Press Telegram: State budget dedicates millions of dollars to Long Beach parks, job training, health and wellness
By HAYLEY MUNGUIA
A new fiscal year begins in California on Thursday, July 1, and it appears several projects in Long Beach will benefit from a fresh round of state funding.
The state Legislature approved a budget for fiscal year 2021-22 earlier this week that includes more than $20 million for parks, community centers, health clinics and more in Long Beach. Gov. Gavin Newsom had not signed the budget as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, but officials appear confident the local funding will get his seal of approval.
Parks and outdoor recreation space were the big winners for Long Beach in this year’s state budget. The document includes:
$8.5 million for rehabilitation of MacArthur Park;
$4.3 million for a walking trail along the San Gabriel River to the Pacific Ocean;
$3.3 million for open space along the Los Angeles River;
$1.2 million to enhance the El Dorado Regional Park Youth Softball and Baseball Fields; and
$850,000 for upgrades at Bixby Park.
The funding comes on the heels of a larger debate over open space in Long Beach. Some residents have criticized the city for approving plans for a self-storage facility and RV parking lot on a property bordering the LA River; activists, most notably from the Riverpark Coalition, have called on officials to use that space for a park instead.
That project is moving forward, but local officials have promised to explore other ways to increase park space in Long Beach. The newly funded San Gabriel River walking trail and open space along the LA River, which the City Council voted to explore earlier this year, are part of that commitment.
Representatives for the Riverpark Coalition did not respond to a request for comment on the new state funding for open space. But Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, said the money will enhance quality of life in the city.
“Whether it’s playing baseball in a park, taking a stroll on a summer day, or exercising on a trail, I know how important recreational opportunities are for residents and families,” he said in a statement. “I am proud to see our state prioritize communities like Long Beach and make these important investments in our quality of life.”
Other local projects, though, are also set to get an influx of money from the state. The budget includes $5 million for the Center for Inclusive Business and Workforce Development, which Long Beach is creating in partnership with the nonprofit Centro CHA, and $1 million for the Children’s Clinic Family Health and Wellness site in Cambodia Town.
Representatives of both Centro CHA and the Children’s Clinic said they were grateful for the funding — but they will both need significantly more to pay for the developments in full.
The Center for Inclusive Business and Workforce Development, slated for 1850 Atlantic Ave., will help community members improve their technology and literacy skills. The center will also provide job training, including opportunities to learn skills for the culinary, hospitality and technology industries, Centro CHA Executive Director Jessica Quintana said in a Wednesday phone interview.
“We’ve been, for over a year and a half, just trying to fundraise dollars for the center,” she said. “We’ve been working with the city. We’ve been working with the County of Los Angeles and really trying to get investment for the property.
“So we’re just really, really thankful now for our partnership with the city and for the state of California making this investment into our community,” Quintana added, “understanding that there needs to be economic recovery with small businesses and workers.”
The $5 million will go toward the full construction and development of the center, which Quintana said is currently “just a shell.”
“The cost of construction right now is very high, and so we know we’re going to have to really leverage other funding to be able to complete this project,” she said, “but the $5 million is definitely a start.”
Still, she said, Centro CHA is hopeful the organization will be able to break ground on the facility within the next year.
The Children’s Clinic, meanwhile, is facing similar challenges. The Family Health and Wellness site in Cambodia Town, 1500 Anaheim St., is part of a broader partnership with BRIDGE Housing to offer health services and supportive housing in one place.
The health-and-wellness site will occupy 18,000 square feet on the ground floor, featuring 15 exam rooms, a teaching kitchen, food pantry and meeting spaces. There will also be 4,000 square feet of patio space for workshops, wellness classes, container gardening and other activities. BRIDGE Housing will offer four floors of housing units above the clinic.
The health-and-wellness site and the housing project are being funded separately.
The cost of the health-and-wellness site alone, though, is about $18 million, according to Dr. Elisa Nicholas with The Children’s Clinic. But every little bit helps, and Nicholas said she is similarly grateful for the $1 million from the state.
“It’s a wonderful gift for us,” Nicholas said, “and for the community.”
The Children’s Clinic expects to break ground in the fall and hopes to open the facility in 2023.
Nicholas said she’s excited about the funding not just for that facility, but also the rehabilitation of MacArthur Park, which is about a block away from the future clinic.
Together with Mark Twain Neighborhood Library, which is between those two locations on Anaheim Street, the corridor will offer “a little triangle of services to the community,” Nicholas said.
Mayor Robert Garcia, for his part, also said he is excited about what the new state funding will mean for Long Beach residents.
“Thanks to the work of our Long Beach representatives in Sacramento, State Senator Lena Gonzalez and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, important resources will be coming to our community,” he said in a statement. “These are all really significant projects with the potential to have a lasting impact on our local community.”