What should the city do when confronted with homeless individuals who refuse to go into a shelter or temporary housing?
One size does not fit all. Every situation is different and finding an approach that works for all people experiencing homelessness requires us, as a city and as part of the Continuum of Care, to be bold and creative. We need to meet individuals where they are: in encampments along the riverbed and freeways or in alleyways and sidewalks. We should provide much needed services while understanding that each individual set of circumstances can include mental, physical, emotional and legal barriers to being housed.
To do this effectively, we must ensure that we have a budget that allows the creativity and flexibility needed to overcome housing challenges and that will allow the city to ensure that people experiencing homelessness can be provided with rapid rehousing and transition into permanent and supportive housing. Building a strong budget is, therefore, necessary if we are to impact homeless issues positively and effectively.
How would you address crime in the city?
The conversation around policing changes rapidly. The reality is that we rely heavily on police officers to handle a wide variety of calls for service that are, besides crimes like thefts, burglaries and violent crime, related to social issues including substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness. We need to provide targeted solutions to these social issues to allow our police officers to focus on reducing and solving crime. A great example of this is the REACH (Restorative Engagement to Achieve Collective Health) outreach teams, which deploys a public health nurse, a mental health clinician and two outreach workers to appropriately address the needs of people experiencing homlessness. Being homeless is not a crime and as such, needs to be approached with respect and dignity if there is to be a positive impact on them.
These efforts, coupled with neighborhood initiatives, will significantly reduce instances of crime in the long term. But to be clear, any act of violence is too many. We can build on these successes to achieve a future reduction in our instances of crime.
And finally, supporting youth programs is a critical part of the solution. Programs such as the Be Safe Program steer our youth away from gang violence and toward community building and leadership. Supporting and funding mentoring programs and youth sports are key. As former Vice Mayor Dee Andrews once said, “A tired kid is a good kid.”
The state is requiring Long Beach to make room for 26,502 new housing units by 2029. How should the 7th District be a part of that plan?
The State’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers require that the city of Long Beach look at opportunities for additional affordable housing. While Long Beach has made a dent in these numbers, it is only a dent. The city continues to survey available sites as opportunities for housing locations and will continue to support the creation of additional units of affordable housing. New housing that can be approved must be responsible developments that maintain neighborhood character and are environmentally sound. The key to a successful housing plan is smart growth that ensures community and public engagement while achieving our much needed workforce and affordable housing goals.
It is also important to plan for the neighborhood resources needed for these new units, including parks and green space. The reality is that affordable housing needs to be built in all areas of our city as that is the only way to bring us close to achieving our housing goals.
It is important that we consider every potential project on its individual merits, so that we can reach our RHNA goals. Unless we tackle this citywide, we will not reach these goals.
What would you do about the high cost of housing in Long Beach?
The city needs to continue to incentivize the building of affordable housing units. Housing costs are being driven up by a lack of available units. Streamlining the process to create additional desirable units is needed to help alleviate the low vacancy rates. As city councilmember, I will continue to identify opportunities for development of affordable and workforce housing units as well as retain our existing stock of rental units.
The rental assistance program and the COVID-19 eviction moratorium provided much needed support for landlords to keep our most vulnerable residents housed and I will work to seek funding to continue supporting our renters. The city also is in the process of establishing a first-time homebuyers assistance program, and I am supportive of all efforts to provide pathways to homeownership.
There’s been a historical lack of investment in open space and recreational opportunities in your district. How would you secure more resources for open space?
Increasing access to green space has been a priority for me. I led the efforts to restore Willow Springs Park and secured the funds to purchase Tanaka Park as permanent park space. I improved facilities and access at Silverado and Hudson parks, including a walking path and improvements to the pool facility.
I worked diligently to raise funds to complete the long planned Wrigley Greenbelt project, securing a $600,000 grant from the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. I also worked with Partners of Parks and the city to secure $1.5 million for a state of the art signature playground at Admiral Kidd Park. In addition to these efforts, I received Port of Long Beach funding for additional environmental enhancements at Admiral Kidd Park and worked with Congressmember Alan Lowenthal to secure $1.5 million for a new state of the art signature playground at Silverado Park.
As a city, we must continue to work towards park equity for West Long Beach and Wrigley. I will continue to cultivate relationships with organizations like Partners of Parks, the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, and other donors to seek funding to secure additional green space.
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?
We can always do more to improve the quality of life for our residents. As a city councilmember and commissioner on the California Coastal Commission, I know how important it is for Long Beach to lead on the issue of climate resiliency. I am glad to see that we are leading the way by establishing a City of Long Beach Climate Action and Adaptation Plan and working with the Port of Long Beach on their Port Master Plan that will continue to address climate adaptation and coastal resiliency.
As a longtime resident of Wrigley and West Long Beach, I know that issues affecting the environment often hit people in vulnerable communities the hardest. In my own family, I have a son and daughter who struggled with asthma, and I want to ensure my grandchildren do not face the same health challenges. With this in mind, I pay very close attention to projects that impact our neighborhoods and work hard to break this cycle and to ensure operators in the region act responsibly. It is important to remember that we are all the stewards of our environment.