Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune
The turn of a new decade inspired Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia to take a historical approach during his speech at the 2020 State of the City Address on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
His opening remarks took the audience all the way back to the 1800s, and spoke about Long Beach’s role throughout historical events–– from the roaring 20s to WWII.
He said that history has proven that Long Beach can adapt and thrive to new challenges, and that this will continue to be the City’s mindset in the new decade.
Garcia said that the current development plan for downtown had become “obsolete” and that it was “time for a reinvention.”
The city council passed the Downtown Plan initiative in 2012, which called for taller buildings, improved infrastructure designs and a revisioning of coastal downtown. He added that later this year, the City should begin working on a new downtown plan that will include “more density and taller buildings, climate resilient structure, more incentives to build [and] new protections for lower income residents.”
While Garcia stated that the original plan has proved successful for infrastructure, there has been push back from some local residents in the past. The Wrigley Association in 2017 sent an open letter to the council, stating their discontent with planning initiatives that placed larger and taller buildings next to small single-family homes.
Homelessness will be the “defining challenge of the next decade,” Garcia said, and the City is taking different approaches to address this, from jailhouse clinicians to social workers embedded in City libraries.
Garcia said he wants to tackle the city’s housing challenges by adopting new “inclusionary zoning policies” to create more opportunities for housing.
“Tonight, I am asking the city council to pass and adopt a policy that ensures the creation of new affordable homes in every new development across our city,” Garcia said.
The mayor added that the City will be analyzing such zoning policies in the coming months.
The mayor closed his address by reassuring the public that the Queen Mary ship “isn’t going anywhere.” He added that management and maintenance issues concerning the iconic vessel had been “in the news” lately.
This was in reference to various articles in the local media, as well as the Signal Tribune, that reported on the ongoing communications between the City and Urban Commons, the development agency currently overseeing the Queen Mary.
He began his remarks by speaking about the ship’s crucial role of transporting Allied forces to European battlefields during WWII across a then hostile Atlantic Ocean.
In 1967, the ship was retired from service and docked in Long Beach, where it opened its doors to the public in 1971.
The ship suffered multiple financial setbacks. In 1980, it lost “millions” for the City, a decade later it lost its partnership with Disney and in 2005, the ship’s operator went bankrupt.
In 2016, Urban Commons took over the ship’s lease, and has been running it to this day.
Garcia said that despite the monetary turmoil, the ship will be treated as a “historical location and [is] worthy of public investment.”
Moving forward, the mayor said that Urban Commons will be releasing an economic-impact report to the public in the next 60 days. In the next 90 days, the development agency will develop a Historical Preservation Blueprint to map out the ship’s maintenance projects. In the fall of 2020, Garcia concluded that Urban Commons will present its development ideas for the 40-acres land that surrounds the ship to the council and the public.
“The Queen Mary is part of this city,” he said. “And she isn’t going anywhere.”