Long Beach City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to discuss the issue of the growing number of vacant spaces in downtown Long Beach.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson said the number of vacant office spaces in the Long Beach downtown area rose from 13.5% in 2019 to around 22.4% currently.
“This is the highest in 20 years, and we know that a lot of this is attributed directly to the challenges we’ve seen due to COVID-19,” Richardson said.
Streets with empty businesses hurt nearby stores by decreasing the amount of foot traffic in those areas, essentially forcing those businesses to close. This domino effect of empty spaces causes a downturn in prosperity value and tax revenue for the city, according to Richardson.
“We want to think about ways we have alternative ways of looking at vacant office spaces that’s currently rented or currently vacant by opening up opportunities,” Richardson said, adding that the conversion of these vacant locations into housing could be a possibility.
Recent bills have made it possible for some housing in commercial zones, which could be a way to tackle the housing crisis in California.
Tax incentives and outside funding might also help businesses and activities to claim vacant spaces. The coordination with other agencies and resources in the city, such as police departments, is another option that might help these locations. An improvement for quality of life and safety can be provided as an incentive.
Richardson said there isn’t going to be a quick fix to the issue, and it is going to require a multiple-angle approach to solve the issues. This means that cooperation, incentives, and other means all need to be used.
“It is a call for us to be creative and best adapt to the current situation and the trends we are seeing with vacant offices in the downtown area,” said Councilwoman Mary Zendejas.
Zendejas said she worried that all these vacancies exist and said it is time for action to deal with the presented issue.
“As a long-time downtown resident, I’ve seen how many vacancies we have, and I’ve heard from developers how difficult to secure a place is due to how many rules on how these spaces can be used,” said Councilwoman Cindy Allen.
The decision was placed to a vote, where all council members present voted for the motion to be passed.