It’s the stretch of street that bears our namesake, from Anaheim all the way north to Spring: Long Beach Blvd. And the Midtown Specific Plan, as it is called by the City of Long Beach, makes a bold proclamation:
“Midtown will be a vibrant and thriving community for our children, family, and friends. Midtown will be known for its unique blend of parks, strong businesses, and transit-oriented housing. Additionally, this part of Midtown will be an early leader in multi-modal transportation practices where a person can safely and easily travel by walking, riding a bike, catching a bus, taking a train, or driving a car.”
It’s admittedly cool that the City is looking to Long Beach Blvd. for a revamp. It’s not just the fact that it’s the street of Long Beach—which earned its name in 1958 after previously being called American Avenue—but its rich history: it has had every form of modern transportation, from buses to cars, trains to bikes, roll along its strip.
The ultimate purpose of the plan is simple. Rather than dealing with the peskiness of conventional zoning, flexibility can be implemented. While I certainly shout out an “Amen!” to that, the improvement of some 353 acres along the center of Long Beach is easier said than done.
The stretch had already been the subject of two demonstration studies, one in 2007 and one in 2011 that, like its 2015 counterpart, noted the street’s need for more ped/bike accessibility. The City ultimately discovered that an “overhaul of PD-29 to incentivize new, transit-oriented development” was essential. Rightfully so: between 2007 and 2012, there were 50 collisions along the boulevard between Willow and 10th Streets; of those 50, 8% involved pedestrians and 18% involved bicyclists.
Long Beach Blvd. is not just a vehicle arterial; it’s a human-centric street.
Hence this plan, the results of which could be not just great but pretty damn amazing.
Firstly, the community noted 11 essential aspects of the boulevard that need to be changed or address:
- Reduce the impacts of the street’s width through traffic-calming elements and new development
- Enhance the environment for the pedestrian with landscaping, more welcoming sidewalks, outdoor dining…
- Improve bicycle access by extending the bike that currently stop at the edge of DTLB into Midtown
- Make it a street worth its namesake by making it an attractive gateway into DTLB
- More parking because, well, that’s just the way it is with this subject
- Don’t wait for the market to provide improvements; engage in small projects that show immediate progress while overall improvement takes its course
- Don’t ignore the community—after all, they’re the ones that will be using this infrastructure daily
- Midtown can and should be a place to live, work, and play—and its residents want to be able to explore it by foot and bike
- Bring Long Beach Memorial Center’s presence more toward the boulevard
- Increase safety by adding more lighting and providing more reasons to be in Midtown (re: live, work, play)
- The people of Midtown want change and they understand it costs money but they don’t want exorbitant development fees to bog down what could be done more conservatively
Many cool things add up in this lengthy list of reasonable requests. Parklets. Green roofs. Even required bicycle parking for new developments. But for us, the highlight is the Class IV bike lane (cycletrack) proposed for Long Beach Blvd.
I’ll let them explain why I’m beyond excited:
“New bike lanes will be physically separated from pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Curb extensions will create space for the new lanes by reducing on-street parking and right turn pockets. This treatment creates safer environments for pedestrians and bicyclists while encouraging healthy alternative transportation options for people living and working in the area.”
Even cooler? Trees on each side frame the track for shade and Secret Garden awesomeness.
Funding is up in the air (as it always is) and the implementation of upgraded infrastructure “could come from a variety of resources. These include, but are not limited to, local capital funds; local partnerships; regional, state, and federal grants; district-based assessments; and developer contributions. Many of these funding mechanisms depend on capturing a portion of real estate value and may take time to implement because they partly depend on improvement in property values or development activity in Midtown.”
Since the question of funding is questionable, the City claims it will focus on nodes of importance initially—hopefully, those nodes are ped/biking/transit focused.
To read the full plan, click here.
Disclosure: the opinions expressed in this piece are exclusively that of its author, Mr. Addison.