Tunua Thrash-Ntuk

Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, 44, is an economic development director who has lived in the district since 2013. She is a registered Democrat. 

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Endorsements

Los Angeles County Democratic Party, state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, Councilman Roberto Uranga, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, Long Beach City College Board of Directors President Vivian Malauulu, Long Beach City College Board of Directors Vice President Uduak-Joe Ntuk, Long Beach Unified School District Vice President Juan Benitez, Los Angeles Community College District Trustee Mike Fong. Full list here.

Why are you running to be the 8th District council person?

If we want our community to improve, we need to change our leadership. I’m a mom who believes every Uptown Long Beach family deserves to live, work, and play in a safe and thriving neighborhood. That means investing in public safety, addressing housing and homelessness, and expanding economic opportunity for all.

I’ll lean on my decades of experience revitalizing communities through investment in affordable housing and commercial development to ensure every part of Long Beach gets its fair share of resources. As an urban planning and housing expert, I have the skills and experience needed to improve our neighborhoods and ensure Long Beach’s economy includes everyone.

What do you see as the biggest problem facing the district, and how do you propose solving it?

Our neighborhoods have suffered from neglect and a lack of investment. We have empty lots and abandoned storefronts that have been that way for years. We have streets that are crumbling and sidewalks that are deemed unsafe for walking without risking injury.

The housing crisis is also hitting our community hard. I have also spoken with many residents who live one rent hike away from displacement. When given the opportunity to vote for a bond measure to address homelessness and housing, Councilman Al Austin voted against it.

I believe our community has the potential to improve but we need to change our leadership first.

I have devoted my career to creating great places to live, work, do business, and raise a family. As the Executive Director of a local nonprofit, I have fought to develop thousands of affordable housing units, support small businesses, and revitalize neighborhoods.

I will focus on organizing block-by-block to ensure every part of the district gets proper attention from the city, including fixing our streets and sidewalks, planting trees and expanding open space, and increasing public safety resources. I’ll also expand economic opportunity by attracting housing to our empty lots and small businesses to open in our abandoned store fronts.

We need a comprehensive strategy that takes all of these pieces into account and I have the expertise to do this.

The city council is expected to vote on an inclusionary housing policy this year. What role, if any, do you think developers should play in creating affordable housing?

Real estate developers play a unique role in designing our housing patterns and can have a large influence on whether or not a family can afford housing. I support the implementation of a city-wide inclusionary housing policy as part of a comprehensive set of solutions to increase the number of housing units on the market that average income families can afford.

Increased housing density was a divisive topic during the land use element process and could be up for discussion in the near future. How should new housing be distributed across the city and what steps can be taken to lessen the impact of creating more housing in established communities? 

According to a recent report, California ranked 49th in terms of housing units per resident. Our housing crisis is deepening and requires action to keep so many families from being rent burdened spending 50%+ of their entire income on housing or worse homeless. Our first opportunity as a community is to review the facts: Los Angeles County needs a little more than 500,000 units of housing to even begin to alleviate the housing crisis. Once we have decided that we want to tackle homelessness and the housing crisis, then we can begin to imagine the possibilities of citing such housing in our communities. Housing density can be a divisive topic if we consider one size fits all strategies. Our various communities in Long Beach have distinct characters that are important to neighborhood identity and livability. With that in mind, I would work toward identifying hot spot housing opportunities such as building on vacant land already zoned for multifamily development, intensifying housing closest to transit hubs and adding units through assessor dwelling units in places with lower density. The goal would be to find the right density housing solution for the neighborhood character.

How do you plan to continue the economic momentum in the district with a potentially diminished role by the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement District in the future?

It’s time for Long Beach to pursue creative solutions in identifying new funding sources for our BIDs. There are three strategies I believe we can pursue today to sustain a strong business climate that our BIDs are leading.

First, we should directly reinvest a portion of the sales tax generated within the business districts back into the small businesses and programs that help make the district successful. This is a funding source that could replace the Community Redevelopment Agency funds that BIDs and communities formerly relied upon. The increased sales activity in the Bixby Knolls community could be captured and dedicated to reinvestment activities in the district. The good news is that this strategy does not raise taxes. And it is a great way to reward our BKBIA and Uptown BIDS for their work in fostering a strong business climate in our city.

Second, let’s look at double bottom-line solutions that are environmentally friendly and raise money for local BIDs. We should establish an EcoDistrict. An EcoDistrict would empower local BIDs in collaboration with the community to lead district-wide projects that improve business performance and protect the climate. BKBIA has many food businesses that could make bulk joint purchases of products (i.e., paper straws, napkins, paper bags, etc.). With a district study, we can identify cost-effective ways to purchase goods and pursue cutting edge sustainability solutions at a district scale. A portion of the savings could be invested back into the good of the district.

Finally, our businesses must have access to capital so that they can grow. As businesses do better, the district does even better. When I co-chaired the “Everyone In” Economic Inclusion Policy Task Force, one of our recommendations resulted in Long Beach becoming a “Kiva City.” As the Executive Director of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation LA, we partnered with the city and the Long Beach Community Foundation to establish this program in 2017 that provides access to no-fee loans to start or grow small businesses. The Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association became a Kiva Trustee to help identify entrepreneurs who may benefit from the program.

We can continue to grow our local economy and invest in small businesses by supporting our Business Improvement Districts. I look forward to working with our BID leadership on implementing these strategies in Long Beach.

With JetBlue’s continued moves to diminish its presence at Long Beach Airport, would you be open to drawing in other airlines to Long Beach in order to keep the airport thriving?

It’s vital that we protect Long Beach Airport’s unique noise ordinance. I live in the flight path and want to minimize disruption in the neighborhood. I would only consider new flights that stayed below the ordinance’s daily noise threshold.

As the city and region continue to invest in homeless services, how do you feel they should be distributed across the city and would you welcome a homeless facility to your district?

We all need to do our part and I would welcome opportunities to bring homelessness services and permanent supportive housing to our district. As I have been knocking on doors, I have talked to residents who are one rent hike away from displacement. We’re in a housing crisis and we need to utilize every tool available to prevent our residents from falling into homelessness. When it comes to housing, if our city doesn’t take action, the state will and the requirements for our city to follow will be far more severe. We need to do everything we can to assist our current renters, create more affordable housing options, continue incentives for landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers, and establish more supportive housing options that can help those who fall into homelessness to get back on their feet. I support the recently adopted ordinance to provide relocation-assistance ordinance, which requires Long Beach landlords to pay tenants who are forced to relocate through no fault of their own, including for a 10% or higher rent hike.