This site served as a portion of the Pacific Electric Red Car Line from Orange County to Long Beach for nearly 60 years, decades ago. A small strip recently completed was called the “Termino Avenue Storm Drain.” It is roughly 11 acres long and proposes a huge question to this city and its residents, “What shall we do with all this open land?”
The long, diagonal strip of land from 4th & Park through 11th and Loma is called the Pacific Electric Right of Way. And while some portions have fascinating plants growing and the Wild Oats Community Garden has been successful sprouting since 2002, much of it is just a neglected, meandering dirt path.
But Wednesday evening, the Long Beach Parks, Recreation & Marine Department held a community meeting to open up discussions about a master plan for The PE Right of Way. Held inside the Will Rogers Middle School auditorium, near the start of the strip, community members were asked to share their ideas about what they want to see the land transformed into.
Led by Sandra Gonzalez and Anna Mendiola, Long Beach’s Planning & Development Bureau’s Manager and Park Development officer, the meeting started out with an introduction of each attendee. Local residents, the third district councilman Gary DeLong, Long Beach Organic, Long Beach Grows, local school representatives and community organizers made up the approximately 45 attendees.
The ladies next went over the goals and objectives of the meeting and overall project (to develop a master plan that will fulfill the needs and wants of residents) then went right into brainstorming.
The overall consensus was that a contiguous bike/walk path much like the beach path would be a great use of the right of way. Most also agreed to have a central theme throughout the path, but include sections that offer educational information and quite spaces. These sections would be an addition to the paved path, perhaps on both or one side of the path.
These could include plant sections, perhaps historical references to the Red Line, exercise stations, benches and quiet areas for rest and relaxation.
The idea of community gardens was a major item of discussion, with about half pushing for them, and half against. Most opposing simply disliked the “jungle-like” look they imagine community gardens to have. They also disliked the idea of fences blocking off the gardens, normally used to avoid plant theft.
To fix those issues, organizations like Long Beach Organic and Long Beach Grows addressed the audience, saying community gardens can be beautiful if designed and managed properly. Long Beach Organic also said they were open to the idea of discussing non-fenced gardens and ways to use the space without segregating non-growers.
Other ideas included a dog park, planting of drought tolerant vegetation and fruit trees, bioswale, public art installations, and collaborations with local schools to use areas for gardening, exercising, biology, etc.
Some concerns were that once developed, the strip would attract the homeless. To avoid that, people suggested adequate lighting and police patrol. Sandra Gonzalez mentioned that the best way to avoid the attraction of the homeless is for residents to fill the strip regularly, as homeless like to be secluded and not bothered by constant dog walkers and joggers.
The meeting was nicely regulated, discussions stayed on topic and even opposing views were respectfully heard.
“I didn’t expect the meeting to run so smoothly. I think this was a really good start to deciding what to do with all this open land,” said one Colorado Lagoon area resident who wished to remain anonymous.
Gonzalez said the next step was for her department to develop some planning and seek out contractors. Another community meeting will be scheduled in about six weeks to further discuss plans, then they will start seeking grants to fund the project.
We will post an alert for the next meeting, or you can sign up for the city’s notify newsletter here. But if you missed the meeting, what do you think of the ideas or what would you like to see developed in this long strip of land?
I think it would be awesome to have a outdoor art/public space. A long trail of various landscaping, mostly drought resistant but maybe a bit of other type just for variety, and art. Maybe a small open seating performing arts venue too...