Category Archives: Mr. Long Beach

MR. LONG BEACH: ‘My Daddy is a Photographer…”


Since today is Father’s Day, Mr. Long Beach’s kids – the Little Beachers – gave their dad the day off. They are writing this week’s column. Here it is, exactly as the words came out of their mouths.

Eight-year-old Little Beacher, Alex:

“My daddy is a photographer and writes a lot of stories and takes a lot of pictures. I think my dad’s favorite part about work is taking pictures. My dad has been working at this newspaper for about a year. Before he worked here, he worked at a different newspaper in Long Beach.

“My dad is a great dad because he is really nice. My dad has taught me a lot of things like how to use the TV remote and how to fly his drone.

“Once, I went to work with him to take pictures. He gave me a camera and let me take pictures, too. It wasn’t really too exciting. He barely had to do anything. Once, Daddy put his camera on a timer and took pictures of us.

“Daddy has a drone. He can put his GoPro camera on it and then he can take pictures in the sky. He takes pictures of lots of different things.

“I am proud of how smart my dad is. He is really smart.

“My favorite part about my daddy is that he plays with me.

“A perfect Father’s Day would be to go to Legoland and buy Daddy a bunch of Lego sets he likes. I would get him a pick-a-brick and Dipping Dots ice cream and lots of other things. I think he likes Legoland and it would be fun for both of us.

“When I’m a dad I’m going to be really smart and have kids and buy a lot of really cool stuff.”

Five-year-old Little Beacher, Emily:

“My dad takes pictures and puts them in the newspaper. He pushes a button on his camera to take the pictures. I really like my daddy because he be’s really really nice to me and he takes lots and lots and lots of pictures of me and my brother.

“He is not the boss of anyone at work. I don’t know what his bosses are like, I am just guessing they just be nice.

“The hardest thing Daddy does at work is have meetings and the easiest thing is take pictures. I think the funnest thing my Dad does at work is take pictures of doggies and catties.

“The best thing my daddy does is be nice to me.

“A perfect Father’s Day would be the best hug ever or bears, a bear hug. We would go to Disneyland. Then, I would tell him to take pictures at places, maybe at the park.

“At work, my daddy takes pictures. On Fridays, he takes pictures of football.”

MR. LONG BEACH: Two Homes on the Hill Causing Headaches for Cities


Hill Street is steep, and at an incline of almost 30 degrees, it’s fun.

The Signal Hill roadway borders Long Beach and, according to calculations I did on my iPhone, rises about 135 feet in just over a quarter mile.

Years ago it was the spot to see Model Ts climb the steepest hill in the area. Crowds came to watch famous racers prove their cars had the muscle to reach the top.

The incline, informally know as Shell Hill early last century, has not only served as an impromptu proving ground for cars, but also a street luge track and jogging path for runners looking for a steep challenge.

Halfway up the hill sit two houses, or rather, two headaches for the cities of Signal Hill and Long Beach.

The twin homes were built about 10 years ago but never occupied. They are now boarded up and one shows signs of fire damage. The buildings are in Long Beach, although their sidewalk and street are in Signal Hill.

Trying to piece together what happened, Signal Hill Deputy City Manager Charlie Honeycutt thinks that the builder was issued permits from the city of Long Beach but never contacted Signal Hill.

He said the two cities usually talk to each other about issues on the border, but in this case, that didn’t happen. In fact, Signal Hill discovered the buildings when the city manager saw the foundations being framed.

“There is a series of issues with those homes,” Honeycutt said. “Essentially, they were built without inspections and there is still no water and sewer or natural gas utilities.”

Honeycutt’s first concern was that driveway access from Hill Street would be a safety issue. In fact, he said the developer did two traffic studies, but neither engineer would agree to sign off on access. He said the traffic study showed that an SUV couldn’t turn out of a driveway without turning over the street’s center median island.

The next solution was to get access to the back of the homes. But, for that to happen, the developer had to purchase more land.

Long Beach City Councilman Patrick O’Donnell said the builder got construction approval from Long Beach, but never got utility approval from Signal Hill.

O’Donnell explained that over the past couple of years the city has been to court several times over these homes. He said every time it goes to court there is a new owner who makes a promises to do a specified action within a certain amount of time but then never completes that action.

The councilman, seemingly frustrated, said, “We’ve been too nice, for too long, and we’re done with being nice.”

The latest court documents show that the city of Long Beach filed a complaint against 6 Angels LLC and B.D.R. Inc. for continuing violations of the Long Beach Municipal Code.

According to an agreement finalized in April, 6 Angels needs to complete a number of things, including extending Orizaba Street to the back of the homes for vehicle access and extending all utilities to the property.

“We’ve gone to court now for what should be the final time,” O’Donnell said, and if all the actions that have been specified by the judge are not completed, “The homes will be torn down.”

MR. LONG BEACH: What’s in a Name? Ask Dolly Varden.


Earlier this week the owners of downtown Long Beach’s The Varden re-installed their historic “Bath in every room” sign atop the early 20th century boutique hotel.

Co-owners Larry Black and Charles Knowlton ended eight months of restoration with a media event that included food, the vice mayor and a big crane lifting the landmark sign into place on the building long known as the Dolly Varden.

I’ve seen the sign for years and always wondered – who was Dolly Varden?

According to thevardenhotel.com, Long Beach’s Dolly Varden was “an eccentric circus performer” who had a wealthy admirer.

“Supposedly, he built the building for her,” Black said, and she lived on the top floor of the hotel in a number of the rooms.

Long Beach doesn’t have the only Dolly Varden around, however.

All the iterations of Dolly Varden seem to stem from Charles Dickens’ historical novel, “Barnaby Rudge.” It features the Varden family – Gabriel, a locksmith with a manipulative wife named Martha and their daughter Dolly.

In 1867, the first baseball team to get paid to play was the Dolly Vardens – a female African-American team who started playing professional baseball two years before the first men’s team. The ladies played in long skirts and corsets.

Why name a team the Dolly Vardens? At the time a fashion craze was sweeping Britain and the United States – the Dolly Varden costume. The clothing featured brightly patterned dresses with flowers and a skirt. The outfit was finished off with a Dolly Varden hat, usually flat and trimmed with flowers or ribbons. It was an 1870s version of the fashions in Dickens’ novel.

If all this seems a bit fishy, it gets even fishier. There is a trout common to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean named after Dolly Varden. The first recorded uses of the name was in Northern California.

In an account by David Starr Jordan, yes, the same Jordan who’s name is on a Long Beach high school, a landlady in Soda Springs saw the brightly colored, spotted trout in the 1870s and said, “Why, that is a regular Dolly Varden.” The name stuck.

A Midwest-based folk/rock band shares the name, too. The Chicago quintet Dolly Varden took its name from what they call “a rare and beautiful species of trout.” The songwriters in the band both had fathers who were avid fisherman and “dreamt of one day catching the elusive Dolly Varden in an icy Alaskan lake.”

Ten hours north of Long Beach is the city of Dolly Varden, Nev., a desolate place sitting in the Dolly Varden Mountains near Utah. The area consists of 16 mineral claims and not much else. The Dolly Varden mine was opened in 1872 and was one of the richest copper mines in Elko County.

Going even farther north, a Canadian silver company of the same name focuses its energy on the development of the historic Dolly Varden Silver Mines in British Columbia.

Whether you like the Dickens, trout, minerals, baseball, folk rock or Long Beach boutique hotel version, there seems to be a Dolly Varden for everyone.

MR. LONG BEACH: Bloom, Love, Hate: Life Under the Purple Canopy


“Don’t even talk to me about these trees … I hate them!”

That was the greeting I received a few years ago while photographing jacaranda trees on Petaluma Avenue.

The woman, who refused to be identified, continued: “If you live on this street you hate ’em because all they do is track in mud and dirt and everything else.”

That’s when I realized the jacaranda trees aren’t just pretty. They create real angst for Long Beachers that have to live under the purple canopy.

There are certain annual rituals when you’re a photojournalist in Long Beach. Every April, it’s fast cars; in June, it’s graduations; and in May, it’s the jacaranda trees.

This year, I wanted a different view of the blooming trees, so I sent my drone high above the 3600 block of Petaluma Avenue in East Long Beach.

The jacaranda is a native to tropical and subtropical regions of Central America, South America, Cuba, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. The ones in Long Beach were planted when developers built homes in the middle of the last century.

The residents of Petaluma Avenue have a love-hate relationship with the trees.

Jarred Gienapp has lived under the trees his whole life. He says they’re messy, but they’re pretty when they’re blooming. About the purple blooms he said, “Fifty-fifty – they’re nice and they give you a headache at the same time.”

Steve and Pamela Colucci have lived under the purple trees for 12 years.

As the words, “What do you think about these trees” were coming out of my mouth, Steve emphatically said, “We hate ’em.” He said he had to buy a blower to keep the blooms under control.

His wife, Pamela, added: “They’re pretty to the visitors that drive down the street, but they’re really stinky.” And, “You can’t have carpet if you live on this street,” she said.

Steve Colucci laughed as he recalled what the street looked like when they bought their home: “It was beautiful. It was green. It was October.”

During their first spring in the home when the rain of purple blossoms started, Steve recalls thinking, “Are you kidding me?”

MR. LONG BEACH: Willow Springs Park is Open… Parts of it.

The hilltop plaza at Willow Springs Park is an area map made from decomposed granite and tumbled glass. The map was made by local artist Steve Elicker.  This view is looking north, Orange Avenue is on the right.

The hilltop plaza at Willow Springs Park is an area map made from decomposed granite and tumbled glass. The map was made by local artist Steve Elicker. This view is looking north, Orange Avenue is on the right.

Q. I see a bunch of tattered signs on Spring Street advertising “Willow Springs Park.” What’s going on with that? – Jody Collins

A. Willow Springs Park is a 47-acre site bounded by Orange and California avenues on its sides, Spring Street to the north and Willow Street to the south – excluding the cemeteries and a small private lot.

According to District 7 Councilman James Johnson, when Willow Springs Park is completed, it will be the largest park to open in Long Beach since El Dorado Park. And, it will be the largest park on the west side of the city.

The park shares its name with the streets that bound it, named for the numerous willow trees and natural springs in the area.

Parts of the park – Longview Point and Farm Stand 59 – are already open, but the majority is yet to come.

Longview Point is, as Johnson put it, “The highest point accessible in the entire city of Long Beach, with gorgeous vistas of Catalina Island, the Pacific Ocean, downtown Long Beach and the Hollywood sign – on a very clear day.” Of course, there’s a giant hill to the east that’s pretty big, but who looks that way? The high point is covered by an area map made by local artist Steve Elicker. It’s an aerial view of Southern California made from decomposed granite and tumbled glass. A parking lot on Orange Avenue gives you access to a trail that leads to Longview Point.

Farm Lot 59 is a 1-acre farm at 2714 California Ave. run by Long Beach Local. According to longbeachlocal.org, they “grow food and flowers the old-fashioned way using our hands, without pesticides and chemicals.” Produce grown at the farm is available after June. They also sell to local restaurants, caterers and bartenders.

What’s next?

Johnson told me two things are on the horizon – a visitor center and a community garden education center.

The city set aside $1 million for the park, along with several grants, to fulfill the master plan. One of the things the plan calls for is a visitor center.

An old train station in the 1400 block of San Francisco Avenue will be moved to the park, most likely off California Avenue, and used as a visitor center. The station was built downtown in 1907 and moved to its current location in 1936.

The community garden education center will be one-acre area to teach young people about agriculture next to Farm Lot 59.

Johnson added, “It’s not a pie-in-the-sky project. When you have the money, you have the land, you have environmental approvals and you have a plan, all you need is the time to get it done … and that’s where we’re at.”

El Dorado Park filming update

A month ago I wrote about a single-family home being built in Area II of El Dorado Park for a movie.

The building is gone now, but at the time rumors were swirling that it was for a remake of “The Amityville Horror.” The production company refused to give me any information but, when the house was finished it was a clear, dead ringer for the house in the 1979 classic.

This version, simply titled “Amityville,” will star Jennifer Jason Leigh as a single mother who moves in to the spooky house with her three kids.

It’s set to be released in January.

MR. LONG BEACH: There’s an App for That

Where is this old sign with the old-timey phone number? Send your answer to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com. First person to answer correctly wins a prize.

Where is this old sign with the old-timey phone number? Send your answer to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com and win a prize.

I’m a geek. So this week I thought I’d put my geekdom and love of Long Beach together.

Here’s a look at some useful Long Beach area iPhone apps:

The City of Long Beach has been getting “techie” in the last few years releasing a bevy of GO apps. The only one I’ve used is GO Long Beach. I reported a damaged street sign and a damaged parking sign near my house a few years ago. Both items were fixed in a few days. I even got an email updating me on the status of the work.

GO Long Beach: This app basically allows you to rant to the city. Click “new issue” and complain away. It also has a handy list of city phone numbers and a link to code enforcement. What I’d like to see in this app is construction updates. When will Redondo Avenue be finished? How long until I can walk along the bluffs again?

GO LB Pets: This app includes Pictures and info about pets available for adoption from Long Beach Animal Care Services. Also there’s info about city dogs parks and emergency vets.

GO LBPL: The cool feature in this app is the search. You can look for books by name, author or publisher. The results will tell you what library has the book, if it’s checked out and when it’s due to be returned.

GO LGB: This app inclides basic airport information with airline phone numbers and parking rates. It also has flight tracking. What this app is missing is maps to parking lots and a link to WebTrak, the cool feature on their desktop site that allows you to see a real-time map of the aircraft over Long Beach.

Vote LB 2014: The app shows voter information for the City Clerk’s Office. This app has a moving countdown akin to a bomb in an action thriller. You can also find your voting place and track results on election night.

Lakewood and Signal Hill won’t be left out; they have city apps, too.

Lakewood’s app is simply called “Lakewood,” and Signal Hill’s is “mySignalHill.” Both apps’ main purpose is to report problems, from abandoned shopping carts to graffiti to high tall weeds and dead vegetation.

As far as local attractions go, The Aquarium of the Pacific’s app is a nice guide to have with you when visiting the fish. The only problem: Cell service is horrible inside most of the exhibits.

The Port of Long Beach has the LB Bridge app, which keeps tabs on the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project. You can check road closures and view live construction cameras.

Cal State Long Beach’s radio station K-Beach has a live streaming app – no frills – that just lets you listen to the school’s station.

And lastly, the hospitals. If you need to get to the ER, but somehow have the time to shop around for the best wait times, Lakewood and Los Alamitos Medical Centers have apps for you. Both hospital apps are exactly the same and both let you check the ER wait times and even start the check-in process.

What’s missing? What apps would make life better in Long Beach? Let me know what you’d like to have on your phone and I’ll share it with our readers.

MR. LONG BEACH: Horses Hiding behind Homes


Q. In the Wrigley area near Birney Elementary School, Spring Street dead ends at the river. Right before its end, there is Deforest Avenue on the left, and then an entrance to what looks like some horse property on the right. There’s like a dirt road that goes along behind the properties. Does anyone know if these are horse easements as regarded under the city law and if the road that goes along behind them is public? I’d like to see the horses and their people, but don’t want to trespass. – Becky Cook

A. The area is actually the back of the 3000 block of San Francisco Avenue near the Los Angeles River. It’s an easement owned by the County of Los Angeles’ Flood Control District currently being used by homeowners – mostly for horses.

I went out to the area and ran into Jackson Shaw. He owns a home and a big red barn on the street. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, because he just happens to be chock-full of history.

First, a bit about Shaw; He works for the FAA inspecting small aircraft before they are shipped out of the country. He is also a helicopter pilot. Shaw said he saw the distinctive red barn during approaches to Long Beach airport and decided he wanted to live there.

After a year of persuading the owner to sell, Shaw, his wife and five horses moved in. He gathered neighbors and started the Wrigley Heights Equestrian Association.

In 1975, the city of Long Beach granted a Horse Overlay District for two blocks of homes on the west side of San Francisco Avenue between Spring and 32nd streets. The ordinance allows single-family residences to keep up to five horses on at least 8,000 square feet.

Here’s where it gets confusing. The area behind the homes, where the horses are kept, is L.A. County property – it’s not owned by the residents. Even though it’s county land, it’s still subject to Long Beach city zoning.

Kerjon Lee, public affairs manager with L.A. County Public Works, told me that for the the county, city and equestrian association have been working to figure out a way for the homeowners to buy the property.

According to Shaw, for five years L.A. County Public Works met with the association for five years trying to figure out a way for the residents to purchase the land, then one day they told him they decided not to sell. Then about three years ago, the county recontacted them and said, “Now we’re ready to sell,” Shaw said.

They have been in talks ever since, but Shaw said about 12 months ago, the county told him about 12 months ago that in 2002 the city of Long Beach had zoned the area for public use in 2002, so and that designation would be a problem in allowing them to buy the property. He said that has brought “everything to a scratching halt.”

In the late 1980s, the 3100 block lost its horse zone when Kirk Hankla purchased the whole block with the intent to raze the structures and build new homes. His company, International City Mortgage wasn’t able to complete the project.

In the 1990s, Gensemer Construction bought the lots and built and built 18 two-story homes constructed around two cul-de-sacs. The design, which limited lots to 5,000 square feet, no lounger meet the 8,000 square foot requirement for horses.

Shaw no longer has horses, but he still loves his barn.

“It’s really just a different world back here,” he said. “From the front nobody knows, nobody complains.”

So, to get back to Becky’s question. It appears you can walk back there and look at the horses. You won’t be trespassing any more than the people keeping the horses on the property.

MR. LONG BEACH: Drink Up, The Water’s Fine… Officials Say.

The City of Long Beach's groundwater treatment plant. Water from ground wells is treated and filtered, then mixed with imported water and sent to storage facilities.

The City of Long Beach’s groundwater treatment plant. Water from ground wells is treated and filtered, then mixed with imported water and sent to storage facilities.

Q. Is the city water safe? I’ve been drinking it since I moved here almost seven years ago, with no apparent ill effects, but recently several people have expressed shock that I fill my glass straight from the tap. One was certain it’s unsafe. Are they right? – Nancy Hall

A. According to local water officials, it’s safe to drink up.

“We consistently meet or exceed all federal and state requirements. There are no problems or issues (with our water),” said Matthew Veeh, director of government and public affairs for the Long Beach Water Department.

On the surface, water seems like it would be a simple thing – get it from a source, send it though pipes to a house and you’re done. Well, it’s not that easy. In fact, it took two officials at the Long Beach Water Department to explain to me how it works in the city.

Veeh explained that Long Beach residents get a blend of water out of their taps – 60 percent groundwater and 40 percent imported. The foreign water is a mixture from the Colorado River and the state water project. The groundwater comes from under our feet.

The groundwater is pumped to the water department’s facility on Redondo Avenue near the airport where it’s treated. It’s then mixed with the imported water and sent to tanks on a hill near the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Redondo Avenue. After that it goes to customers.

But where did the reputation of bad water in Long Beach get started?

To explain this I needed a second water man – Tai Tseng, director of operations for the Water Department.

Tseng told me about an ancient redwood forest deep under Long Beach. He said the trees are about 800 to 1,000 feet under the city – unfortunately, that’s right where our groundwater is located. He explained that the trees sit in a portion of the aquifer, and when water soaks in the trees it leeches out the tannins and gives the water a yellowish color, like tea.

Before 1984, the Water Department removed the color with bleach. This gave the water a chlorine-like smell similar to pool water.

Today, the Water Department removes the tint with coagulants that absorb the color. Tseng stressed that no matter how the color is removed, it only affects aesthetics, not water quality.

“People have preferences,” Tseng said. “Maybe the water is not what they prefer when it’s compared to bottled water and some may translate that to not being safe.”

As far as safety, Veeh assured me the department tests the water for contaminants regularly – “weekly, sometimes daily,” he said.

Considering that Long Beach water costs about half a penny ($.0047) per gallon and Arrowhead spring water sells for about $1.30 a gallon, I’ll stick with the tap.

Train station update: A few weeks ago I wrote about an old train station in the 1400 block of San Francisco Avenue. The station was built downtown in 1907 and moved to its current location in 1936. Art Cox, the city’s superintendent of street maintenance, has confirmed plans are in the works to move the station to Willow Springs Park at Longview Point. They hope to move the building sometime in the next year.

MR. LONG BEACH: History in Storage


Just in case you haven’t been able to tell from my previous columns, I’ll say it now, I love Long Beach history.

Last week my colleague, Greg Mellen, wrote about Marshall Pumphrey, the owner of five shipping containers full of Long Beach historical items. He’s got all kinds of stuff, from old maps of Long Beach to a car from the Cyclone Racer roller coaster to a chair from the Pacific Coast Club.

Pumphrey inherited his goodies from Ken Larkey, operator of the defunct Long Beach Heritage Museum.

Arranging to take Pumphrey’s picture wasn’t easy; he sent me on a very specific course of freeway on-ramps and hidden driveways to get to his loot.

Almost as cool as the stuff Pumphrey has is where it’s located. His stash is tucked away in a strange bit of city owned property sandwiched between I-710 and the Los Angeles River. The only way to get to it is from the freeway. I’m not going to mention the cross street because I promised Pumphrey I wouldn’t give away the whereabouts of his treasure – as it is, I’ve probably said too much.

Following Pumphrey’s directions, I made a sharp right turn off the freeway and into a yard of Long Beach’s forgotten relics. Long Beach history was everywhere.

The first thing I noticed was the road that led into the yard. It was covered with stripes – apparently the place where painters test the striping machines.

Next I saw a pile of dinosaurs and alligators. The metal creatures were intended to be placed in parks and used as bike racks, but the Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine felt that they could pose a risk to kids who might want to climb on them rather than use them to lock their bikes. A few were placed on the roof of the Main Library downtown – behind a locked gate. These particular dinosaurs in the city yard had been sitting in the median of Wardlow Road near El Dorado Park until last month. Their purpose was to slow traffic, but they didn’t.

At the far end of the yard, sitting below a pile of dirt with a cross atop it, was the Looff’s Lite-a-line cupola.

The structure originally sat atop Charles I.D. Looff’s merry-go-round at the old Pike.

First, a little background on Looff. He built the first carousel in the U.S. on Coney Island in 1876. Then, in 1910 he moved his business to Long Beach and built a ride at the pike. Looff’s first building caught fire. He rebuilt and eventually put the Lite-a-line game in its place.

Even though it’s gone from Downtown, you can still play Lite-a-line – and win money too. Its current home is 2500 Long Beach Blvd. The new Lite-a-line also has a museum where you can see one of the horses from Looff’s carousel and Pumphrey’s Cyclone Racer car.

At the yard I ran into a carpenter who told me if I liked the stuff here, I should go check out the other city yards.

I set up a tour with Art Cox, the city’s superintendent of street maintenance. What he showed me was just as amazing.

Sitting on the former site of another city yard, facing San Francisco Avenue, is an old train station. According to Cox, the station was built in 1907 next to City Hall – back when the seat of Long Beach government was at Pacific Avenue and Broadway.

The station was moved to it current location in 1936. In between it served as a relief building during the Great Depression and a city materials testing laboratory.

We arrived at a downtown warehouse and Cox went to work looking for the light switch. The first thing I saw was the spire from the recently demolished Atlantic Theater along with pallets of the decorative cement that surrounded the ticket booth. Both are supposed to be incorporated in the library being built where the North Long Beach theater was.

Next I made my way to the back of the warehouse where I found four giant columns and decorative stone artwork.

The columns were from the Carnegie Library that used to be in Lincoln Park. Around the turn of the last century Andrew Carnegie built more than 1,500 libraries the United States. One of them was in Long Beach’s Pacific Park – now Lincoln Park. The Classical Revival style building was damaged by fire in 1972 and torn down.

The stone artwork is pieces of the facade from the Jergins Trust Building. Built in 1917, it was at the southeast corner of Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue. The building housed offices, the State Theater and, for a while, the Superior Court.

Near the end of my tour I asked Cox if he had anything else. He said, “Just some odd things. You probably wouldn’t be interested”. As soon as he said odd I was interested.

Turns out he had a gorilla he rescued from some city buildings as they were being torn down. He couldn’t tell me anything about the gorilla except that it looked, “Pike-ish”

We walked in to a back room near his office and there it was – a four-foot gorilla guarding the city’s golden shovels used for groundbreakings.

MR. LONG BEACH: Old Rail Line Makes Scar across Long Beach

Rails from the Pacific Electric Red Car poke out of the asphalt where Rotary Centennial Park meets Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach.

Q. Was there ever a connecting street from Appian Way directly to Eliot Street, via Third Street? Seems like it would be possible, feasible and well-liked to put one in now. I would think that with the fire station right there, a minute or so could be saved if a fire truck emergency needed to get down East Appian Way. – Justin Rudd

A. It looks like it could/should go through, but I couldn’t find any information about Third Street ever connecting to Eliot Avenue.

After studying the area on Google Maps I started wondering why Third Street was even there. The numbered streets in Long Beach go east/west, but here Third Street goes at an angle – and it doesn’t really go anywhere.

As luck would have it this week I was working on a different story about Long Beach history and came across a 1956 Shell gas station map laying among other historic artifacts at Seaside Printing. According to the map, the stretch of Third Street that Justin referred to didn’t exist, at least not in 1956.

What was there in the first half of the 20th century? The Pacific Electric Red Car’s Newport Beach Line. The train ran 40 miles from Downtown Los Angeles, through Long Beach and ended in Newport. Even though the rails were removed sometime in the 1950s, it took years for development to encroach on the right-of-way.

It seems the street, and other oddities around town, are the result of having to fill a void when the Red Car was shuttered.

The path of the former train is like a scar that stretches across Long Beach – from Belmont Heights up toward Compton. The right-of-way also continues south into Seal Beach where a restored Red Car sits on aptly named, and what I imagine would be a favorite of singer Eddy Grant’s – “Electric Avenue.”

Over the years scar tissue has formed over the right-of-way as it’s been slowly enveloped by the city.

If you get the chance, take a look at a map and follow the old route. You can clearly see streets that abruptly end and parallelogram-shaped buildings filling the void.

The remnants of the once-great transportation system can be seen all over Long Beach.

Starting south and working your way north, the Long Beach Green Belt stretches along the right-of-way from Seventh Street to 10th Street. It was full of native plants until the Termino Avenue Drain Project stripped it to dirt.

Just north of there is an odd triangle where 10th Street, Euclid Avenue and Grand Avenue converge.

A little shopping center with an ever-changing tiny restaurant at the corner of Anaheim Street and Orizaba Avenue gets its triangle shape from the train’s path.

At Orizaba Park a life-size replica of the front of a Red Car made by Signal Hill artist Patrick Vogal sits on the approximate location of where tracks once ran through the refurbished space.

North of there is a fenced-in garden of native plants and a walkway where 15th Street should go through. The passageway, named Trolley Garden Way, is an homage to the historic railway.

Past that is three blocks of gated single family homes along Old Zaferia Way. The street was named for one of the stations along the route.

If you want a peek at the old tracks, they poke out of the asphalt where Rotary Centennial Park meets Pacific Coast Highway.

The easement, which predated the city of Signal Hill, serves as the city’s western border with Long Beach

The rails also make an appearance at yet another traffic triangle where Alamitos Avenue, Walnut Avenue and 20th Street come together. The tracks lead in to a new greenway with bike lanes that ends near the visual deteriorating Orange Avenue Bridge. The only reason the bridge, which holds up the intersection of Orange Avenue and Hill Street, exists was to lift traffic above the trains.

At Long Beach Boulevard the path joins the current Metro Blue Line and heads up to Los Angeles – following much of the route it did when it was built at the turn of the last century.

MR. LONG BEACH: A Hidden ‘Walled’ City (in plain sight) in Long Beach

 

 

 

Q. Driving east on Carson Street near Cherry Avenue – just past Ralphs – there is a railroad crossing. Looking up there appears to be small flags suspended on a wire, well above the roadway, crossing Carson at a right angle. I wondered if they were some sort of wiring for lights, phone, etc., but a closer examination showed the wire to be nylon line of some sort. But it gets better, Mr. LB!  Now I notice one on Cherry Avenue, just before the I-405 north exit, and another one after exiting the I-405 north at Orange, just when you come to the stop sign. Are these guide wires to hold some sort of banner? – Greg Czopek

A. The wires are part of the Long Beach eruv, an intricate set of poles and wires that work together to form a virtual “walled city” around the Bixby Knolls, California Heights and Virginia Country Club area for Orthodox Jews on the Sabbath.

Jewish law states that you can’t carry goods, food or even roll a baby stroller outside of a private domain on the Sabbath. The string connects various areas to form one big “private” domain.

The Long Beach eruv was built by Bixby Knolls’ Congregation Lubavitch 10 years ago.

Before 2004, members of the congregation could walk to the temple on the Sabbath, but other things were forbidden.

With the eruv in place, members can now carry food to friends’ and family’s homes, roll strollers and carry goods – as long as they stay inside the boundaries.

I sat down with the congregation’s Rabbi Yitzchok Newman outside the Long Beach Police Department’s west substation – he’s also an LBPD chaplain. The rabbi explained the importance of the eruv and its role in Jewish life.

The Sabbath is a holy day, a family day, a community day, according to the rabbi. He said, “The eruv defines the area in which the family and community get together.”

It’s made of a 200-pound fish line and is maintained by the temple’s eruv committee. Every week members of the committee check to see that the eruv is intact and report their findings to the eruv hotline. A quick call to 1-888-4LB-ERUV will give you a recorded message about the line’s status.

The line closes 20 gaps in natural boundaries that are defined by the San Diego Freeway on the south and Long Beach Airport on the east. The string continues north after the airport along railroad tracks to Market Street. It then follows railroad tracks down towards Virginia Country Club, circles the west side of the golf course and heads down the Metro Blue Line to the I-405. The eruv follows the freeway back to Cherry Avenue.

The rabbi told me there were challenges getting the line strung, but Long Beach’s is very simple. “Irvine has one and Los Angeles has a major one,” he said.

Long Beach’s eruv is easiest to see at the places Greg mentioned in his question.

Not all Jews adhere to the eruv. In fact, Mr. Long Beach is Jewish and is just learning about it.

Rabbi Newman said that he and the 100 families that use the enclosure “pride ourselves in being a family-oriented community. … It allows us to keep our values and our culture to a much greater extent by having the eruv.”

MR. LONG BEACH: Moving Machinery and the Long Beach Olympics

PHOTO COURTESY OF COOKIE BRAUDE

PHOTO COURTESY OF COOKIE BRAUDE

Q. Several times a month these huge things are escorted down Ocean Boulevard late in the evening by California Highway Patrol with their sirens. What is it and where does it go? – Cookie Braude

A. When I first looked at Cookie’s picture it reminded me of the specially-built vehicle that was used to transport a giant rock across Southern California in 2012.

I asked the public information officer at CHP what they were escorting on the night of Wednesday, Feb. 12. He didn’t know, but sent me to the CHP’s commercial division, which handles these types of things.

The officers in the commercial division told me they escort things all the time, and while this wasn’t anything special, it is big – about a million pounds.

The item in question was a power transformer for Southern California Edison. The equipment was headed from Pier F in the Port of Long Beach to Rosamond.

All together it’s 240 feet long and 20 feet wide. Its highest point is 17 feet off the ground.

 

Long Beach Olympics

We watch a lot of Olympic in Mr. Long Beach’s house. Every couple of years the kids get in the Olympic spirit – we throw a party, watch the opening ceremonies, and serve food from the host country. Well, every year except 2010. We just couldn’t find any tasty Canadian food.

For the past few weeks my wife has been urging me to write about Long Beach’s various Olympics connections. I’m sure I’ll leave something or someone out. So, in no particular order, here they are:

The Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool. I’ve heard many Long Beachers talk about the pool’s role in the Olympics. Some think it was used in the 1932 Los Angeles Games. It wasn’t. The natatorium opened in 1968 and hosted the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials that year as well as 1976. The pool was permanently closed last year because of seismic concerns. A replacement building is being planned.

When the pool opened it was called the Taj Mahal of swim stadiums, but by the time the swim trials returned to Long Beach, in 2004, it was too small. A temporary pool was built downtown that year.

The Sochi Friendship Tree. In 1992, Long Beach received a lemon tree from the most recent Olympic host city. It was grafted from a tree in Russia as part of the sister cities program. The citrus tree is off Seventh Street at Recreation Park.

El Dorado Park was the site of archery in the 1984 Olympics.

Long Beach Marine Stadium. The rowing venue was built in 1923 but was expanded for the 1932 Olympic Games. At the time it was the first man-made rowing venue.

The list of Long Beach Olympians is too long to mention in this column – the obvious ones are swimmer Jessica Hardy, volleyballer Misty May-Treanor and water polo’s Tony Azevedo.

How about the lesser known athletes? They include swimmer Susie Atwood (1968, 1972); rowers John Van Blom (1968, 1972, 1976) and his wife, rower Joan Lind (1976, 1984); runner Bryshon Nellum (2012); four-time gold medal diver Pat McCormick (1952, 1956); and 1948 London Olympic gold medal wrestler Wilber (Moose) Thompson.

And, I can’t forget Olympian Angela Madsen – she earned a bronze in the discus at the 2012 Paralympic Games.

If you weren’t around for either of the last two Olympiads in Southern California, don’t worry. Los Angeles bids to host future games have included venues in Long Beach.

MR. LONG BEACH: Long Beachers go ‘round, and ‘round and ‘round

The Los Alamitos Traffic Circle in Long Beach, Calif.. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Slug: lbr.mrlongbeach.0223.jag, Day: Thursday, February 20, 2014 (2/20/14), Time: 9:55:35 PM, Location: Long Beach, California - Long Beach Traffic Circle - JEFF GRITCHEN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Q. What’s the deal with the traffic circle? – Bill Alkofer

A. The Long Beach Traffic Circle, whose official name is The Los Alamitos Traffic Circle, isn’t actually a traffic circle anymore. It was built to help facilitate drivers from Los Angeles heading toward Marine Stadium and El Dorado Park during the 1932 Olympic Summer Games.

It was a traffic circle when it was built, but now it’s a roundabout, and yes, there is a difference. Although, if you’re not an engineer, you probably don’t care. Either way, I’ll attempt to explain.

The term roundabout describes an intersection where entering traffic flows in freely, but must yield to cars already in the circle, while entry to a traffic circle is controlled by stop signs or traffic signals.

To keep things simple, I’ll just call it “the circle.”

The circle in Long Beach was converted to a roundabout during a Caltrans redesign in 1993. When first built, it was the terminus of the Roosevelt Highway (US-6) that connected to Provincetown, Mass., 3,227 miles to the east.

Local historian Stan Poe told me that during the Olympic Games travelers would come south from Los Angeles and be directed north on Los Coyotes Diagonal toward the archery event or south on Pacific Coast Highway toward Marine Stadium and the rowing events. The streets had different names then.

It may have been built for the Olympics, but as far as Mr. Long Beach’s kids, “The Little Beachers”, are concerned – it’s a ride.

Every time we enter the circle I hear cheers from the backseat, “Daddy, go around again, go around again!” My race car-type circles usually continue until I whip my wife into a dizzying frenzy and she threatens to throw up.

The roundabout, part of Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) and Lakewood Boulevard (CA-19) is owned by the State of California but maintained by Long Beach. I asked the city how many cars travel the circle and how many don’t quite make it around. They wouldn’t give up the numbers, but it’s been reported that the circle has 60,000 drivers each day.

When I asked Long Beachers about the circle I mostly heard stories of crazy drivers and the tales of accidents. Sebastian Lopez, head trainer at the UFC Gym at the circle, said he wishes drivers would “just use their signals.”

“People need to learn to drive. I see accidents everyday,” he said.

Urban legends abound about deaths in the roundabout. Circlers told me the designer, Werner Ruchti, died in a car accident while going around the road. Others told me he and his son died in the same manner – neither is true.

Another rumor was that the Rolling Stones played in the center of the circle. Also, not true.
Tom Moser, owner of Port City Tattoo at the circle, said he “Kinda likes not having to stop.” Moser said he grew up by the traffic circle in Orange.

“This one’s bigger, but I’m used to it” he said.

MR. LONG BEACH: Cambodian’s Make a Home in Long Beach

Here is my Sunday column – along with this week’s Mystery Photo.

Q. How did Long Beach get such a strong Cambodian community? – Josh Stewart

A. Long Beach’s Cambodian population exploded after Pol Pot took control of that country in 1975.

First of all, who wouldn’t want to live here? If I were fleeing a country, I’d come to Long Beach – great weather, nice people and plenty of food.

But how the Cambodians picked the city isn’t that clear-cut. Officially there are about 20,000 people of Cambodian descent living in Long Beach, although many think the number is much higher. In fact, it’s believed to be the largest Cambodian population in the world outside of Southeast Asia.

In April 1975, after a long civil war, the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia, forcing a mass exodus from the country. Many refugees made their way across the country’s northern border to Thailand and on to refugee camps, then on to other countries. Others made it to the United States.

Kimthai Kouch is the executive director of the Cambodian Association of America. He told me that when Cambodia fell to Pol Pot, about 150 exchange students who were already living in the Long Beach area were left stateless.

Those students worked together, out of a garage in Long Beach, to sponsor refugees from the war-torn country.

Kouch said the students picked Long Beach for two reasons: Its climate and, in 1975, the availability of cheap housing. The Cambodian Association of America still exists and is still based in Long Beach. The group provides social outreach to Cambodians in the area.

Every Khmer person has his or her own reasons for settling in Long Beach.

Sandy Turner, originally from Battambang, Cambodia, may have a very American-sounding name, but she was born Kuntha Kong. Her family left their village in 1979 and headed to the Thai border. Her sister had been injured by a bomb, and her dad was seeking help.

Her father, who speaks French as well as Khmer, was able to communicate with a journalist who helped them cross the border into Thailand and get help for his daughter.

The family moved to the United States in June 1980, when they were sponsored by World Relief and placed in Georgia.

With the promise of a job, an uncle who owned a gas station in El Monte invited the family to come to live with him in Long Beach. Turner and her sisters became U.S. citizens in 1987. The Cambodian girls, Kuntha, Kunthea and Naryphal, took American names and became Long Beachers Sandy, Sabrina and Emily. Sandy became a Turner when she got married.

Then there’s Chanta Bob, or Bobby, as his friends call him, operational manager at Sophy’s Restaurant. Fleeing the Khmer Rouge, Bob and his family made it to a Thai refugee camp in 1979. He spent two years there waiting for a sponsor. Eventually a Presbyterian church in Oregon brought him to Albany. Bob went to Oregon State and started working for HP.

In 2000, he ran into a Cambodian from Long Beach who urged him to move south. Bob said he was ready for a change. He remembers needing to get out of his comfort zone. Although Bob credits the large Cambodian community with helping him not lose his native tongue, he also remarked, “I didn’t realize (Long Beach) would just be a different comfort zone.”

MR. LONG BEACH: Beachside Homes are Remnants of Hurricane

TOP: Home of Shelly Reid in the 5400 block of Ocean Blvd. in 1938 in Long Beach. BOTTOM: Same house today.

TOP: Home of Shelly Reid in the 5400 block of Ocean Blvd. in 1938 in Long Beach. BOTTOM: Same house today.

Q: Why are there are only five homes on the beach from Granada Avenue to the start of the Peninsula?  I’d like to know. — Justin Rudd, Belmont Shore
A: I’ve always wondered the same thing.

The five houses on the beach side of Ocean Boulevard are remnants of a group of houses that were built before a Category 1 hurricane struck the area in 1939. The houses you see today are the only ones that survived.

An 1895 map of the area titled “Alamitos Bay Townsite” shows lots along the ocean side along what was then called Peninsula Avenue. The map is signed by Llewellyn Bixby and shows the high tide line at the base of the homes.

The tropical storm was the only one to directly hit California in the 20th century, and the 21st century, too … so far. It had winds as high as 75 miles per hour and dumped over 5 inches of rain in 24 hours. There was so much rain that the Hamilton Bowl, the site of today’s Chittick Field, overflowed and flooded the surrounding area. The storm moved inland near Long Beach and did over $2 million in damage in 1939 dollars and killed 45 people throughout Southern California.

Back in 1939, the Weather Bureau of the United States didn’t name tropical storms, but that didn’t stop residents from coming up with colorful names like El Cordonazo or The Lash of St. Francis. The storm was preceded by a week-long heat wave that killed over 90 people. Beach-goers were on the sand when the fast-approaching tropical depression’s high winds forced lifeguards to close the beach. The next year the Weather Bureau opened a Southern California forecast office.

I went knocking on doors and ran into Shelly Reid. Her father, an oil man, built their family home a year before the storm in the 5400 block of Ocean Boulevard. When the house was built it was one of many along that stretch of beach.

Reid told me when she was young, and the ocean was at high tide, waves would crash right under her house. She said her dad made sure the structure was protected by building the home on pilings buried 50 feet in the sand. She remembered the storm and the throngs of lookey-loos who came to check out the rows of damaged homes after the rain subsided.

Reid said growing up at the house she saw dredging in the Alamitos Bay and long pipes that ran over Ocean Boulevard depositing sand that filled the beach in front of her house.

Historian Stan Poe confirmed that the some of the sand used to make the beach larger came from the bay, but much came from other sources like the mountains and Catalina Island.

Homes from Granada Avenue to 55th Place seemed to suffer the most damage. One of the reasons, as Poe explained, is because the boardwalk that ends at 55th Place was never completed. He said that homeowners in that area didn’t want a boardwalk in front of their homes. The wooden walkway, along with its seawall that is buried 15 feet in the sand, might have provided some protection if it was completed. The boardwalk is still there today – and it still ends at 55th Place

Poe said that in an effort to avoid being responsible for further damage, the city of Long Beach started buying the land where the homes once stood. There were a variety of lawsuits, but the city continued to buy properties as late as the 1960s. The homes that remain today simply refused to sell.

Got a question for Mr. Long Beach? Send in to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com.

MR. LONG BEACH: Clearing Confusion over Future of Atlantic Theater Site

A backhoe from American Integrated Services punched a hole in the side of the Atlantic Theater as part of the ceremony on Saturday. PHOTO BY BILL ALKOFER

A backhoe from American Integrated Services punched a hole in the side of the Atlantic Theater as part of the ceremony on Saturday. PHOTO BY BILL ALKOFER

In an effort to keep my thumb on the pulse of Long Beach I read a lot – including Facebook. One of the pages I routinely check is the popular Justin Rudd-run Long Beach page, aptly named “Long Beach, Calif.”

The page, which boasts almost 50,000 likes, is both fun and frustrating. Fun because it’s nice to see so many people talking about Mr. Long Beach’s town. And frustrating because many who post expect answers to legal questions or their medical problems resolved by random Facebookers.

Last week is a perfect example. Jessica Sawyer asked about the Atlantic Theater in North Long Beach. “… I heard it was slated for demo soon… Anyone know any history on it? I’d love to hear.  Atlantic + South ; North Long Beach”, she posted.

A perfectly valid question. The responses were varied. Some helpful, some not so much. So I’ll set out to set the record straight.

Many posters identified it as the Crest Theater. It wasn’t; it was the Atlantic Theater until it closed in 1976. The theater was showing Hollywood films until 1969. At the start of the next decade they began showing adult films. A classified ad in a local paper said they were searching for a “Topless go-go” girl in 1973.

In the mid 1980s Kung Fu films were gracing the silver screen. After that it was the Liberty Baptist Church and then a furniture store. It’s been vacant for about four years.

Architect Carl Boller designed the Streamline Modern theater at a cost of $100,000. The auditorium featured murals of underwater ocean scenes that glowed under blacklight during the show.

Another Facebooker said, “They’re tearing it down to put up a parking lot.” Also not true. A 25,000-square-foot library is planned for the site.

Still other posters accused the city of neglecting North Long Beach and recklessly tearing down old buildings. Many lamented the loss of the historic building.

John Royce made an attempt to clear up the confusion with his post: “Bottom line, it was NOT the City of Long Beach who made the decision to tear down this building. While there were both arguments for restoration/preservation and for demolition as part of a master plan to redevelop the area, the demolition camp very clearly carried the day.” He continued, “While it was not the decision I would have preferred, the process was very fair and the city is following the decision that North Long Beach leaders reached.”

The North Neighborhood Library, the first new one in North Long Beach in 60 years, will retain the theater’s spire and use some of the existing foundation.

The $12 million building is set to open in 2015 and be the jewel in the new Uptown Renaissance. The funding comes from former redevelopment funds.

Got a question for Mr. Long Beach? Send them to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com.

MR. LONG BEACH: Nicknames, Mottos and Monikers

This week’s mystery photo

My Little Beachers have nicknames; the oldest boy is sometime called Sally – shortened from Salamander, which rhymes with his first name. And, sometimes we call my daughter Mimi – that’s not her name but a homage to her late grandmother. Often I just call her Pumpkin, which is also not her name.

Long Beach is the 36th largest city in the U.S – bigger in population than Miami, Minneapolis and Cleveland. The city’s size has earned it a long list of monikers. We’re not Angelinos and we’re not Orange Countites or Orange Counters or whatever you call people from the OC. We’re Long Beachers.

If the city weren’t in the shadow of Los Angeles, it’d have its own T.V. and radio stations and maybe even two daily newspapers. Oh, wait … never mind.

The city has had the same name since the late 19th century when William E. Willmore sold 4,000 acres of seaside land to The Long Beach Land and Water Company. Willmore had originally named the city after himself.

Even though the name Long Beach has remained a constant, city mottos and nicknames have come and gone. Some official and some not so official.

“The International City” is the official motto of Long Beach. It graces the city’s flag and has been around long enough to influence the names of city institutions like The International City Theater and businesses like International City Bank and even the Motel 6 Long Beach International City.

The Latin motto on the city seal, urbs amicitiae, loosely translates to “The Friendly City”. And, while I think the city is mostly friendly, I’ve never seen it used anywhere else.

For a big part of the 20th century Long Beach was informally known as “Iowa by the Sea” for the large number of Iowa transplants.

In fact, there were so many of the Midwesterners in Long Beach that Herbert Hoover (a native of Iowa) spoke at the city’s annual Iowa State Picnic during his campaign for president. Picnic organizer Jo Ann Kock, of the Iowa Association of Long Beach, said they are in the process of planning the 114th gathering slated for sometime later this year. About 80 to 90 people usually show up – down from the 100,000 she said used to attend.

The meaning of the “LBC” is hotly debated.  It’s been said to mean “Long Beach City”, “Long Beach/Compton” or “Long Beach Crips”. I’m not sure which it is, but I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not Louisiana Baptist Convention, Linux Based Cluster, or Loose Bladder Construction as Google would have you believe. For the true meaning, you might ask Snoop D-O-double-G.

“The Aquatic Capital of America” is a relatively new one. The City Council approved the name in 2008 after efforts by a committee led by Tom Shadden. According to aquaticcapital.org, Shadden’s goal was to market the city’s aquatic activities to the public.

Long Beach’s push for bikes, bike infrastructure and bike safety, has produced the self appointed, “Most Bike Friendly City in America” – a quick look at bicycle.com’s rankings show Long Beach is actually No. 19. But, that’s up 23 in the most recent ranking. The term “Bike Friendly” was coined by the late Mark Bixby, an avid cyclist, about five years ago. Simply put, it means making bicycle riders a priority.

Got a nickname suggestion for our city? Send it, or any other questions, to MrLongBeach@LBregister.com.

Mr. Long Beach Fun Fact: Newspaper ads in the early 1950s touted homes in the Orange County neighborhood of Rossmoor as “Long Beach’s Smartest Suburb” – as time went on, the slogan changed to, “Southern California’s Smartest New Suburb…Near Long Beach.”

MR. LONG BEACH: Hidden House History

In my primary role as a chief photographer at the Long Beach Register I spend a lot of time on the streets. I love the history of this city and will admit I spend a fair amount of time lamenting all the historic buildings that have been torn down in the name of progress.

Last week I wrote about the Jergins Trust building – of which the only remains are a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard downtown. This week I decided to look into some historic buildings that are still standing.

If you look closely you’ll find bits of Long Beach’s past in the homes nestled between post-war bungalows and modern businesses across the city. There are a number of houses I often wonder about.

Who would build such a skinny house? 

Ripley’s Believe It or Not called it “America’s Thinnest House,” and it’s been recognized by the Guinness folks as the “nation’s skinniest house.”

The home at 706 Gladys Avenue sits on a 10-by-50-foot lot, but the house is about 9 feet wide. It was built in 1932 as a bet. It’s a three-story Tudor style home.

As the story goes, the lot was created by a surveying oversight. Nelson Rummond, a construction firm employee, accepted the small lot as a repayment for a $100 loan. People told Rummond the lot was too small to build on – he set out to prove them wrong.

Attorney William John Cox ran his law practice from the Skinny House from 1977 and 1981. It is the office he used to prosecute the Holocaust denial case.

What’s behind those gates?

It’s probably Long Beach’s first gated community and it’s called La Linda – meaning The Pretty.

A home at 11 La Linda Drive was built in the 1890s for George Bixby on 10 acres of farmland. The nine-bedroom, seven-bath, 7,000-square-foot house took three years to build. Although ranch operations stopped in 1910, Bixby lived in the house until his death in 1920. The land was then subdivided and lots were sold.

Today the neighborhood is a mix of American Colonial, Spanish and mid-century homes. The gates prevent you from driving past this mansion, but a quick look at Google Maps satellite view shows its impressive size.  

House with a hall?

In 1907, William Kale built and lived in the home on the southwest corner of Linden Avenue and Ninth Street. According to Long Beach historic landmark documents, Kale built a lavish house – spending $4,500 – as compared to the usual $1,500 of the time.

E.T. Bell and Rolla Alford, a music teacher, moved into the home in 1931. Bell built an addition to the house – a music hall. During the Great Depression and World War II, Alford turned the prestigious house into an art center. The hall would later become the Alford Arts Academy.

At some point in the last century the hall was occupied by Church of Religious Science, then Temple Beth-El. Today it is a meeting center for Mental Health America’s Wellness Center.

There are a lot more stories hidden in the homes of Long Beach. Who knows what stories are hidden in your neighborhood?

MR. LONG BEACH: A Peek in to Long Beach’s Underground

 

Q. I would like to know what happened to the areas that were under the street level in downtown Long Beach. I remember seeing the square glass blocks in the sidewalks on Third Street, east of Pine Avenue. I know there were shops down there as my dad and I went into them. This was in the ‘50s. Are those areas still there and are there pictures? — Dave Flores, Long Beach resident since 1950

A. As far as I can tell, there aren’t any shops underground on Third Street east of Pine Avenue. But that’s not to say there weren’t shops under Long Beach in the 1950s.

The only building on Third Street east of Pine Avenue that has a basement is F&M Bank. According to a manager in the historic building, the underground is used for bank business. It was never open to the public.

You’re question is a good one and was fun because it forced me to explore the underside of Long Beach. Here’s what I found.

The Rowen/Bradley building, built in the early 1930s, sits in the 200 block of North Pine Avenue has a basement with rental space. The below-street level space was added in the 1980s – so it’s probably not what you’re remembering. The only things down there now are an e-cigerette shop and Taco Beach offices.

The best bet for underground shops was the Jergins Subway/Arcade. The passage was a walkway under Ocean Boulevard that led pedestrians from the north side of Ocean Boulevard, under the street, then into the arcade on the ground floor of the Jergins Trust Building. The tunnel still exists today, but it is closed to the public.

The Jergins Trust Building, built in 1917, was at the southeast corner of Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue. The subway was added in 1927. According to Del Davis, Long Beach public service manager, the underground walkway was built because 2,000 people a day were crossing the street to get to the waterfront – 4,000 a day on the weekends.

During the Depression shops were allowed in the tunnel. By the 1950s the shops were gone. However, the arcade on the ground floor of the building, at the south end of the tunnel, remained. The tunnel was sealed up in 1967 when the city widened Ocean Boulevard.

The building was destroyed in 1988 to make room for a hotel that never appeared.

You can still have fun under Long Beach today.

If you’re looking for live music, check out Harvelle’s under the Insurance Exchange Building on the downtown Promenade. The Federal Bar, in the Security Building on First Street and Pine Avenue, has two ways to hang out under the city – live music at the Federal Underground or grab a drink and some grub at the Parlour Lounge.

And Dave, if your’e still looking for those glass blocks in the sidewalk, there are some right in front of the Broadlind on Linden Avenue, just south of Broadway.

From queries about the history of Long Beach, to “Can my neighbor raise bees in his backyard,” Mr. Long Beach will find the answers. I am Mr. Long Beach. Send your questions to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com.

 

MR. LONG BEACH: What’s Breaking with the Breakwater

02.lbr.mrlongbeach.0105.jag

Q. What’s the status of the breakwater?
— Lauren Williams, Belmont Heights

A. We are “further along today then ever before in the history of the breakwater” toward ecosystem restoration, according to Vice Mayor Robert Garcia.

But what does that mean? 

The breakwater is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As much as city leaders would like to alter it, they can’t. At least not without working with the Corps.

The Feds required the city to pay for half the cost of an ecosystem recovery study before any decisions are made about the breakwater. The Corps of Engineers will pay the rest.

Years ago the City of Long Beach set aside $4 million of Tidelands funds to pay for its share of the study. Last year the price tag on that study dropped to $3 million.

Garcia said the city agreed to pony up 75 percent of that money, or $2.25 million, to get the ball rolling. He expects it to start early this year.

The Vice Mayor stressed that his, and the city’s, goal is to do as much ecosystem restoration as possible without damage to homes and other assets. He added that could mean altering the breakwater, removing sections or something completely different – it depends on the results of the study.

What IS the breakwater?

The Long Beach Breakwater, one of the world’s largest, is an 8.4-mile rocky force field about 2 1/2 miles from the coast that keeps waves at bay and prevents erosion. It was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1941 to 1949.

Sitting in about 50 feet of water and rising 10 feet above sea level, the barrier was built to protect the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet that was stationed in the city. The Navy left in 1996 and that’s when serious debate started about changing, or removing, the breakwater.

When it comes to the line of Santa Catalina Island rocks off our coast, everyone has an opinion. Most people seem to be in favor of tearing it down. However, some believe that the breakwater is the only thing protecting multi-million dollar homes on the Peninsula.

The consensus is that if we tear down the breakwater, the surf – and surfers – will return. That may be the hope of many. But, the surf may not return. Mr. Long Beach remembers covering a breakwater story long ago where an engineer explained that since the Port of Long Beach now extends much further then it did in the 1930s there will never be surf like there once was.

As for the city, surf may be a by product, but officials are sticking to their stated goal of “ecosystem restoration.”

In the end, it’s all guess work. Will the surf return? Will the Peninsula homes fall? Will anything ever be done with the breakwater? Only time will tell.

From queries about the history of Long Beach to questions about your neighborhood, Mr. Long Beach will find the answers. Send your questions to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com

 

MR. LONG BEACH: Picturing Sunsets

20131218-01.mrlongbeach.1229.jag

Here is my sixth Sunday Column.

Put away the menorah, hide the Festivus pole and say goodbye to St. Nick. It’s that time of year again – time to take pictures of sunsets. At least that’s what Mr. Long Beach’s Facebook feed is telling him.

Of the many years Mr. Long Beach has been covering the city, there has been one photographic constant – beautiful winter sunsets. Show up at Rosie’s Dog Beach or Hilltop Park in Signal Hill any afternoon around sundown and the shutterbugs are everywhere.

The sun sets every day, so why are some evenings better than others?

First, let’s get the scientific stuff out of the way. During the day, the sky appears blue because the light has a short path through the atmosphere. The selective scattering of sunlight by air molecules – yes, scatter is a scientific term – and the human eye’s ability to see certain colors give us blue sky.

The late-afternoon light has a longer journey, giving the blue more time to scatter out of the spectrum of visible light. So basically, the red and orange light travel farther than blue.

What makes a good sunset picture?

There are a couple factors that go in to a good sunset picture. Most important are people – or dogs – and clouds.

Clouds create a ceiling and give your picture depth. Because of Long Beach’s position on the West Coast, the city often misses big winter storms, but it gains the high-level clouds from the outskirts of those storms.

People in the picture will give you a personal connection and help set scale. The easiest thing to do is a silhouette. If you’re adventurous with camera gear, try using a flash to light up your subjects.

What about sunrises?

If you’re a morning person, you can get some great sunrise photos, too. Some of the same principles apply.

When Mr. Long Beach consulted his colleague, former Long Beach photographer Bruce Chambers who shoots for the Orange County Register, he says the key to great sunrise photos are thin clouds in the east and being prepared to photograph long before the sun appears.

Chambers added, “You can also improve a sunrise/sunset if you chose an interesting foreground. Shooting in a wide-open area such as hilltop, beach or river allows you to declutter the foreground.”

What else can I shoot at sunset?

Photographers call it magic hour – that time of day when, for a short while, the light is soft and warm and makes everything look pretty. It’s a great time to photograph your family.

Instead of shooting the sunset, turn around, put the giant flaming ball behind you, and watch the golden light bathe your subjects.

Most importantly, make sure you know how to use your camera in manual mode. According to Chambers, under-exposing a sunrise or sunset image tends to produce richer colors.

The light changes rapidly as the sun goes down and the more familiar you are with your camera, the better pictures you’ll make. Smartphones are a little trickier, but not impossible. Download an app that lets you control your camera settings and, most importantly – have fun!

From queries about the history of Long Beach to questions about your neighborhood, Mr. Long Beach will find the answers. Send your questions to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com.

 

MR. LONG BEACH: How to Live in a Bike Friendly City

20131219-01.lbr.mrlongbeach.1222.jag

Here is my fifth Sunday column and the accompanying Mystery Photo. The picture is construction of test pilings for the bridge that will replace the Gerald Desmond in the Port of Long Beach. 

A number of bike-related questions have come Mr. Long Beach’s way this week. Instead of picking just one, here’s the lowdown on bicycles in the city.

Mr. Long Beach has been covering this city for a long time – over 20 years – and if there is one thing that has popped up more then anything else in the past five of those years, it’s bikes.

There have been countless bike-themed press events, from the sharrows – shared bike lanes – on Second Street to the Vista Street bike boulevard to the Tour of Long Beach.

Long Beach bills itself as “The Most Bike Friendly City in America.” Personally, Mr. Long Beach would prefer the city work more on being “business friendly” – but that’s another column for a different Sunday.

What does “bike friendly” mean?

According to Allan Crawford, the city’s bicycle coordinator, the term “Bike Friendly” was coined by the late Mark Bixby, an avid cyclist, about five years ago.

Simply put, it means making bicycle riders a priority. Crawford said that being bike friendly means: A city where anyone from age 8 to age 80 feels comfortable riding their bike, where the courtesy of bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians counts, and where businesses encourage bicycling and walking.

Part of making the city bike friendly is providing secure places to lock bikes. In 2010 the city used federal grant money to purchase 2,000 bike racks. Some look like a slice of pizza, a coffee cup or a guitar – they are often themed to go with the adjoining business. Crawford said the city has placed about 1,500 of the racks. Any business wanting one can make a request from the city. The only stipulation is that the rack must be on public land.

What do I need to know about riding my bike in Long Beach?

Crawford said it is illegal to ride on a sidewalk in a business district, but it is perfectly fine to ride on a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood as long as you keep it under 12 mph.

When Mr. Long Beach examined the city bicycle code he found the usual government gobbledygook. Mixed in with the legal jargon were these tidbits:

The code defines a bicycle as a “device propelled by human power upon which any person may ride, having two (2) tandem wheels either of which is twenty inches (20″) or more in diameter” – so apparently unicycles and tricycles are not covered.

Anyone operating a bicycle on the road can’t ride more than two abreast.

No person shall operate a bicycle on a sidewalk unless it is equipped with a bell, horn or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet.

What’s new to biking in Long Beach?

Coming to the city in 2014 is Bike Share. Crawford explained it as a pay service that enables short-term use of bikes on a temporary basis. There will be multiple racks around the city. A rider can check out a bike at one rack and return it at another.

How can I stay safe on my bike?

After the city added protected bike lanes on Broadway and Third Street in Downtown the accident rate dropped by 50 percent – not just bicycle accidents, but also auto collisions. Crawford said it’s the up side to adding bike lanes – the road gets narrower and traffic slows. He added there has been a similar drop in traffic collisions along Vista Street where roundabouts have been installed.

The No. 1 cause of injury or death to bicyclists is riding against traffic on a roadway. Crawford said that if you “act like a driver and use common sense” you should be just fine.

From queries about the history of Long Beach to questions about your neighborhood, Mr. Long Beach will find the answers. Send your questions to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com

 

MR. LONG BEACH: What’s up with the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool Replacement?

Here is my fourth Sunday Column.

EDITOR’S NOTE: City officials have announced the temporary pool will open on December 19 at 4 P.M. This information came in after the column went to press.

Q. When will the new outdoor stadium pool be finished? It has been a construction mess for a while. – John Futch, Belmont Heights

A. The temporary replacement for the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool is slated to open soon. City officials have not picked an exact date, but they’ve assured Mr. Long Beach it will open sometime this week.

The $4.6 million swim arena is a 50-by-25-meter Olympic-size pool – the depth varies from 3 1⁄2 feet to 6 1⁄2 feet. It features covered seating and a movable di- vider with starting blocks for racing. Swimmers will still have to use the lockers in the old building.

Long Beach residents will be able to use the new pool for almost all of the same activities as the Belmont – open swim, competition and lessons. Everything except diving.

The Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool, once known as “The Taj Ma-hal” of swim stadiums, opened in 1968 and hosted the U.S. Olym- pic Swim Trials that year, sending athletes to Mexico City for the Summer Games. The natatorium also was home to the Olympic trials in 1976 that saw

Greg Louganis competing to go to Montreal and the NCAA championships in 1974 and 1978.

The Greek modern pool facility has been used for countless commercials, TV shows and movies, includ- ing portions of the final scene of James Cameron’s “Ti- tanic.”

Mr. Long Beach has fond memories, and pictures too, of his Little Beacher swimming at the million- gallon pool.

On Jan. 10, the Belmont pool was temporarily closed after an evaluation indicated the facility was seismical- ly unsafe. In February, the city of Long Beach an- nounced “the Belmont Pool must be permanently shut- tered to ensure the safety of the community.”

The plan is to tear down the building that houses the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool and build a replacement. According to Eric Lopez, Tidelands Capital Projects program manager, the temporary pool will be reused as part of the permanent new facility; diving will be in- cluded in the building that replaces the Belmont.

The temporary pool is similar to the ones the city used when it hosted the 2004 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials for the Athens Summer Games.

Mr. Long Beach remembers photographing world- class swimmers like Michael Phelps, Amanda Beard and Aaron Peirsol as they broke world records in downtown Long Beach. Hopefully the facility that re- places the Belmont will bring the same excitement and high profile events to the Shore.

MR. LONG BEACH: No pate, but special beef at Kelly’s replacement

The former site of Kelly's of Naples is undergoing a transformation to Chianina Steakhouse. The new restaurant is scheduled to open on Dec. 15.

The former site of Kelly’s of Naples is undergoing a transformation to Chianina Steakhouse. The new restaurant is scheduled to open on Dec. 15.

 

Here is my third Sunday column.

Q. My friends and I are devastated that Kelly’s in Naples is no more. Their paté at the beginning of every meal was always a highlight. We have actually carried a container of it aboard an airplane on several occasions when we traveled to Portland, Oregon to visit friends who were pining for its creamy deliciousness. Please find out if Michael will be making this Long Beach tradition part of his new steakhouse.
–Rosemary Sissons, University Park Estates

A. No, you won’t be able to get the paté you loved at the restaurant replacing Kelly’s.

Michael Dane, the new owner of the former Kelly’s in Naples Restaurant, said they will have all sorts of paté, but not the exact paté that Kelly’s served – nor will it be placed on every table like the former restaurant.

Kelly’s, which opened in 1958, closed earlier this year. The closure was wrought with “he said, she saids” that involved locks being drilled out and changed, then replaced, then drilled out again and somewhere in between, a good portion of the restaurant’s equipment was shuffled out the door. It’s a complicated story that Mr. Long Beach won’t get into here, because, well … it’s complicated.

Dane said he has nothing to do with the old troubles and he doesn’t own the rights to use the Kelly’s name. “Kelly’s was a tradition” he said, “but we are going to create a new tradition and maintain a steakhouse at that location.”

When asked about comparisons to Kelly’s, the oldest steakhouse in the city, Dane simply said his new restaurant, name Chianina, is going to be, “Long Beach’s newest steakhouse.” He added, “We are not hopeful, we are sure we will make this successful.” This will be his third restaurant on Naples Island.

Dane said he hopes to create a “gourmet food alley that not only includes my restaurants, but also Naples Sushi, the Rib Company, K.C. Branaghan’s and more.” He added, “I’d like to see an expansion of dining that’s different from the national brands on Second Street.”

Chianina, meaning white cow, is named for a 2000-year-old Italian breed of cattle that Dane is raising and breeding in Oregon specifically for this restaurant at 5716 E. 2nd St.

Michael Dane is slated to open the new steakhouse Dec. 15. His company, Michael’s Restaurant Group, also owns Michael’s on Naples and Michael’s Pizzeria.

Mr. Long Beach’s Fun Fact: During World War II, two exterior cement boxes were built on the roof of The Breakers in Downtown Long Beach for defense. The Sky Room restaurant at the top of the building became the official Airwatch Headquarters for Long Beach Harbor. One of the boxes still is atop the south side of the tower.

From queries about the history of Long Beach, to “Can my neighbor raise bees in his backyard,” Mr. Long Beach will find the answers. I am Mr. Long Beach. Send your questions to MrLongBeach@lbregister.com.

 

MR. LONG BEACH: Why no football team in Long Beach?


Here is my second Sunday column. It ran with the mystery photo above.

Q. “Why aren’t there any football teams in Long Beach?”
– Little Beacher, 7

A. When Mr. Long Beach’s 7-year-old son, Little Beacher, found out he was doing this column on Sundays he said, “Daddy, I have a question for you. Why doesn’t Long Beach have a football team?” This was surprising for Mr. Long Beach because the Little Beacher isn’t the most athletic kid and his questions usually revolve around Legos, Star Wars or animals.

Mr. Long Beach explained to him that there are football teams in the city. The high schools play every Friday during football season and Long Beach City College plays on the weekends.

His response, “No, I meant a real football team” – Yikes! The kids at Poly would surely disagree with him.

Long Beach has seen its share of professional, yet short lived, sports teams: The Ice Dogs hockey team, The Barracuda and Armada baseball teams, Long Beach Stingrays basketball team and the California Surf indoor soccer team to name just a few. Even the Los Angeles Kings played part of their first season as an NHL expansion team at the Long Beach Arena in 1967.

Getting back to my Little Beacher’s question, semi-pro football flirted with Long Beach in the 1960s and 1970s when teams such as the Mustangs, the Generals and the Admirals played at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Female football had a presence in Long Beach too, albeit with a decidedly feminine name – the Los Angeles Dandelions, a professional women’s tackle football team, debuted at Vets Stadium in 1973. The team lasted seven years.

In 2004, Long Beach firefighter Gary Biggerstaff launched a website and started a personal campaign to bring the NFL to Long Beach. The team Biggerstaff dreamed of had no owner and no financial backing, but that didn’t stop him from trying to get the city of Long Beach to meet with the football league. He spent half a year and a couple thousand dollars trying to get the city to meet with the NFL. Signs reading “Bring the NFL to Long Beach” started popping up all over the Eastside.

Mr. Long Beach remembers the cold shoulder Biggerstaff got from the City Council when he urged them to entertain the idea of bringing an NFL team to the city.

Biggerstaff’s idea was to put the stadium on Boeing property north of the airport – at the time it was a ghost town of Long Beach aviation – nothing but empty buildings where great planes were once built. Biggerstaff told Mr. Long Beach: “I’m a big fan of football. I live here and work here.” He said his pursuit wasn’t just for love of the game, but that there would have been, “Layers of financial reward” for the city too.

Mr. Long Beach’s Fun Fact: More then 60 NFL players have come from Long Beach Poly – more than any other high school in the country.

 

 

MR. LONG BEACH: Introducing … Mr. Long Beach!

This mystery photo is a portion of a depression-era floor mosaic by Works Progress Administration artist Grace Clements at the Long Beach Airport. The mosaic was discovered in 2012 when workers lifted decades-old carpet from the first floor of the historic terminal. The portion of the mural pictured shows a hand dialing a telephone with a switchboard above. Other parts of the 72-year old artwork include an oil well, a ship, a large map and a city seal. The elements were supposed to convey Long Beach’s origins in aviation, oil and communications. According to the airport’s web site, the floor was designed to "enrich the experience of the traveler, and evoke a larger context for air travel with allusions to other forms of transportation and communication in the world.”  .

MYSTERY PHOTO: This is a portion of a depression-era floor mosaic by Works Progress Administration artist Grace Clements at the Long Beach Airport. The mosaic was discovered in 2012 when workers lifted decades-old carpet from the first floor of the historic terminal. The portion of the mural pictured shows a hand dialing a telephone with a switchboard above. Other parts of the 72-year old artwork include an oil well, a ship, a large map and a city seal. The elements were supposed to convey Long Beach’s origins in aviation, oil and communications. According to the airport’s web site, the floor was designed to “enrich the experience of the traveler, and evoke a larger context for air travel with allusions to other forms of transportation and communication in the world.”
.

Here is my first Sunday column in the Long Beach Register. The idea is simple – I’m using my knowledge of Long Beach to answer reader questions. Sometimes the column will be a simple q&a, sometimes I’ll include a mystery photo (see above) – the winner gets a prize and sometimes I’ll simply write about a picture.

Q. What’s happening with the old Munro’s Furniture building on the corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Stearns Street?

– Paula Gibbs Nathan, California Heights

A. Simply put … nothing.

There was a Planning Commission meeting at the end of last year where the building owner requested approval for a code variance to convert it into a retail center with only 38 parking spaces. The commission suggested approving it, but nothing has happened since.

For Mr. Long Beach what’s happening today – or more accurately – what’s not happening today, isn’t as interesting as what was happening on that corner over the last 66 years.

Mr. Long Beach consulted his super-secret archives buried deep inside the Jergins subway and found out that in 1947 you could buy five pounds of apples for 19 cents or get sirloin steak for 69 cents a pound on that corner.

No, the furniture store didn’t sell food – an Alpha Beta market stood at that very spot for 20 years. It closed in early 1964.

After the market closed a variety of furniture stores occupied the 17,837-square-foot building including; RB Furniture, Wall Units, Inc and, finally, Munro’s Furniture.

As far as the future, Mr. Long Beach would love to see something creative done with the space.

When Mrs. Long Beach heard about the site said she’d like to see it become a bounce-house business for our little beachers. But, sadly, the reality is that it will probably get sliced up and be home to a Starbucks, Flame Broiler and a Sprint Store, or some variation.

Be assured, Mr. Long Beach will keep his lens pointed at that corner and keep you updated.

From queries about the history of Long Beach, to “Can my neighbor raise bees in his backyard,” Mr. Long Beach will find the answers. I am Mr. Long Beach. Send me your questions, and I’ll answer them.

Mr. Long Beach’s Fun Fact: According to a report by USA Today in 2000, Long Beach is the most ethnically diverse large city in the United States.