City of Long Beach Suburbanization and Race - Historic Context Statement
Historic context statements are studies that serve as tools to help inform planning efforts and evaluations of places of potential historical significance. In 2019, the City of Long Beach commissioned the context statement to capture the under-told story of the city’s diversity, housing segregation, and fight for civil rights.
In the post-World War II era, the city aggressively annexed adjacent farmland and orange groves in competition with new cities being established nearby, which resulted in a significant expansion of residential development, much of which was influenced by exclusionary practices. Because of this boom in the early 1950s of racially divided residential development, Long Beach become a central player in the fight for fair housing in Southern California.
Community outreach was the key component for the success of this project. Outreach activities included the creation of an advisory committee composed of historians, community advocates, and members of neighborhood organizations to provide guidance and input at key points of the project. A series of community meetings were held with specific geographic and ethnic/cultural groups to provide members of the community the opportunity to participate in the project to ensure that their story was accurately represented.
Documenting difficult history is challenging, but projects like this help advance historic preservation in Los Angeles County by actively promoting inclusion at the city level in preservation planning efforts and by opening doors for preservation incentives to previously underrepresented communities.
The City of Long Beach serves as an important example of how preservation planning needs to evolve to meet future need and the project received a Preservation Award from the L.A. Conservancy in 2023.