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weekly digital print edition

Vol. LXXII, Issue 31

www.daily49er.com

Monday, May 10, 2021

THE

HOUSING ISSUE

As costs go through the roof, the Daily Forty-Niner takes an in-depth look at Long Beach’s unaffordable housing crisis


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Image courtesy of Ratkovich Properties

Original mockup of the Broadway Block housing project in Downtown Long Beach.

How CSULB lost an affordable housing opportunity

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By Erika Paz and Tiffany Mankarios Staff Writers

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ong Beach State President Jane Close Conoley was eager to expand the university into downtown with the Broadway Block, a project designed to provide 24 affordable student housing units and classroom “flex” space. However, those plans were squashed in June 2020. “For a couple of years, I had a styrofoam model on my desk about what this is going to look like,” Conoley said. “So I was very excited about walking through the courtyard and being able to see our students.” According to university officials, the project failed to come together due to poor communication, a change in university staff, a switch in project developers and a lack of funding, exemplifying its complexity. “But I remain very committed to finding affordable housing for our students,” Conoley said. The Broadway Block project began when the Ratkovich Properties, a development company, reached out to the university in an effort to offer student housing and classroom space in the city’s downtown neighborhood. The proposal was approved by the Long Beach City Council in 2017 with the idea that the university partnership would help revitalize that part of the city. Around the same time, the university had a second prospect for housing in the same area, for which the city awarded $1 million to aid the development. This project had many names as it developed, but it was most commonly known as University Village. Along with housing and classrooms, University Village was going to provide retail space and a small food hall. While both projects were in partnership with CSULB, each was managed by a different campus representative. “I think we made a management mistake. We had two different people,” Conoley said. “I don’t think we were communicating as well and as often as we should have been.” University Village, whose responsibility belonged to CSULB’s Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs Simon Kim, came to a halt after the developer ran out of money, according to Conoley. This happened despite the $1 million grant CSULB received for the project. “It’s very difficult for developers because nobody’s lending money,” Scott Apel, CSULB’s chief financial officer, told the Daily Forty-Niner in March. “And definitely nobody’s lending money for commercial properties … because nobody knows if anyone’s going to go shopping again.”

As the Broadway Block project progressed, it was sold to a new developer, Onni Group. Meanwhile, the vice president of the Division of Student Affairs — and the campus representative for the Broadway Block — left the university. That departure meant that university administration was scrambling for information on the project. After meeting with the city’s director of economic development, Conoley and others realized that the project had been sold and any leverage to ask for affordable housing was gone. Ratkovich Properties and Onni Group did not respond to requests for comments on this story. “Both of these developers gave us assurances that they would set aside a certain number of apartments at very affordable rates,” Conoley said. The California Department of Housing and Community Development defines affordable housing as “no more than 30% of gross household income with variations.” Based on the median household income for Long Beach, which is $61,610, housing costs should not exceed $1,540 per month to be considered affordable. For students, this number is lower. Housing costs include rent or mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes and insurance. While the market price for the Broadway Block units is still unknown, the most recent apartment complex to open in the Downtown Long Beach neighborhood, The Oceanaire, provides an example of the starting rates for apartments in the area. Even with a pilot moderate-income housing program, the proposed rent for a studio begins at $1,841 a month — a stark difference from Conoley’s $556-per-month ideal. “The new developer had not agreed to put aside apartments at affordable rates. So we said, ‘Well, what’s the point?’” Conoley said. That’s when CSULB officials decided to step back from the Broadway Block project. “We had never made any commitments to them, there was no document signed and there wasn’t a [written] agreement for a specific number of units,” Apel said. Despite working with the developers and city officials, Apel feels there is good reason for not signing any agreements. “We don’t spend any money on speculative real-estate development because we use tax money and student fees to pay most of our bills,” Apel said. “We spend all of that money on educating our students… Our number one priority is educating people. We have to be very careful about the money we use to do that.” The project continues, but without any connection to the university, and without any promise to provide affordable housing options. So after years of anticipation and a grant from the city, Conoley and the university were left empty-handed.

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The Parkside North Dormitory remains under construction and is slated to open in fall 2021.

ERIKA PAZ | Daily Forty-Niner

University explores alternatives after losing ‘Broadway Block’ Administrators remain committed to finding afforadble housing in the city for students, faculty and staff.

By Erika Paz and Tiffany Mankarios Staff Writers

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fter losing two potential affordable housing projects in the Downtown Long Beach area, Long Beach State officials continue their search for student housing. While the search has slowed due to the coronavirus pandemic, other obstacles like funding, seismic regulations and disgruntled neighbors haven’t made it any easier. “I remain committed to finding affordable housing for our students,” President Jane Close Conoley said. “That’s one reason why we’re building this new complex that will be opened in the fall for about 476 beds.” Located on Atherton Street, the Parkside North Dormitory is the most recent addition to on-campus housing. Aside from this project, the university continues to search for other housing options to accommodate students, faculty and staff. A new on-campus dormitory might be the right option for some students, but with a price tag of up to $10,590 per academic year, many are unable to afford it. Living off campus is the next alternative, but establishing this kind of housing presents additional chal-

lenges for the university. According to Scott Apel, CSULB’s chief financial officer, the university will only invest in “low-risk” housing development projects that are considered airtight. “We don’t spend any money on speculative real-estate development because we use tax money and student fees to pay most of our bills,” Apel said. “We spend all of that money on educating our students… Our number one priority is educating people. We have to be very careful about the money we use to do that.” Relying on the CSULB Research Foundation In an effort to protect the university from speculative projects that have the potential for investment loss, Apel relies only on funds that come from the CSULB Research Foundation. The foundation is completely separate from the university and is listed as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, meaning it does not receive any revenue from the state or from tuition fees. Instead, funding comes from donors and private agencies. Revenue that comes from the foundation allows the university to invest in potential housing alternatives without spending any money that comes from student fees or taxes, but there are still other considerations that prevent some of those investments. Any housing option provided by CSULB is required to meet California’s

building standards for universities, which are stricter than standard development guidelines. “Commercial builders build for a life of 20 years,” Conoley said. “We have to build for a life of 60 years.” Housing arrangements provided by the university, either on or off campus, must meet these seismic standards. Often times, options that may seem financially feasible don’t pan out because they do not meet the required seismic standards. Conoley is considering alternative housing options looking ahead, and their success will depend not only on the ability to meet these building standards, but also on finding options that the foundation can afford. Alternative Options Apel and his colleagues are working on a fundraising strategy known as “planned giving,” which relies on donors contributing real estate for the university to use. Once the donor passes away, those properties would be listed as gifts to the university in the donor’s will. “We had a couple of opportunities, but the buildings weren’t in good enough shape for us to take possession of, and then the deals kind of fell apart,” Apel said. Conoley also said the university is looking at city-owned abandoned buildings. “We’re on the list with the city to, say, if one of those [buildings] comes

up, let us have it. We will develop it the way we want for our faculty, staff and students,” she said. In recent months, Conoley also considered purchasing homes in the surrounding neighborhoods and renting them to faculty and staff at affordable rates, though she feels this may upset unwelcoming neighbors. “Neighbors don’t like to live near students. They will raise a lot of political noise,” Conoley said, referring to local residents’ efforts to prevent developers from converting homes into student housing. One such project aims to renovate a single-family home to accommodate 11 bedrooms. Residents in the neighborhood have reached out to the city to prevent the development, but they have not been successful. “I was really glad that the city has not been willing to intervene and stop [the project],” Conoley said. “Because that would be great, I think it’d be safe. It’s a safe neighborhood, and it’s convenient to campus.” Although Apel said that investing in homes won’t be happening anytime soon, he maintained that it is something the university may eventually consider. “That’s always going to be a possibility, but we have to get through the pandemic and make sure the Research Foundation makes money,” he said. “But I think in the future, that will be something we would look at.”


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This apartment complex is located in the neighborhood of Bixby Knolls, where rent costs $1,663 a month on average as of 2018.

Daily Forty-Niner

Long Beach’s cost of living leaves graduates struggling By Nicholas James, Sabrina Torres-Soto, Jose Roldan, and Daniel Hanna Staff Writers

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andra Meighan had made the move of a lifetime. After high school, she embarked on the seven-hour trek to Long Beach State from Sacramento, excited for the brand-new opportunity. After living on campus for a few years, Meighan was able to finally move into an apartment with roommates during her senior year. “It was really an experience that I was waiting for,” the psychology major said. “Having a place almost of my own was the next step in becoming an adult, especially after being with my parents and on campus.” She enjoyed the Long Beach area; she was always at the beach in her free time as she never really lived close to the water in Sacramento. She loved the culture, the surroundings and the diversity that the city brought to life. But as she grabbed her Bachelor’s in Psychology and stepped into the real world, she started to run into problems — primarily how she would be able to stay in Long Beach. “The first few months was hard after I graduated,” Meighan said. “It was difficult to find work because there was not a large market for what I had studied for, and I was losing money to be able to stay in the apartment. I had to make a tough choice.” Meighan eventually left the city of Long Beach, returning home to Sacramento shortly after. “I hope to come back,” she said. “I just don’t know when, but I hope soon.” Meighan is one of many graduates who return home after their collegiate careers due to the city’s increase in housing and rent prices, something that has become an issue across the nation. The city of Long Beach has only recently

COST OF LIVING IN LONG BEACH VS. SACRAMENTO

Source: PayScale, Inc.

begun working toward implementing affordable housing. According to an article by the Long Beach Post, the city needs to “make room” for 26,502 units over the next eight years and designate 60% of those as affordable. Per the last allocation cycle, Long Beach is currently at 17%. However, the city’s progress toward this goal seems to have slowed after councilmembers unanimously approved the construction of market-rate apartments in Downtown Long Beach, with the development plan leaving out any affordable units. The new policy, which has not yet been signed officially into law, would have rental projects in 2021 allocate 5% of units for very-low income housing, with approvals in

2022 designating 6% and those submitted in 2023 and after designating 11%. Long Beach’s cost of living — nearly 143% higher than the national average — has also discouraged many from staying in the city. The median rent is around $2,470 for a standard three-bedroom apartment in Long Beach, while the national average is $1,537. Sacramento’s cost of living, by comparison, is only 18.2% higher than the national average, as three-bedroom apartments average $1,764 per month. In 2019, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia planned for two housing projects to create affordable living in the city. One location was set for a building off Broadway that would provide 400 units, 14 for

affordable housing. The second was supposed to be located next to the civic center, a 60,000-squarefoot building to include 580 units, 10% allocated for affordable housing. Both projects have been currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to city housing aid Angelo Vargas, the cost of living has affected many Long Beach residents, causing many to continue living with their parents. He maintained that officials are “working to find a solution and assist the community that we serve.” “It is worrisome,” Vargas said. “But the truth of the matter is, it is a known fact that it is cheaper to live with your parents, and that is applicable to any state. It costs less to live at home. It affects us tremendously.” The Long Beach Housing Authority is currently assisting nearly 7,000 families and has been working with landlords around the city to implement more affordable options with the Housing Choice Voucher program. According to its website, the program is designed to help “very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing.” Approved contract rents are set based on comparable rent for similar unassisted units and affordability for the individual client, according to the Housing Authority’s website. Vargas said the money to support those in Section 8 housing, however, might not be enough to help out everyone in need. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, those who are on the waitlist for Section 8 housing may have to wait even longer, and officials remain unsure when this issue would be resolved. “We are currently in a shortfall, which means we do not currently have the funds to assist everyone on the waiting list, nor can we accommodate increases or differences for participants who decide to move,” Vargas said. “We just ask that everyone is patient and is understanding at this time, especially with the difficult circumstances we have experienced in the last year.”


MONDAY, MAY 10, 2021 | DAILY49ER.COM | @DAILY49ER | EIC@DAILY49ER.COM

HOUSING 5

Housing crisis leads to growth of accessory dwelling units Long Beach has begun seeing projects like the expansion of a single-family home into an 11-bedroom, 11-bathroom unit on El Roble Street. By Iman Palm, Lauren Berny, Celeste Huecias, Andrea Ramos, Spencer Frank, Ashley Lozano, Julian Tack, and Roger Flanders Staff Writers

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ith its close proximity to the beach and yearround summer weather, Long Beach is an ideal place to live for many people. However, finding housing within the city may be easier said than done, especially for college students. Finding affordable housing off campus can be a challenge due to increasing rental prices in the city. According to RentCafe. com, an 800-square-foot studio apartment in Long Beach costs about $2,135 per month, and property management company RTI Properties Inc. estimates that rent in Long Beach has risen by 3.7% over the last year. Although Long Beach State students can apply for on-campus housing, capacity limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have only decreased students’ chances of landing a guaranteed spot. President Jane Close Conoley said the plan is to reopen the dorms to 80% capacity for the fall 2021 semester and leave the remaining rooms available for those who may test positive for COVID-19. “We expect about 2,400 students to be living in the residence halls,” Conoley said. “The good news is that all the rooms, not just the newly built ones, will all have been refurbished. There is going to be a slight increase, but that’s just the regular cost of living that’s built into the fee structure.” As of spring 2021, a standard single-occupancy room with full meal privileges comes out to $13,574 for one year. This excludes tuition and essentials such as books and supplies for classes. Problem Aside from a few studentfriendly apartment buildings, the city of Long Beach doesn’t offer many affordable housing options for those in college, creating a struggle for young adults. Kyle Lamento, a fourth-year electrical engineering major, used to live at Vibe @ Temple, an offcampus apartment complex fit for students. “I was living with a roommate in a two-bedroom apartment in a

ANDREA RAMOS | Daily Forty-Niner

The accessory dwelling unit proposed for student housing near Long Beach State’s campus sits on El Roble Street. fully refurbished unit. I was really lucky… you pay for your spot, not for the place itself,” Lamento said. “Each unit has four spots and it’s a fixed price, so no matter how many people are living there, you pay the same price. No matter what.” His spot cost $750 a month, and parking was an extra $75. The apartment also came furnished with a table, beds, TV and more. Fourth-year electrical engineering major Kyle Lamento used to live off campus in an apartment. Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamento Fourth-year electrical engineering major Kyle Lamento used to live in a student-friendly apartment complex off campus. Photo courtesy of Kyle Lamento “All we needed to bring was basically bed sheets, clothes and kitchen supplies. The electric and water bill was also insanely low. It was no more than $8 a month,” Lamento said. Solution To combat the housing crisis, Councilmember Suzie Price offered possible alternatives for students who are having trouble finding a place to live. Price oversees Long Beach’s third district, where CSULB is located. According to Price, the city is looking at several proposed accessory dwelling unit projects, which can be “utilized for student housing.” These proposed accessory dwelling units, also known as ADUs or granny flats, would be built in residential neighborhoods around the university, something not many residents are excited about. Some have shared concerns regarding noise, parking, trash

and overall quality of life being impacted if students were to live in these ADUs. While there are limited affordable housing options for students near the university, there is plenty of market-rate housing throughout the city of Long Beach. The owners of these multi-room properties still need to make a return on their investment and, to do so, will most likely price them at market value. “If it was providing more affordable housing for students, then I think it would be a good thing because we don’t have a lot of affordable housing options, at least around the university, in the city of Long Beach,” Price said. “The market-rate housing is very expensive. If these units are market rate, then I don’t think it’s a good thing.” To help mitigate the housing shortage in California and eliminate barriers to the construction of ADUs, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 68 into law in 2019. In conjunction with state laws, AB 68 allows for the approval of multiple units in a single-family residential home and authorizes parcel splits. These units are able to cut some of the red tape that most encounter when expanding a property. Pushback from neighbors While ADUs are only being built in Price’s district at this time, residents from both District 3 and District 4 have raised concerns about multi-room student housing appearing in their areas. “We don’t want a frat-sorority central,” Lillian Pereira said from her front porch. Pushing the hair out of her face with her purple

glasses, Pereira explained her frustration. Pereira, a longtime resident of the East Long Beach neighborhood, lives across the street from campus. The Walter Pyramid looms over her neighborhood, but it is no longer a pleasant sight to see every time she steps out of her white picketfence home. Instead, it serves as a reminder of the ongoing expansion plans for the home across the street. The plan is to convert the singlefamily home into an 11-bedroom, 11-bathroom residence for up to 22 people, an appealing option for CSULB students since it’s located just a quarter mile from campus at 6481 El Roble St. Prospective 11-bedroom development that is currently under construction close to the El Robles development. The prospective 11-bedroom development is currently under construction close to the El Roble Street ADU. Photo credit: Andrea Ramos Currently, homeowner Daniel Lewin is renting out the property to four CSULB students, who asked to remain anonymous. This is the second property Lewin has plans to expand, the first one already underway at 1720 Petaluma Ave. Since the passing of AB 68, Lewin started Young-Lewin Capital, a private equity group dedicated to tackling the issue of insufficient housing “that limits the social and economic mobility of younger and underprivileged groups in our society.” However, some neighbors aren’t convinced that Young-Lewin Capital is actually concerned with

the housing issue as much as the potential to make a profit from building ADUs in single-family neighborhoods. “We aren’t against students,” Pereira said. “We are against the placement [of the 11 bedroom expansion].” A possible alternative Despite pushback from residents, Lewin and his business partner, Shane Young, are still eager to develop these units. Lewin described his plan and equity group as a “missiondriven thing in addition to an investment,” emphasizing how he feels equity and opportunity are two important factors in finding affordable housing. “Shane and I are young people building housing for other young people, and in the face of some pretty intense boomer opposition,” Lewin said, referring to neighbors of an older generation. “It’s been an interesting journey so far, and it has only just begun.”

Resources for renters: Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles https://lafla.org/ Long Beach Residents Empowered https://www.wearelbre.org/ Fair Housing Foundation https://fhfca.org/


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Basic Needs Program tackles food, housing insecurity among students A study conducted by the Hope Center found that 15% of students at four-year universities have experienced homelessness as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Catherine Lima and Pristine Tompkin Staff Writers

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fter being accepted into the Beach and saving up enough m o n e y from his job as a waiter in San Diego, fourthyear computer science major Rishikesh Ramhit decided to move to Long Beach for the spring 2020 semester to focus on his studies. His daily routine consisted of waking up, going to the gym, taking a shower and attending his classes until about 11 p.m., then he would walk to his car to sleep in and start over again the next day. “Everything was working fine. I didn’t have any complaints or anything. My life was good,” Ramhit said. “Then, when the pandemic came around us, that’s when things started to change.” The hours started to diminish at places that were open 24 hours a day, where Rahmit would study overnight. Since classes moved online, the resources on campus began to close down, and he no longer had a place to go. According to a study by the Hope Center, 15% of students at four-year universities have experienced homelessness as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Another study conducted by Rashida Crutchfield, associate professor of the School in Social Work at Long Beach State, and Jennifer Maguire, associate professor of social work at Humboldt State University, found that about 11% of California State University students experienced some type of homelessness. In today’s society, a person facing housing insecurity can mean very different things such as couch surfing, staying with relatives temporarily or not having a roof over one’s head. That was what life became for Ramhit, and his living situation took a turn for the worst when he was left with a broken leg and

bloody nose after being attacked by a former roommate. That was until he contacted the university’s Basic Needs Program. Schools like CSULB have programs in place to help students and faculty who may be struggling in situations like the one Ramhit experienced. CSULB specifically helped 41.6% of students who were experiencing food insecurity, according to a 2019 study. Ken Kelly, director of the Beach’s Basic Needs Program, said that the initiative has now become a whole department aimed at helping students. “The department works with students that are homeless, have food insecurity and have a crisis emergency,” Kelly said. Within Basic Needs, there are multiple programs such as Beach CalFresh Outreach, which is starting a new Rapid Rehousing program with a local nonprofit organization, Jovenes. Genesis Jara, assistant coordinator of Basic Needs, said that Jovenes helps secure a unit for students to move into with rent and utilities subsidized until they are able to be on their own. “We’ve helped about 40 students so far, and those are typically students that go through emergency housing,” Jara said. “A main qualification is that they basically have to be out of housing at that point.” In order to receive some form of assistance, students have to meet certain requirements, such as having an Estimated Family Contribution of zero and being in an unexpected situation due to the pandemic. The organization aims to provide long-term housing solutions for those who meet the eligibility requirements and will be able to receive money for needs such as furniture. Students can receive up to $1,000 for this program. As of April 2019, the Beach CalFresh Outreach program has received 1,402 applications from students who are facing food and housing insecurity. During her time as an undergraduate student at CSULB, Vivian Hernandez received aid from the Beach CalFresh Outreach pro-

Photos courtesy of Genesis Jara

Members of Beach CalFresh pose by the bookstore on campus.

CSULB’s Basic Needs Program assists students facing housing and food insecurity.

gram. Now, as the coordinator, Hernandez aims to help others who are in need. “I did not have enough food in my budget every month, and when I found CalFresh through CSULB, I got connected and applied and I was able to receive benefits,” Hernandez said. “I do think that it’s beneficial. It really helps students engage, have a relationship with food and have a relationship with their basic needs.”

A report conducted by the Basic Needs Program found that there was a spike in the number of applications received during the spring 2020 semester, when the COVID-19 pandemic first affected CSULB. Out of 529 applicants, 3.5% of students were placed in emergency housing for 480 days. According to Jara, the majority of students helped by Basic Needs receive some type of assistance. Although rare, a few cases

cannot be helped for various reasons. Ramhit was one of those students who received emergency housing within the campus dormitories as a result of COVID-19. It became a turning point for him. “When that happened, things were improving a lot,” Ramhit said. “I was able to do my classes, do my homework and I got a meal on campus that I was able to eat properly.” Rapid Rehousing Program caseworker Jill Pozucki explained that students must go through a process to be considered eligible for resources. “We have students fill out an application through our program, Maxient, online and then they get routed to me that way,” Pozucki said. Despite having struggled with living in his car and experiencing harassment from his former roommate, Rahmit is now looking forward to receiving his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in spring 2022. He maintained that he would rather live in his car again than face another negative experience with his old roommate, though he is glad to be in a better place now. “Unfortunately, living in my car seemed to be more peaceful than having a roof over my head,” Ramhit said. “The good thing is that I learned that I don’t want to be in that situation again, but if someone else is in that situation, I will be able to help them.”

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