Deborah Castro

What should the city do when confronted with homeless individuals who refuse to go into a shelter or temporary housing? 

The city has 2,000 homeless individuals. Not only is this a human tragedy, but a safety issue for residents and visitors to our 3rd District and the city as a whole. Mental health and drug addiction are contributors that exacerbate the problem. Potential state legislation could provide more tools for getting homeless individuals into shelters or treatment; however, we need to act urgently to improve public safety, which becomes impacted when businesses, residents, and children are confronted with an unpredictable or threatening person. HHH funding could be directed to our Continuum of Care; Long Beach is one of three cities in the county to offer this program. 

I recommend expanding the Restorative Engagement to Achieve Collective Health (REACH) program and redirecting resources to deploy teams to treat, triage and build trust to help people experiencing homelessness, especially those in crisis. The goal is to move these individuals away from the street and de-escalate the problem. The city needs more staffing to receive the calls and respond based on the specific issue. For example, the program is available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with plans to add weekends. Unfortunately, these issues do not always happen between the prescribed hours. A “Homeless Hotline” would be able to respond in real-time to a crisis to defuse the situation. We must direct more funds to these programs, and I will prioritize this issue as my commitment to public safety.

How would you address crime in the city? 

Crime is not a one-size-fits-all solution. First, we need to identify “Hot Zones” for crime and look at the types of crimes committed, parts of the day, and frequency to evaluate the impact on both human costs and property lost. For our 3rd District, in particular, we need more law enforcement presence. At one time, Belmont Shore had officers embedded in the community as part of a community policing program that built rapport and trust among the community. 

The “Neighborhood Walks” program is currently underway and is rotating by district. However, there is a shortage of police due to budget cuts, which stretches resources thin and creates tradeoffs that affect safety across the city and our district. We need to consider a mosaic of solutions, including more funding for community policing, private security guards for high-impact areas, and other visible safety measures to protect people and commerce. I will place public safety as a top priority and look for immediate solutions for now with a vision toward long-term, sustainable safety measures.

The state is requiring Long Beach to make room for 26,502 new housing units by 2029. How should the 3rd District be a part of that plan?  

The 3rd District has approved new multifamily units for the Southeast Area Specific plan on Pacific Coast Highway. Any additional new housing developments must be balanced with the integrity and character of our neighborhoods. Our district is very dense and adding more units would affect the enjoyment of our recreation, dining, and shopping. ADUs are currently having a significant impact and contribute to our overcrowded parking and streets. We need policies that can help mitigate these issues. After the pandemic, the workplace dynamic has changed, and commercial office space is being redefined.

I am willing to consider amending our zoning in commercial areas to accommodate housing and mixed-use developments; specifically, warehouses or offices located in affordable areas could accommodate more units without contributing to congestion or reduced green space. The number of housing units mandated by SCAG (Southern California Association of Governments) for Long Beach, and the timeframe to get them built, will be challenging. The city should be planning now to meet the needs of our community, and the inevitable population growth, through realistic and responsible solutions while engaging regional and state agencies to help us achieve positive outcomes.

What would you do about the high cost of housing in Long Beach?  

We need a different approach. Housing is high because property values are soaring, taxes are up on homeowners and landlords, and inflation is eroding any gains in wages. One concept is to explore tax Incentives for landlords and developers for investment and improvement. Additionally, the city could subsidize the tenants who are getting squeezed by high rents through rebates funded by grants or reallocation of resources. In addition, we could consider providing a tax rebate to landlords for improvements and other costs if they offer rent reduction or stabilization. 

Adding more affordable housing in areas that have the capacity would provide more options for renters and help us meet housing goals at the same time. We need to attract developers with incentives to build affordable housing that will support our workforce and community by streamlining the process for new development, while encouraging investment in modifying or updating existing structures by property owners. 

Do you believe the city is doing enough to alleviate climate change and the effect it’s having on the city? If not, what additional actions should be taken?  

Climate change has many facets; Long Beach has led the way with the Port of Long Beach’s green initiatives. We also need to be realistic about the balance between renewable energy and the use of fossil fuels to keep our economy and jobs strong and protect small businesses. We have green initiatives across the city, including Long Beach Transit’s Green Fleet and the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. 

Long Beach is forward-thinking on many fronts. However, I believe we can do more with pilot programs and partnerships with government agencies or public-private partnerships. My experience in transportation for 16 years promoting programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) through education and communication will be valuable in helping us identify opportunities to help exceed our targeted goals.

Parking is a huge quality of life issue in the 3rd District. What, if anything, would you do about parking?  

This question ties back to the question of housing requirements that would add more density to the 3rd District—making the parking situation worse, not better. Residents cannot park in front of their own homes, which is unacceptable. Much of the overcrowding results from state mandates that are beyond our control, such as ADUs. Despite the mandates, we need to improve parking standards for new development as we move forward. 
Several options are available for consideration: permit parking, valet parking for restaurants or shopping at peak hours and shuttles. We could explore parking lots when a property becomes available in a viable location. We need multiple solutions for our shopping districts so people will shop, spend and stay.