Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Downtown Showers

Aimee Wyatt of Long Beach had a Letter to the Editor of the Press-Telegram published on 11/17/08, given the title: Downtown Showers. The P-T recently ran a series about downtown's Pine Ave. Wyatt said she did not read anything about this, but several business owners told her "what is going to happen." She begins the second paragraph "Our brilliant city leaders...". My question is: did those business people tell her the "city leaders" proposed the showers, or did the business people hear about it via the downtown L.B. business association?

The plan, Wyatt, says is "...adding public showers to the Long Beach Transit building being built at First Street and Pine Avenue ~ I can only assume for the use of the homeless population of Long Beach." If that be true, I would agree providing public showers for the homeless to use, is a good idea. But not on 1st & Pine. Wyatt goes on to say the only reason to go downtown is to eat or watch a movie. She follows with: "Now we want to add to the problems by allowing the homeless to shower on the corner of Pine Avenue."

In context, that made no sense. Is going downtown to eat or see a flick a problem? I am no longer on Pine Ave., late at night, so hardly qualified to comment. It seems with the redevelopment downtown, homeless who hung around the area have moved elsewhere. Sammy, for instance, could be seen sitting in his wheelchair at the promenade every day. The fountain where he slept at night is gone. Buildings he slept behind, next to dumpsters or in an alley, are gone. The walkway near the Blues Cafe is fenced as the sidewalk is being torn up for whatever construction is going on. Where is Sammy today? I do not know. Last I saw him was on 5th and Pacific, sitting in his wheel chair.

The P-T series addressed the issues of empty store fronts on Pine. The narrow street and lack of parking, when I had a job and vehicle, would keep me from shopping on Pine. I liked the old mall better. I could, of course, park in the mall's multi-level parking structure and walk to Pine. When that indoor mall was torn down, the outdoor more included a Walmart. Lots of shoppers there. When I walk in the area, I notice shop owners, sitting outside, looking bored. Some of those new stores have already closed down. Could be the prices. The very wealthy that come to downtown Long Beach to eat, may buy their $75. or $200. sunglasses in Beverly or Laguana Hills.

Filling all those newly built pricey condos downtown may create the market and dictate what type of stores will fill those empty store fronts on Pine. I do not know why the Transit Mall building would have showers, unless they would be used by drivers or bike commuters. I do know that the building needs public restrooms. Spending as much time as I used to at the Transit Mall, I spoke to many females just off a bus or train, urgently needing one. I also recognized why there were none. Yup, the homeless. Sammy was one of those who lectured others and cleaned up after them.

Most of the problems I saw on Pine was "drunks" coming out of the clubs at closing. The problems I read about were from gangbangers ~ drugs and shootings. I did see some police chases while homeless. A lot of us would be on Pine, such as when the road was blocked off for a street festival. Unless the sight of us is disturbing, most did not create any problems.

The Old Pike has been rebuilt. More stores and what I call Restaurant Row. L.B. has a higher number of people living below the National Poverty level, than comparable cities. The redevelopment idea was to bring more tourists to the city and attract wealthier residents. As things are now, there is no reason to go north on Pine, when people can go south on Pine to eat or shop; or go to the movies.

My idea would be to tear down all those (historic) empty store fronts and create a nice park. Not a money maker, but a place for all those condo owners to walk dogs or enjoy the outdoors after a hard days work, earning all that cash that is supposed to be flooding the city coffers. There are enough retail establishments downtown (and elsewhere) already.

Hey, how about a tent city for the homeless. Someone like Gilbert, for instance, has income, does not drink, smoke or use drugs. Renting a campsite for a nominal fee to help defray expenses would help him. The "city" within a city block could provide public showers and restrooms. Ah, but that would require security guards to keep the drugs and alcohol out... (10/17/08)

Postscript: Oops, I already put a later issue of the Press-Telegram in the recycle bin. I meant to share a Letter to the Editor. There are no showers being planned for the new transit mall building. The guy said there will be clean, public restrooms for commuters. "The guy" may be associated with the downtown Long Business association or some other agency. The P-T online takes too long to load, and I have little time to try to locate the letter to be accurate. Suffice it to say he is "in the know" unlike Wyatt, ranting over a rumor or gossip.

No comments: