September 15, 2008

McBride Center May Grow Larger

By Paul Eakins

LONG BEACH - Teenagers and seniors at the Ernest McBride Sr. Community Center must do a balancing act, alternating their use of a single game room each day.

But a planned expansion at the center, which the City Council is expected to approve Tuesday, will change all that, allowing each group its own space. In addition to the new teen center, park area, basketball court, playground, outdoor area for seniors and other improvements are planned.

The council will vote on whether to rezone 6,750 square feet of city-owned land on the east side of the community center, 1550 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., from residential to park, bringing the total size of Ernest McBride Sr. Park to 108,180 square feet, or 2.48 acres. This will be the final hurdle for the expansion project, whose design the Planning Commission has already approved.

The council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.

"Our current facilities have almost outgrown the need of the facility," center supervisor Toni Forde-Hixon said last week. "We haven't expanded with the community needs."

Currently, while children have their own game rooms, another game room is used by seniors from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by teenagers from 2 to 6 p.m., Forde-Hixon said. The expansion will provide a new teen center, leaving the previous game room available to the older users throughout the day.

"With this new building, they would have a designated area for them," Forde-Hixon said.

The new teen center will have a study room, tutoring and counseling office, computer lab, game area and multipurpose room, according to a city report. It will be constructed south of the center, taking up about a third of what is now a grassy field.

A new parking lot will fill another third of the field, still leaving some turf area remaining. Meanwhile, the current parking lot north of the community center will become a new park area.

Craig Beck, director of the city's Development Services, said that the next step is to put the project out to bid. That should be completed by the end of the year, with construction beginning sometime in 2009, Beck said.

The expansion is funded through grants, bonds and park impact fees.

Location agreement proposed Also Tuesday, the council will consider entering into an agreement designed to bring jobs and tax dollars to Long Beach.

The proposed location agreement with General Petroleum Corp. calls for the company to move from its current site in Rancho Dominguez to consolidate all sales and distribution offices for Southern California in Long Beach, according to a city report. The move would create 30 new local jobs, the report says.

To attract the corporation, the 20-year agreement would allow General Petroleum to receive 65 percent of the sales tax revenue generated by its $200 million in annual sales, while 35 percent would go to the city. That would result in about $700,000 for the city and $1.3 million for General Petroleum annually, the report says.

The city began the practice of location agreements in 1992 to attract businesses that generate at least $50 million in annual sales.

In 2000, Long Beach entered a similar agreement with Edison Material Supply that guaranteed the city $3 million in sales tax revenue annually for the first six years, which then changed through 2010 to a split of 75 percent for Edison and 25 percent for the city.

Eminent domain extension

The council also will consider a proposal from the Redevelopment Agency to extend the agency's authority to use eminent domain to acquire property in the North Long Beach Redevelopment Project Area.

Under state law, the Redevelopment Agency could use eminent domain in the project area for 12 years after the redevelopment plan was established, but that ability expired in July. Under Tuesday's proposal, that ability would be extended for another 12 years, which is allowed if the council approves an amendment to the redevelopment plan.

Eminent domain allows governments to force the sale of property for public improvement projects, though they may not do so to transfer the property to a private entity.

Final approvals

In other business Tuesday, the council will take its final vote on several ordinances, which are:

Final adoption of the proposed city budget for the 2009 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The $3.1 billion budget includes some layoffs and program cuts, but managed to keep the downtown Main Library open after it was initially slated for closure.

A six-month moratorium on interior alterations of homes to create additional bedrooms, called "bedroom splitting," in Long Beach's parking-impacted areas.

Increases to water and sewer rates that would go into effect Oct. 1.

A change in the city's sewer line maintenance policy, requiring that property owners instead of the city be responsible for the lines from their property line to the city's main sewer line in the public right-of-way. Property owners who must make repairs because of city owned trees may still submit a claim for reimbursement to the city. When the council initially approved the change, Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske was the lone dissenting vote because of the added burden that this would place on property owners, the fact that sewer rates also are increasing and that this may encourage lawsuits against the city.

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