Long Beach will soon have another tool to help combat homelessness.
The City Council unanimously approved at its Tuesday, Oct. 6, meeting an ordinance that will allow motels to voluntarily partner with homeless services agencies to temporarily convert to homeless housing.
The ordinance, which was approved with little fanfare on Tuesday, must come back to the panel for a second reading before it will be signed into law.
The program has been in the works for months, and city staff have previously said the idea could be a way to address both the “nuisance motels” that seem to be magnets for crime and the need for more housing in Long Beach.
“It’s not to say there aren’t great motels,” then-Planning Bureau Manager Christopher Koontz said during an April study session on the idea, “but there are many motels around the city that are havens for prostitution, for other acts, for drug sales, and just are a total drain on the surrounding community — and also a drain on police and fire resources.”
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Meanwhile, volunteers counted more than 2,000 people who were homeless in Long Beach in this year’s annual tally.
The ordinance doesn’t prescribe how long a motel may convert to homeless housing, but city staff expect most of these projects would run for anywhere from five to 15 years, according to a staff report.
Under the law, the motels would provide on-site social services and be subject to city oversight.
Koontz said during the April study session the program would offer oversight to ensure the locations do not “go from one nuisance to another.”
When the Planning Commission approved the idea in May, Koontz said these types of conversions would allow Long Beach to better address nuisance motels.
“It’s a tool for us in nuisance situations because we like to come to a property with a carrot and a stick, rather than just a stick,” he said at the time. “So being able, in a nuisance situation, to say, ‘We’re having these problems with your facility, but here’s another option for you’ is something that’s really important to the city.”