Illustration by Brian Addison.
2016 marked a definitive point for not just Longbeachize but the entire country: marred by political divisions that resulted in one of the most contentious presidential elections in history and fueled by a divide about race relations, economic disparity, and environmental advocacy, this year has proved to be difficult for both citizens and its news sources.
What this ultimately resulted in is the fact that we editorially recognized that we live in a post-truth world; there is no amount of evidence any news source can provide to some since, if it does not fit someone’s perspective, readers will disagree. 46% of Trump voters believe Hillary Clinton is involved in a pedophilia ring. Two Long Beachers admit to peddling propaganda favored toward alt-right (i.e. white nationalist) followers—one of our year’s top stories discussed below.
Given that, we have had to take an even larger step editorially and cement the fact that we are an advocacy publication which believes in defending the use of language, reaching for racial and economic equality, encouraging the growth of affordable housing and density in urban areas for the sake of both our humanity and our planet, proclaiming that black lives do indeed matter and racist symbology and language should not be normalized, ensuring that propaganda and fake news are promoted as detrimental to the overall good of our nation, acknowledging that our environment is the only one we have and we must stop things that contribute to its death…
These are the stances we had to take in 2016—and they also reflected the best of our news and opinions we reported. Here are the top stories that drove this shift in what being a news source in Long Beach is and what Longbeachize represents.
Click on the header images to read the articles.
We launched our Food Section this year—and, admittedly, food writing seems out of place for an advocacy publication that revolves around issues of livability and urban design. However, we found ourselves consistently brought back to the idea of food as sustenance, as community, and as form of connection. Food brings people together and, sadly, has become political by way of food deserts and limited accessibility; food is inherently connected to the ideas behind livability and new urbanism.
Of course, food isn’t always so dire; it can and does have the wonderful power to alter communities—like Keith Garret, the star of this piece that quickly became a hit. Serving up food in the mistakenly maligned Watts neighborhood, Keith serves up love and pride for his hood while spreading his wings to Long Beach.
Just as Mayor Robert Garcia finished posing with LA-based graffiti guru and artist Jaime “Vyal” Reyes (aka VYAL ONE) to take a picture in front of the artist’s recently completed mural in DTLB, it became clear that Long Beach’s perception of street art has officially steered away from being solely considered tagging and has moved into the idea that it indeed an art worth supporting.
Even more, there is no question that DTLB is becoming one of the region’s biggest outdoor museums. And yes, even more than DTLA.
It is a development that was already wrought with disasters: lacking density, lacking diversity in design, lacking space for people over cars, the Riverwalk development stood for everything we were against. It was Irvine in Long Beach.
Apparently it wasn’t Irvine enough as a group of citizens eventually pressured the developer to decrease development by 20% and increase parking by 20%—a win that one of their members said wasn’t really a full win because “the sad reality is that the neighborhood is still impacted, less so, but still.”
But the saddest reality requires some intellectual honesty: this isn’t about the environment or “responsible development.” This is about making a place stay the same exact way it is while making more room for cars and less room for people who want a home.
Initially set to be 221 units with 6,367 sq. ft. of ground floor retail, Shoreline Development Partners are now asking to have their master plan updated to build 94 more units and 344 sq. ft. of additional retail space. This would put the Studio One Eleven-designed building—set to be the city’s tallest at 417 feet high, usurping One World Trade Center which currently stands at 397 feet—at 315 residential units and 6,711 sq. ft. of retail space.
Additionally, the previously-approved 393 parking spaces will increase to 458 while pushing the subterranean parking garage from two levels deep to five.
This opinion piece stirred the ire of both sides: the wealthy and the working class, the urbanists and the Irvine-lovers. But we stand by one very stark reality in California and that is the fact that you can’t ignore economics when it comes to housing, folks: if you have a bunch of people across the entirety of the economic strata are vying for a particular resource but not enough of that resource is being offered, only the highest within that strata are going to get that resource.
A lack of building new housing will result in displacement of the most marginalized.
Ultimately, you can’t simultaneously bitch about high density while also complaining about increasing housing costs and the displacement of residents because it’s nothing short of cognitive dissonance.
Goodbye, expanded polystyrene foam—or as the planet knows you: styrofoam.
Long Beach’s proposal to ban the toxic material was not only unanimously passed but comes with nearly 100 cities and counties in California that have enacted some kind of limit on polystyrene use—and one that the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board said should be implemented statewide.
Good for the planet, good for Long Beach.
Housing—particularly affordable housing—is shaping up to be one of the most important areas of research and advocacy as California (including Long Beach) enters a massive housing crisis.
In the most recent data released through Apartment List’s annual report this month, Long Beach’s rent isn’t increased an exorbitant 10.8% increase year-over-year, making the median one-bedroom rent hit $1430/month.
The reason behind it all is divisive: landlords can increase rents throughout the city thanks to a real estate win-win for their pockets given the lack of rent control and an increased demand for apartments as unemployment declines and vacancy has fallen to under 3%.
And we are talking massive interest in apartments, despite rising costs, because, well, there are too many people and not enough places to live according to nonprofit Next 10’s most recent data: renter-occupied housing units with more than one person per bedroom grew from 12.7% in 2007 to 13.2% in 2014. Long Beach is joining the entire region in a housing crisis that is slowly driving low and middle income families and workers out of the state entirely.
Our top three stories dealt with ideology—what we editorially consider dangerous ideologies.
As hate crimes across the nation surge post-election—prompting the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office to up its fight against white supremacist gang Peckerwoods in the Valley while schools report on the “Trump effect” of hate rhetoric appearing on campuses nationwide—it behooves Long Beach to know of its own place in the history of white power ideology.
Long Beach is the birthplace of the nation’s first hybrid street-prison gang Public Enemy No. 1 (PEN1 or PENI), which is also one of the nation’s most violent white supremacist gangs.
It remains as disturbing as it was while reporting on it: two Long Beach men are making hundreds of thousands of dollars peddling propaganda to right-wing readers with an unfettered lack of ethics.
In fact, Paris Wade and Ben Goldman brag about being the “new yellow journalists,” saying they cater to an audience in which “violence and chaos and aggressive wording is what people are attracted to.”
This pseudo-reality has dire consequences—and it is why we must be cognizant of it. Many felt the accessibility and popularity of propaganda is what led to the election results we saw: the top 20 propaganda stories on the election on Facebook garnered more reach, more attention, more likes, more shares, and more comments than the top 20 real news stories. How much more? We’re talking 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
This story—a dark story mixing opinion, history, and news—is Longbeachize‘s most popular piece. Ever.
And it’s because racist symbology is not just outright frightening but extremely dangerous when any such imagery becomes normalized. It’s dangerous and frightening when people idealize and romanticize times that were marred with terrorism, violence, hatred, and devolution. And make no mistake, Long Beach, we are not the perfect little microcosm of diversity and love.
But the far more important part of this piece is the fact someone felt comfortable enough to hang the flag in the first place, in a place like Long Beach, and to not hide behind a keyboard. It’s almost too easy to say it was led by the election but it is too hard to dismiss the election.
The ultimate ending? Next time a comfortable straight white male tells you or anyone that is marginalized, a person of color, a Muslim, an immigrant, or just outright different that they need to stop “overreacting” and “let Trump do his thing,” just remember that it is when this shit becomes normalized that we think the ash falling onto our lapels is snow.
We thank you sincerely, Long Beach. You’ve supported us, challenged us, questioned us, fought for us, and most of all, engaged with us—whether you agree or not.
You ready for 2017?