How Long Beach Is Looking At Its Rooted Segregation

LONG BEACH – In the past year and a half, race and the treatment of people of color have been at the forefront of conversation across the globe, arguably due to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, along with the recent influx of hate crimes against the Asian community within the United States. Although redlining, among many other forms of segregation and inequities, has been prominently rooted in history and still holds true today across the country. Although, its reminisce isn’t always as noticeable if you’re not experiencing its effects firsthand.

According to an article written by Brian Addison of KCET, Long Beach was predominately white during the 1920s to 1930s with only about 600 Black citizens. It wasn’t until WWII that the Black community increased significantly to around 6,000 out of 85,000 new residents. Yet due to the war and an insufficient amount of housing, redlining started to creep into Long Beach.

Redlining is the act of discrimination in which real estate and loan agencies would deny or withhold persons of color housing loans and home insurance. The practice is named because of the color-coding of neighborhoods that are “less desirable” (communities of color) usually in red with “better” (white) neighborhoods in green.

As efforts in service for the war were high and working at the defense plant in Carmelitos became the main source of income for low-income citizens – relative to the income for middle-class citizens – the maximum income was then raised in order to be considered for housing in the affordable housing designations.

Addison also reported that the at the time President of the Long Beach Chapter of the NAACP, Mrs. Jay Garland, represented tenants “. . . of the Cabrillo Housing Project in the increasingly Black neighborhood of West Long Beach, the Council had decided weeks before to ‘eliminate substandard housing’ in the development – and thereby displace most Black folk from the much-needed affordable housing.”

Even with the time that has passed, by 2016 private developers had bought the city-owned property without any requirements to uphold residential development plans – which is what the properties were originally made for.

Though Rex Richardson, Vice Mayor, and District 9 Council Member, is hoping to do something about it.

“I think the first thing is acknowledging that it’s not going to be a problem that can be fixed overnight,” said Vice Mayor Rex Richardson. “These were systems that were put in place over a period of decades, and acknowledge where we are today.”

Now, the things people have been demanding: jobs, and addressing homelessness, and housing opportunities, student debt, local decision making, are major major things but this reconstruction is different. It’s going to be decided by local council members, and DA’s, and sheriffs, and mayors.

When one compares maps of low-income households throughout the City of Long Beach today, with maps of racial and ethnic disbursements, they’re similar in divide.

These pockets of low-income households, earning less than $73,100, are more oriented in the West, Central, and North sections of Long Beach, whereas in east Long Beach one will see a more dense population of higher-income households. Thusly meaning that the households that are making less than $73,100 are more likely to be cost-burdened areas; where 30% or more of their income goes towards their rent.

However, the city of Long Beach is reportedly working diligently to fix this.

In the 2021-2029 Housing Element Plan, the city has stated that they are planning on building more affordable housing as well as planning to “promote fair housing choices for all.” Council members are aware of the redlining in the past, the effects that have accrued over generations because of it and are actively trying to address the issue. In their current plan, they’re aiming to alleviate the existing patterns of segregation within housing along with the pockets of low income as stated above.

With the active plan to try and build more affordable housing, the City of Long Beach is also holding meetings throughout the year in order to redistrict Long Beach. If more affordable housing is built, there may be a ripple effect on fixing other inequities, like health issues within the city.

In a study by Long Beach’s Human and Health Services, they compared different factors, including the impacts of housing costs on health in the community.

In the section where they broke down the housing costs in how it relates to health, they claimed that “. . . financial strain makes it harder to make healthy choices, like eating a healthy diet or seeing a doctor when you’re sick.”

Redlining has been nationwide and has started in Long Beach around the 1940s, with its effects being relevant to how housing is developed today. Its ripple spreading to other areas of life from health in the communities to the City of Long Beach being sued currently for allegations of discrimination. Yet redlining has been noticed and the city hopes to fix this problem, which may help alleviate these other inequities within the affected communities.

“We have to reinvest in those very communities that were starved by systemic racism and starved by redlining,” said Richardson, continuing to explain what Central and North Long Beach has been going through.


Jess Gutierrez