Today we’re talking to Austin Metoyer, Economic Development & Policy Manager for Downtown Long Beach Alliance
Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating, preserving, and promoting a healthy, safe, and prosperous Downtown, in cooperation with the City of Long Beach and the private sector. The DLBA supports the businesses and property owners within Downtown Long Beach, and are champions of its ongoing development.
Please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in Long Beach, and attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School and Long Beach State University. Before graduating from college, I rarely came Downtown, save only to visit the Main Library with my dad on the weekends. After college in 2013, I moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for a real estate planning firm, Brailsford & Dunlavey. I worked in D.C. for three years and would visit family for the holidays. It was then that I started noticing some positive changes that were occurring in Downtown Long Beach, including the rebranding of the Pike as the Pike Outlets and new restaurants along the Promenade. In 2016, I moved back to Long Beach and started working for the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA). At that time, it was called Downtown Long Beach Associates.
Tell us about the Downtown Long Beach Alliance. What is the history of the organization, and what is your overall vision for Long Beach?
The Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) was established by Downtown merchants in 1937 to establish a resource to promote the Pine Avenue Corridor. At that time, the organization was known as Downtown Long Beach Associates. Since then, the organization has grown in scope and programming and changed its name from Associates to Alliance to denote the shift from a business-focused organization to a community-focused organization. In 2019, the organization operates the two business improvement districts in Downtown Long Beach, with a geographical footprint that goes as far north as 10th Street and as far south as the waterfront. The DLBA represents over 1,600 businesses in Downtown and 4,000 commercial and residential property owners.
Downtown Long Beach is undergoing a “Renaissance.” Please explain what that means and how the DLBA was instrumental.
The renaissance that Downtown Long Beach is experiencing is a result of several initiatives that the DLBA partnered with the City of Long Beach, Council Districts 1 and 2, and several community and neighborhood organizations. This renaissance has included the expansion and diversity of the Downtown food and bar scene and some new retail options that aren’t just big brand retailers, resulting in the growth in a number of independent and uniquely Long Beach shops. We have also experienced an increase in the Downtown residential population.
The Downtown Plan, also known as PD-30, is the long-range planning document for most of Downtown Long Beach. The Downtown Plan was supported by the DLBA and championed by former Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal and then former Councilman, now Mayor, Robert Garcia. The Downtown Plan anticipated growth in residential, commercial office, and retail, and provided the development community with a clear roadmap on how to get there.
In the last seven years, we’ve seen a willingness from the public sector to invest in much-needed infrastructure. This investment included the Civic Center Project, the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse project, the Gerald Desmond Bridge project, and the passage of Measure A. This was a signal to the development and business communities that Long Beach and Downtown Long Beach were ready and willing to make huge strides in improving the overall quality of life.
As a champion for ongoing development in Downtown Long Beach, how did the DLBA supported Deco?
As noted, the DLBA was a champion of the planning document called the Downtown Plan. The Downtown Plan outlined anticipated residential development for Downtown, with roughly 5,000 units projected. The DLBA has supported the development of housing at all levels, from affordable to market-rate throughout our Downtown. We supported the development of the Deco because the project not only aligned with our strategic plan, but also brought online nearly 100 more units of desperately needed housing.
What are some of the activities and initiatives DBLA is currently implementing? What is their impact?
The DLBA has several programmatic areas to help facilitate a vibrant and healthy Downtown.
Public Space Activation & Corridor Beautification
The DLBA recognizes the importance of updating our existing City wayfinding system, as we’ve long been advocates for improving pedestrian connectivity within Downtown, particularly between the Downtown Core and the Waterfront; and the East Village and Downtown Core. As such, we’ve funded the design phase of the pedestrian wayfinding system, and partnered with the City to ensure new pedestrian signage is consistent with the overall Long Beach wayfinding system
Also, Downtown will now find some of its sidewalks adorned with pedestrian-oriented directional decals as a part of a new connectivity project. The “Explore DTLB” sidewalk decal project was initiated by the DLBA’s Public Realm Committee out of a desire to identify tactical and relatively inexpensive solutions to foster pedestrian connectivity within and between DTLB’s neighborhoods. The project aims to encourage the on-foot exploration of Downtown’s unique neighborhoods by using bold and distinctive decals strategically placed on Downtown sidewalks.
In 2017, the DLBA commissioned artist Hataya Tubtim to create the first crosswalk art project in Downtown Long Beach. The goal of the project was to further support a vibrant pedestrian environment by adding a sense of delight and discovery to the public realm. Five unique designs were installed on Pine Avenue between 1st Street and 7th Street in March 2017. Each design recognizes the legacy of the human enterprise during the first century of Long Beach’s development while acknowledging the importance of a vibrant marine environment along our coast.
The Downtown Long Beach Clean Team is dedicated to beautifying our community. Starting their day early, team members sweep away litter and debris before shops open and throughout the day. Clean Team services go above and beyond what is provided by the City, including pressure washing, graffiti removal, and more.
Our Safety Ambassadors are highly trained staff that patrol the streets of the central business district on foot, bike and Segway 12-18 hours a day. They serve as friendly goodwill ambassadors by welcoming residents, workers, and visitors. Safety Ambassadors also assist in overall crime prevention by working closely with the Long Beach Police Department.
The DLBA’s Homeless Outreach Specialist works to build relationships with our Downtown homeless population, and assist them in accessing local resources and social service agencies. With this service, the DLBA can provide specialized attention to overcome barriers to assist our homeless neighbors, including street outreach, collaboration, and data sharing with city and community partners by working closely with the Long Beach Police Department.
The DLBA annually produces signature events, which are always free and open to the public. Our events appeal to a wide array of audiences, and we hope residents, businesses, and visitors will come out to enjoy them. We are currently in our summer event season, which includes Taste of Downtown, a three-event series; and two KWCR Summer Nights events – one with POW! WOW! Long Beach on July 27 and the other with Summer & Music on September 7. We continue to host our monthly music event, Live After 5, every third Thursday of the month. You can visit our website to learn more about our upcoming events.
What are you most proud of, and what sets the DLBA apart?
I’m most proud of the DLBA’s ability to bring a number of Downtown stakeholders and interest groups together to push for a common goal. The DLBA has always strived to push Downtown Long Beach in a positive direction, and that requires creating an environment that is inclusive of all perspectives, but provides the necessary leadership to get there.
What do you love about Long Beach? Do you have a favorite neighborhood? What do you enjoy doing when you’re there?
I love that Long Beach is a big little city. It doesn’t overwhelm you with towering buildings like Los Angeles or feel the suburbs in Orange County; it provides a nice blend of the two. Long Beach has so many diverse neighborhoods and a diversity of architectural styles, from mid-century modern to Spanish style, bungalows, and old Victorians. I love exploring the various neighborhoods like the Santa Fe Corridor, Uptown, Bixby Knolls, Wrigley, Alamitos Beach, and Cambodia Town. However, my favorite neighborhood is where I live and work, and that is in Downtown Long Beach. Downtown offers so many options when it comes to food and entertainment. I enjoy grabbing a beer at Beachwood or Congregation on Friday afternoons. I enjoy being able to run to the Lions Lighthouse early in the morning and being able to jump on the AquaLink and enjoy a drink as you cruise across the bay.
Grand Opening: My Pediatrics & Respiratory Care Clinic
Image courtesy of DLBA
Sidewalk Decal Installation – Wayfinding Program
Image courtesy of DLBA
Taste of Downtown East Village Event
Image courtesy of DLBA
1 Million Cups Long Beach
Image courtesy of DLBA
Title photo: Austin Metoyer
Image courtesy of Long Beach Business Journal
Business Address: 100 W Broadway #120, Long Beach, CA 90802
Deco blog celebrates entrepreneurs, creatives, business leaders, and other influencers who are making an impact in Long Beach. These amazing people share their inspiring stories in their own voice, and give a personal perspective on what makes our community such a great place to work, live and play.