By: Annie Greenfeld
(Minor edits and changes have been made to this community submission)
Mission Impossible: April 2012, Wrigley River Run training, we learned the bad news for the neighborhood: a title lender wants to move into the pivotal gateway corner of Wrigley Village at Pacific Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). That was when this all began and at that time it did seem like we had no choice but to accept the inevitable predatory lending business from moving in. A lobbyist for the title lending company goes to the neighborhood group meetings to explain what the company is about. The answers they gave to questions were always vague and that they are a legal business and they’re coming in, get used to it. Our mission was set: we had to figure out a way to stop that from happening.
Next move: the petition of over 250 names for our petition; the letter writing to Council Members, to planning staff, and to the Planning Commissioners. Next at the Planning hearing for the auto title lender, the Commissioners vote 3-2 to deny the application. Then another Commission meeting so the city can present findings of denial. The Commissioners deadlock at 3-3 and now it was tied. The predatory lender appealed and so did we. The neighborhood appellants were: Central Project Area Council represented by Jack Smith and Annie Greenfeld, South Wrigley Neighborhood Advisory Group represented by Annie Greenfeld, Wrigley Association represented by Sammy Portillo and Colleen McDonald, as well as Wrigley advocates, Mauna Eichner, Lee Fukui and Lisa Wibroe.
On November 20, the hearing takes place. The lender criticized the neighborhood. The neighborhood talked about RDA’s investments in Pacific Avenue and pointed out the improvements made by RDA. We showed a picture of another lender just 280 feet away. We really brought home how the neighborhood has been working for years to revitalize the Wrigley Village corridor and that allowing a predatory lender would be a huge step backwards. We even got technical on inappropriate and detrimental land use issues. In the end, our presentation worked and on November 20, 2012, the City Council voted unanimously to deny the Conditional Use Permit application and to protect the citizens of Long Beach. We are so grateful for every single vote and are particularly thankful for the wisdom imparted by Council Members Gerrie Schipske, Gary DeLong, and Suja Lowenthal. We would also like to thank Building Healthy Communities Steering Committee for their supportive letter.
This opportunity has led to an education campaign, led by community member going out to community groups to educate them about predatory lending. This will also lead to policy change working with City and staff on their zoning ordinance and also in working with the State Legislature to get legislation adopted on the state level to end this loophole that allows these types of predatory businesses.
These meetings at the City Council and Planning Commission also led to a year-long moratorium on any new predatory lending businesses from applying for a permit.