The Long Beach City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to create El Mercado de Long Beach, a Latinx cultural district, that will also include essential establishments such as housing and social services for the Latinx community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has economically affected low-income communities of color in the city of Long Beach, as many struggle to pay for necessities such as food, rent and healthcare.
While there is currently no official commercial area in the city representing the Latinx population of 42.6%, the El Mercado de Long Beach proposal would give small businesses and other essential establishments an opportunity to serve financially impacted areas.
Councilwoman Mary Zendejas requested to explore support and financing options in order to establish the El Mercado de Long Beach proposal, which is also strongly supported by Centro CHA, a non-profit Hispanic and Latinx human and social service agency located in Long Beach.
The Latinx cultural district project will not only “be limited to restaurants, grocery stores, commercial, housing and entertainment” but also “so many other social services will be available” for the community, according to Zendejas.
During public comment, several Long Beach residents were in favor of the proposal since it would help the city’s economy and to recognize Latinx culture.
Megan Anaya, a speaker on behalf of Centro CHA, mentioned how the “Latino community in Long Beach” is a “powerful and resilient force in the local economy.”
The Latinx workforce population also contributes “nearly a 70% labor force participation rate,” to “the local economy,” but in order “to thrive,” Anaya said, they need to be “dedicated resources and allocated towards projects like El Mercado” to make sure there’s “continued success in the community.”
According to Jessica Quintana, executive director of Centro CHA, a Latinx cultural district would become a “designation that offers a vibrant collection” of various establishments such as “retail, commercial, housing, art, cultural venues and businesses” that would “respect the history and cultural values” of the community.
Quintana also said that the cultural district would provide “identity and recognition for the Latino population” and could be “integrated into the city’s downtown core and waterfront.”
As a funding option, Zendejas suggested the city “look at Measure US” which is intended to fund the “youth, health and climate.”
“Let’s not limit ourselves to the funding, but explore all possibilities because this is going to take a city effort to create a project like this, it’s going to be huge,” Zendejas said.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson also voiced his support of the proposal.
“Cultural districts create a safe place for culture, music, art, food, commerce and exchange where we can play to our strengths in areas that have had long-standing economic issues,” Richardson said. “This is a great way to invest in those communities, so I fully support this.”
The city council will reconvene next Tuesday, March 9 at 5 p.m. via teleconference.