cuisine offers 15% off your total bill and if you visit Sun Elite Tan on 2nd Street you can receive 20% off any purchase.
            Although not everyone may agree with what Bike Long Beach is trying to accomplish, criticism is always beneficial to any organization.
            “I think Bike Saturdays is great, but I also think it is a huge safety hazard,” says avid bicyclist Levi Meyers.  Especially around Belmont Shores there are designated bike lanes, but most bicyclists don’t pay attention and swerve in and out of the lane.  “I don’t even like driving down 2nd Street on a Saturday, because I’m too worried I’m going to hit a bicyclist.”  “There are so many people that travel in groups, and instead of riding one behind the other they ride side by side.”  “Bike Long Beach needs to educate bicyclists more about safety and appropriate routes,” says Meyers.
            Bike Long Beach has created a Public Relations plan that involves goals such as creating more bike routes, offering bike friendly facilities, promoting bike share opportunities throughout the city, educating the community about bicycle safety, and implementing these bicycle programs. The Department of Health and Human Services through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has funded the efforts of Bike Long Beach and has made their goals possible.

            Bike Long Beach has utilized social media as a tool to promote their organization.  Facebook, Twitter, and their blog keep bicyclists informed about their latest projects, as well as provide tips and video clips for followers.  A recent post on their Facebook page says that Bike Saturdays is the “biggest citywide discount program for bicyclists in the nation.”  This proves that this organization is making an impact on not only the community of Long Beach, but also other communities nationwide.
            Although it may take some time for Long Beach to become bike-user friendly, Bike Long Beach has made a great start on the road to that goal.  

Bree Cahey

Why Long Beach?

                         Racial / Ethnic Group Place Number % of Total
AsianIndian..............Cerritos ..............3,017..............6% Cambodian..............LongBeach ..........20,262..............4% Chinese.................MontereyPark ........26,810.............45% Filipino .................Carson..............18,223.............20% Japanese ...............Gardena..............7,445.............13% Korean .................Cerritos ..............9,109.............18% PacificIslander ...........Carson...............3,401..............4% Vietnamese..............Rosemead ............7,175.............13%

    The Khmer, also known as the Cambodian people, did not really begin to immigrate to the United States before 1975. By the year 1990 150,000 Cambodians had come to the United States. The Vietnam War led to countless suffering for the people of Cambodia. As the communists of North Vietnam spread further into the country of Cambodia, unfortunately so did the war. Finally, in 1979 the United States Refugee Program was created, which began allowing Cambodians into the USA from refugee camps in Thailand. Since 1975 the United States has set up many different programs to make immigration, resettlement and learning English easier for Cambodian immigrants. Today there are currently around 86,000 Cambodians living in the state of California, with the other top states being Massachusetts and Washington state. Nearly 20,000 of todays Cambodian population resides in the City of Long Beach CA. Long Beach now has the largest Cambodian population outside of Southeast Asia. However, the real question is why did this group of people decide to settle in the city of Long Beach?

    Julllina Chhitch of the Cambodian Student Society at California State University Long Beach said “Cambodia Town has a very familiar feeling for our people. I have been to Cambodia and it reminds us of being back there. It also feels much safer to live with people of the same background. Many of the Cambodian people have dealt with a lot of damage from war, and like to try and stick together.” She definitely hits on many good points on why Long Beach has such a significant Cambodian population. There are a few explanations for why such a large portions of Cambodians in America live in Long Beach.

    Originally, refugees from Cambodia following the Vietnam War arrived in California through Camp Pendleton Naval Base in San Diego CA. Only a small number of Cambodians even lived in California at this time. However, they did everything they could to help the new people arriving. This small group of people formed a organization named the Khmer Solidarity of America in order to help the war torn immigrants. This organization used a Long Beach address. Eventually, in 1975 it would become the Cambodian Association of America, which is still helping Cambodians in Long Beach today. This group personally helped the people who came through Camp Pendleton by moving them to Long Beach. Long Beach also provided many lower level industry jobs for the Cambodian immigrants at the time, along with many jobs at the port. The weather of Long Beach also allowed for the new immigrants to grow all of the foods they were used to, along with having many markets and restaurants Cambodians enjoyed because of the already large asian population. The city of Long Beach rapidly became known as a great place for new Cambodian immigrants to live. All this success for Cambodians in Long Beach, led to even more of the immigrants families moving to the Cambodian friendly city.

    Amanda Sea, a current resident of Cambodia Town in Long Beach CA says Long Beach was the perfect place for her parents when they immigrated to the United States. “When my parents moved here they had nothing. What they did know is that there type of food, culture and people lived in Long Beach. It made it an obvious choice to live there. They felt at home here, even though they were in a brand new country.” As Long Beach continued to grow so did the Cambodian population within the city. Cambodians continued to come to Long Beach as the amount of Cambodian businesses grew, Buddhist Temples were built, more people who spoke Khmer came to the city and a growing system which allowed new immigrants to find easy work and places to live in a new country. Originally, the Cambodian population chose two different locations in Long Beach to live, North Long Beach and what has now become Cambodia Town along Anaheim Street with Redondo Avenue on the east and Long Beach Blvd. on the west. This area on Anaheim Street has had many names through the years including, Little Phnom Penh, Little Cambodia and Phnom Penh by the Sea. Finally, on July 3, 2007 this area along Anaheim Street was officially named Cambodia Town by the city of Long Beach.

    Shafi Mith, another resident of Cambodia Town here in Long Beach was happy when it was finally officially recognized. “It was day of great pride for the Cambodian community here in Long Beach. It’s the kind of city many Cambodian immigrants like my parents always wished they could have lived in back home. Now we have our own town here in America.”

By: Joshua Saylor

Teens Go From Foster Care to The Palace

City officials and residents of The Palace at the
grand re-opening on February 22nd.
By: Lenai Sanchez

The one-time Palace Hotel has had a makeover and now serves as a residence for 13 former foster youths.

The 13 residents that have become of age and are no longer part of foster care can call  "The Palace" home, since it has been newly renovated into an apartment complex.

On the day of the  re-opening, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster commented saying that The Palace could be a stable environment and home for the hundreds of young adults, that had goals of "gaining employment, finding their own apartment, and completing their education".

According to the Everything Long Beach website," there are more than 1,000 children in foster care" and without assistance, many of these young individuals will become homeless and/or chronically unemployed within two to four years after leaving foster care.

And according to a press release the Los Angeles County has more than 22,000 children in foster care and every year 1,400 emancipate.

These alarming numbers were the inspiration for the renovation of The Palace and are what initiated the partnership of LINC Housing, United Friends of the Children, and Long Beach.

Officials of Long Beach, LINC, the Long Beach Housing Development Company and UFC, all arrived February 22nd to commence the grand re-opening of the apartment complex. Without these individuals none of this great work would have been made possible.

The one time hotel, was once very popular in the 1920's.
The LINC Housing Corporation is a nonprofit organization that builds, owns and operates affordable housing for seniors and families throughout California. The corporation also offers its residents life-enhancing services and is committed to creating and preserving housing that is environmentally sustainable, and is a catalyst for communities improvement.  

The United Friends of the Children is also a nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of former foster children and to supporting former youths as they continue their journey to on becoming successful and independent adults.

And the Long Beach Housing Development Company assists the creation and development of affordable housing. Its goal is to provide safe and livable neighborhoods in Long Beach by promoting, developing and preserving decent, safe and affordable housing for the very low to moderate-income residents.
When I spoke to Jacqueline Medina, the Communications director for the Long Beach Housing Development, she seemed very proud of the work that has been done to help these former foster youths.

"It has proven to be a wonderful project," says Medina.
Follow Council member Patrick O'Donnell conquered. When I contacted O'Donnell, he referred to the project as " a win-win for the community as a whole and for the foster youth that live there".

"The Building itself has improved, with its historic facade intact, and this is the first facility of its kind in Long Beach. The residents will contribute to the community as well".
The council member spearheaded the effort after seeing a PBS special 15 years ago.

"I was inspired... Many of us cannot comprehend the stress and difficultly that youth in foster care go through. It saddened me that at the end of the process, they age out of the system, without a safety net. I vowed that if I was ever able to do something about this I would," said O'Donnell.
The newly renovated Palace apartment complex.

The Palace not only holds 13 studio apartments, it also includes a manager's unit, common areas, and offices for programs services. In the ground floor retail space there will be an iCracked, and iPhone and iPad repair shop that will serve as employment for residents of The Palace.
The Palace has a selection of features such as Energy Star appliances, recycled materials, a high efficiency HVAC system, dual-flush toilets, Photovoltaic solar panels and ClearEdge5 fuel cell technologies to help reduce utility costs. The renovated complex is currently registered with the U.S. Green Building Council.
The Palace residents will also be required to work, pay rent and attend weekly life-skill classes in addition to attending regular meetings with their advocacy counselors.
The proper safe and stable living environment is essential to all individuals and it is amazing that the city of Long Beach was able to provide that opportunity to those who really need it. Now foster care teens that are close to becoming of age and are about to be emancipated have the chance to not only get a reliable job but also have a place to call home.
Hopefully in time more complexes and more buildings can be created into homes for former foster youths and these numbers mentioned before can decrease. After all, our countries' future relies on our youth of today and our future will not be too bright if our youth is homeless and unemployed.

For more foster teens coming of age can contact the United Friends of Children. According to O'Donnell's Chief of Staff, Bridget Sramek, the UFC is the primary source heading the issue.
To get more information go online to the LINC Housing or United Friends of the Children or the Long Beach Housing Development Company websites.


Community Gardens

The 1st and Elm community garden.  Photo by Cosette Macari

Community gardens have been popping up around Long Beach in attempt to provide an organic green area in an otherwise urban neighborhood.  Some gardens are operated under the umbrella of non-profits such as Long Beach Organic (LBO) or the Long Beach Community Garden Association.  Others are independently owned community gardens.

The 1st and Elm community garden is independently owned but was originally managed by Long Beach Organic (LBO), a non-profit organization focused on creating and maintaining organic community gardens in Long Beach.  This particular garden was LBO’s first community garden established in 1995.  The garden split from LBO in 2009 when when the organization was in disarray.
Between 2005 and 2008 the executive director of LBO changed five times, resulting in an unorganized and non-committal board.  Former LBO board member Serena Stevens said, “I put blood, sweat and tears into that organization and no one was helping me.”  Stevens felt there were too many political issues for the board to stay focused on the gardens and surrounding communities. 

“They [LBO] owed a lot of money when I joined,” Steven continued, “Everyone was too focused on their own self-interests to be making any significant progress.”  Stevens was with LBO from 2005 until 2008 when she left and joined Los Angeles Master Gardeners.

Jim Brasher, the current manager of the 1st and Elm garden, is also a former board member of LBO.  He has managed the garden for the last 13 years, the majority of which has been under the umbrella of LBO.  “They want to have every garden run exactly the same way but it won’t work.  Every garden has to be different,” Brasher said in regards to his split from LBO.  Since the garden has always been on the property of private landowner Helen Woo, Brasher worked with her to obtain the lease instead of LBO.

LBO since then has become far more organized and they now manage six community gardens in the Long Beach area, including the newly reopened Wild Oats garden on 10th and Grand St.  The majority of their gardens currently have waiting lists for hopeful gardeners which one can sign up for through LBO’s website.  There is a membership fee of $20 and rent is $0.25 per square foot per six-month season along with a water surcharge of $0.15 per square foot.  Spencer Langdon, the current president of LBO was unreachable along with any other board members.

The Wild Oats garden before it was closed and reopened.  Photo Courtesy of LBO

Under Brasher’s management, any community member may lease a 5x12 plot from the 1st and Elm garden for $60 a year.  There are currently 13 gardeners leasing plots from Brasher.  The back of the garden is reserved for fruit trees and growing produce to donate to Christian Outreach in Action, another non-profit serving the Long Beach area.

The garden is a small green patch in the middle of Downtown Long Beach.  From the inside the garden, one would never know a bustling urban community surrounds it.  From outside the garden, the fruit trees and produce plots are not even recognizable.  Yet it contains beautiful mosaic paintings by students, funded by the Long Beach Community Foundation and is a certified wildlife habitat as its plants provides homes to creatures that would not be able to live in Long Beach otherwise.

Mosaic paintings in the 1st and Elm Garden.  Photo by Cosette Macari

The 1st and Elm garden participates in community events such as the annual SoundWalk produced by the Long Beach artist group, FLOOD and the Art Walk during the summer. 

“We try to be as involved with the community as possible and teach people about sustainability,” Brasher said, “We have organic wine tasting and have even had a couple small weddings here.” Brasher also occasionally hosts classes for preschool students to  learn about gardening and sustainability.  “It’s about people coming together for a common purpose...produce!”

Brasher plans to expand community outreach by forming a non-profit of his own focused on drought tolerant landscaping, growing California native plants, and sustainable food production.  The City of Long Beach currently has an incentive program called Lawn to Garden where they will rebate $2.50 per square foot of lawn removed from front yards and parkways and replaced with California friendly landscaping.

Any Long Beach community member may start a community garden on their own.  The City of Long Beach is currently allowing any part of a park in Long Beach to be transformed into a community garden as long as there are ten committed members.  Long Beach community members may also get involved through the Long Beach Community Garden Association, Inc which has a large community garden near El Dorado Park.

-Cosette Macari

Long Beach City Council Approves Resolution for "Cambodia Town" Freeway Sign

A resolution to request the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to post community signs for “Cambodia Town,” on the 710-Freeway, was approved in a 9-0 vote by Long Beach City Council during Tuesday’s council meeting on March 6.

Two signs will be posted at Anaheim Street, one northbound and one southbound, under Section 101.12 of the Streets and Highways Code, which states the department may place and maintain signs on state highways directing motorists to communities within the geographical boundaries of a city or county. This sign must also meet a list of conditions and requirements that pertain to aspects of geography, culture and historic significance, and public recognition.

The design, production, and installation of the freeway signs will now be under the jurisdiction of Caltrans, pending approval by the California State Legislature, a timely process that may take as long as six months.

Council Member Dee Andrews, of District Six, was one of the original councilman who sponsored  the resolution, and showed his support after opening the discussion to the rest of the council.

“This vibrant Long Beach neighborhood is where Cambodian-American history flourish,” Andrews said.

When Council Member Andrews thanked the California state elected officers, who wrote several letters in support of the freeway signs.. Once he asked for council members to second his request to approve, multiple members of the council said they would second the decision.

Pushing extensively for this resolution approval was Cambodia Town Inc. Chairman Pasin Chanau.

“This designation symbolizes a great honor to Cambodian-Americans, who have chosen to live in Long Beach because of the warm welcome of its citizens and city officials,” Chanau said.

“A resulting consequence of this resolution is the increase in business opportunity for local merchants, which will help improve the economic well-being of residents and business owners.”

Part of the Cambodian Town Inc. mission statement is to use Cambodian culture, customs and traditions to change the social and economic well-being of residents and business owners in Central Long Beach.

Local Cambodian community activists have been working, since 2001, to get Long Beach City Council to approve the official designation of “Cambodia Town” in the Anaheim Street corridor. After being placed on the City Council agenda for almost 10 months, council members voted, on July 3, 2007, to designate that area as “Cambodia Town” in a 8-1 vote.

After gaining approval for street signage near the allocated area of “Cambodia Town” in February 2011, the unveiling ceremony of the first two signs took place on July 16, 2011. Since then 14 more street signs have been installed surrounding the area.

City Council Member Robert Garcia, of District 1, believes since the street signs are appealing and currently successful, a freeway sign would only add to that positivity of the community.  

Funding for the street signs came out of organizations like Cambodia Town Inc. and other community affiliated organizations. Similarly, funding from the state will not be given for the freeway signs, which may cost tens of thousands of dollars for each one.

Other community members, including Cambodia Town Inc. Board Member Karen Quintiliani, spoke in support of Cambodian representation in Long Beach. Long Beach native Quintiliani has multiple publications relating to culture and immigration in the Cambodian society, and has been active in the Cambodian community in Long Beach since the late 1980’s.

In addition, Quintiliani is an associate professor in the anthropology department of California State University Long Beach and believes this freeway signage approval reinforces the proud idea that Long Beach is an international city in California.

“It allows us to give something to the next generation,” Quintiliani said. “Something for all of our kids to be proud of here in Long Beach.”

Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal was also a sponsor of this decision and spoke about how this change makes logical sense, not only for the community, but for the potential of increased tourism.

“This request for signage is the logical next step in the evolution of ‘Cambodia Town’ as the center of arts, culture, and business in Southern California,” Lowenthal said.

According to Cambodia Town Inc., hundreds of Cambodians from Southern California come to Anaheim Street during the weekends to shop and visit with one another, recreating their homeland. No other population of Cambodians, outside of Cambodia, has attained this level of recognition.  

While waiting for State legislative approval of the freeway signs, community activists are currently focusing on the development of constructed gateways to mark entrances into Cambodia Town.

A Community of Pride

            Hailed as the most ethnically diverse large city in the United States, Long Beach is also home to the largest Cambodian population outside of Southeast Asia. By the 1980s Long Beach gained its title as the “Cambodian capital of the United States”. There is no single reason or event that contributed to the establishment and growth of the Long Beach Cambodian community, but several local, national, and international factors have played a vital role over an extended period of time. 
Today, there is believed to be over 50,000 Cambodians living in the Long Beach area, with many settling around Anaheim Street. With committed individuals working together to help cultivate their heritage and culture, the Cambodian community continues to grow and develop within the city.
            To better understand this influx of Cambodians into Long Beach, a quick look at history takes us to 1961, when California State University, Long Beach admitted four Cambodian students into their Industrial Arts program. This international educational program was founded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which brought students to U.S. universities to train in industrial arts and agriculture. These were the first known Cambodians in Long Beach, with California State University, Los Angeles, UCLA, and USC also admitting students into their schools.
Most of the students returned home after completing their degrees in hopes of pursuing a brighter future. Those who stayed, however, ended up making Long Beach and other areas in United States their new life and home, and have been credited for establishing the same for thousands who followed.
            The second wave of Cambodian immigrants came in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge, a radical communist regime led by Pol Pot, took control of Cambodia after five years of civil war. About 4,500 were evacuated to the United States to Fort Chafee, Arkansas and Camp Pendleton, California. 
At that time, only about ten Cambodian families and a few students were known to be living in the Southern California area. A group quickly mobilized to come to the aid of the new arrivals and became known as the Khmer Solidarity of America. The new organization helped many of the families who arrived in Camp Pendleton locate in Long Beach, and offered them entry level jobs and relatively inexpensive housing. In late 1975 the organization was renamed Cambodian Association of America. 
The CAA is still very active within the Cambodian community of Long Beach, and is the oldest and largest Cambodian organization in the United States. Most recently, the CAA has helped in promoting the Cambodia Town Initiative.
This initiative is one of several projects within the Cambodian community of Long Beach which individuals have contributed years of combined efforts to materialize. It is not simply an erection of labeled signs along Anaheim Street that people are excited about, but a strong sense of pride that this movement speaks for, and progress that it anticipates to promote.  
            “It's a great honor to have the official "Cambodia Town" recognition”, says Cambodian Town Initiative Chair, Pasin Chanou. “This brings joy and pride to the community, and businesses to local merchants.”

One of the first erected Cambodia Town signs
on the corner of Junipero and Anaheim St.

            Chanou has been on the board of the Cambodian Town Initiative Task Force since it was first established in August of 2001. The CTITF consists of ten members, six of which, including Chanou, have worked for The Boeing Company in Long Beach and were also part of the Cambodian Friendship Network. 
Together, the small and mighty group of ten has worked relentlessly to gain support and funding for their initiative. Despite challenges and lack of recognition over the years, this initiative, which would designate the areas between Junipero and Atlantic avenues along Anaheim Street as “Cambodia Town”, was finally put on Long Beach City Council Board’s agenda in 2006.
            “Unfortunately it was only approved by two council members at the time, and we needed at least five to approve it to get it passed,” says Chanou. “They told us to go back and do more research.”
            Due to the great diversity in Long Beach, some were concerned over what the designation and signs might suggest to other ethnic groups in the community. With several Hispanic owned businesses in the area, Long Beach council members were skeptical over its approval and concerned that it may lead to a backlash and increase segregation within the city.
            Nonetheless, when the group came back on July 3, 2007 their “Cambodia Town” initiative was finally approved, and on February 15, 2011 the initiative to have “Cambodia Town” signs placed along Anaheim Street also passed. 
            Owner of Rio Rosas Bar on the corner of Junipero and Anaheim Street says that he sees no problem with the signs. “Everyone gets along here and I’ve never had any problems,” says Salazar. “I’ve owned this bar for 34 years and I’m friends with a lot of the other business owners. If they want to put up signs, I’m fine with it.”

Rio Rosa's Bar Owner Rafael Salazar and his wife Sara.

            Just a block away, SSB Video store owner, Kathy Nu expresses more of a concern over the safety and cleanliness in front of her store and along the street. 
“In the last three years I’ve heard of several robberies from neighboring store owners, and had my purse stolen out of my hand one evening when I was closing,” says Nu. “It’s scary here sometimes, and I feel I’m constantly cleaning up trash from people who get off from the bus stop in front of my store.”
            Along with seeing more customers, Nu says that she would like to feel a better sense of safety where she works, and believes it can be cleaner along the street. 
            The Cambodian Town Initiative Task Force is currently working on developing the Cambodia Town Business Improvement District (CTBID), which would work towards improving cleanliness, safety, and business promotion within Cambodia Town.
“We must be approved by the majority of the businesses and the Long Beach city council,” says Chanou. “Once the CTBID is established, we can use the money from assessment to provide the added services.”
Just this week, the CTITF’s request to have Caltrans post “Cambodia Town” signs on the 710 Freeway at Anaheim Street passed unanimously. 
            “The Cambodian King has even recognized our efforts and says that even though we may not have had many victories in Cambodia, we sure are making accomplishments in Long Beach!” Chanou laughs proudly.
            The CTITF, along with several other organizations within Long Beach continue to make strides and efforts in helping to better the Cambodian community, and look to the future with high hopes and promise.