`Cambodia Town' is now official
Community jubilant as stretch of Anaheim Street gains designation from city.
By Hanna Chu, Staff writer
Article Launched: 07/03/2007 10:46:27 PM PDT

LONG BEACH - After lengthy discussion and several public comments, the City Council voted 8-1 to designate the stretch of Anaheim Street between Junipero Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard as Cambodia Town.

The area houses many Cambodian businesses, and Long Beach is home to about 17,000 Cambodian-Americans, according to the city.

The council, with Councilman Patrick O'Donnell of the 4th District dissenting, approved the cultural designation and strongly urged the businesses to create a business improvement district.

"This is a historical date for us," said Danny Vong, an Anaheim Street property owner.

The BID, which would consist of area businesses and property owners, would generate funds and decide on issues such as security, graffiti removal and sidewalk repair.

Until a BID is in place, the community will not receive any funds from the city.

After the proposal was introduced in October 2006, the Housing and Neighborhoods Committee commissioned a survey that examined responses from property and business owners within the area.

With 27.4 percent of the 387 mailed surveys completed, the survey found that more than 90 percent of respondents were in favor of designating the rea as Cambodia Town. They also indicated on the survey that they were willing to pay an annual fee of as much as $100.

O'Donnell and 8th District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich voiced their concerns on funding if the city officially created a Cambodia Town without also creating a BID.

"I believe it's critical to have a BID in place before designation. ... You don't want this to be a second thought and only successful for some," Gabelich said.

Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal of the 1st District said she was not concerned about the impact on general funds.

"The Cambodian New Years' Parade was a huge success without any impact to general funds," she said.

Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal of the 2nd District said requiring a BID first would be unprecedented.

"What they've come to us for is the acknowledgment of their years of commitment to this city and a designation that will allow them to celebrate and market this area," she said.

However, a substitute motion to delay the Cambodia Town designation pending the creation of a BID was rejected.

"They came here from Cambodia looking for hope and freedom, and they got that tonight," said 6th District Councilman Dee Andrews.

The council also unanimously approved naming the new community center as Admiral Kidd Park, 2125 Santa Fe Ave., as "Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald Community Center."

Memorabilia given by the late Democratic Congresswoman's family will also be displayed at the site. Millender-McDonald died on April 21 after serving as a representative of the Long Beach area for more than a decade.

Harvey Cochran had urged the council to approve the name.

"Putting a name on a building simply isn't enough," he said. "It's going to be a really great display and I'm looking forward to it."

The skate park proposal was taken off Tuesday's agenda and will come back later because a number of 5th District youth council members were unable to attend the meeting as a result of Fourth of July.

"The kids started the process together, and they deserve to finish the process together," said 5th District Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske in a written statement.

Schipske had presented six suggestions in the proposal in hopes that the park will treat skateboarding as a sport, discouraging youth from negative activity.

The suggestions were to do away with helmet and pad requirements and $200 citations and improving the quality of signs to let skaters know they're skating at their own risk, among other suggestions.

The current proposal pertains only to El Dorado Park West, but the parks commission could decide to include other skate parks in Long Beach, such as Houghton, Drake and 14th Street.

Hanna Chu can be reached at hanna.chu@presstelegram.com or at (562) 499-1476.

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