After five years of progress under his leadership, with unemployment at a historic low, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said this week that the city is no longer the “kid sister” to the City of Los Angeles as it begins to garner newfound respect that it richly deserves.
Powered by one of the largest western ports in the country, the city of Long Beach is, by all measures, booming. “I think we’re finally overcoming the past perception of (Long Beach) being the kid sister of Los Angeles,” said Garcia this week in an interview with the Event-News Enterprise.
“Most people don’t realize that we (Long Beach) has the same population as Atlanta, GA.,” Garcia said, adding that “even though we have some big challenges, we are economically strong.”
Now into his second term as Mayor, the energetic Garcia, absent the U.S. trade war, has the wind at his back as he begins to implement a broad range of new policy initiatives.
Despite the long-held perceptions of Long Beach, Garcia is seeking to push the public and his citizens to claim the respect the city has earned.
Once the home of the Pacific fleet, the City of Long Beach at the turn of the twentieth century was considered among the most progressive cities in the country.
Before the breakwaters and petroleum development altered its beaches, they were considered among the top on the state’s long, golden coast. Art deco architecture created a long-held elegance that, with the help of the city’s architectural community, is only now beginning to re-emerge.
At its heart, said Garcia, “Long Beach is a collection of small, diverse neighborhoods that collectively create communities throughout the city.
In addition to the massive port, Long Beach is home to Cal State Long Beach and a host of other educational institutions that has helped to create innovation. The aerospace and aviation business was once central to the economy as many high tech firms were beginning to flourish. “Long Beach not only has a strong economy,” said Garcia, but also enjoys an excellent health care system, low unemployment and much construction and development.
“We have also worked on public safety issues,” said Garcia, adding that “people have a right to feel safe going to public parks and walking the streets of their neighborhoods.”
Garcia said the city, and the state, may still have work to do to improve housing affordability issues, yet he is proud that there are no homelessness encampments within the city.
While Garcia said Long Beach has taken a pro-active approach to solve problems associated with homelessness, including working closely with churches and other institutions, he said a challenge remains with those suffering with mental health issues.
Finally, Garcia said he retains a “close working relationship” with leaders in nearby communities such as Los Al, Rossmoor and Seal Beach.
Overall, said the mayor, Long Beach is “a great community” that has worked very hard to solve challenges and transform itself for a new generation. While the city still has problems, he said, Long Beach “is a much different place today.”