During his sixth annual State of the City address on January 14, Mayor Robert Garcia once again presented a bullish outlook on the city’s economy, education, infrastructure investment, crime reduction, billions of dollars of development and the future of the Queen Mary (see audit story on page one).
“I’m proud to report to all of you tonight that the state of this city is strong,” Garcia said. “Our progress in these last few years is visible from every neighborhood across our city.”
From 1990 to 2010, violent crimes in Long Beach decreased from 8,403 annually to 2,720. Garcia touted a further reduction in violent crimes to 2,374 in 2019. A common misconception is that crime is on the rise, according to Garcia. He explained that social media has made information on crime more readily available than ever before, which he said is both good and misleading. Overall, crime decreased 5% decrease in in 2019 over 2018, he added.
“We should not accept any crime in our community or in any neighborhood,” Garcia said, “but let’s be crystal clear: our city is safer today than it was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago, and is only getting safer.”
Other 2019 public safety achievements noted by Garcia included 1,032 guns being removed from the streets, 50 graduates from the policy academy, the reopening of the South Division police station, and the reopening and renovation of fire and paramedic units throughout the city. Additionally, Garcia announced that officer-involved shootings hit a 10-year low and that by summer of this year all officers will be equipped with body cameras.
Much of the public safety investment was made possible through Measure A, a voter-approved tax increase. Since it went into effect in 2016, Measure A investment into public safety and infrastructure has reached $110 million. Garcia noted that in 2019 alone, 22 miles of sidewalk and 25 miles of streets were repaired, 35,000 potholes were filled and 630 American Disabilities Act-approved access ramps were constructed.
Over the last several years, the Douglas Park development has attracted three small satellite and spaceflight technology development companies – Virgin Orbit, SpinLaunch and Rocket Lab. “We have one of the largest satellite space ecosystems in the United States,” Garcia said. “Just as we led on aviation decades ago, we are now leading the future of space with some of America’s leading innovation and technology companies.”
Garcia stressed the importance of education, noting that California State University, Long Beach, has become the seventh-most applied to university in the country, with over 100,000 applicants annually. He also noted increased travel at Long Beach Airport, as well as a 25% increase of Port of Long Beach cargo traffic since 2005.
Homelessness and the continuing housing crisis are two of the city’s (and state’s) most persistent challenges. Garcia announced plans to request the city council to create a new inclusionary zoning policy that encourages the production of affordable housing citywide, as well as revisit and update the Downtown Plan, which was enacted in 2012 and sets development guidelines in downtown to streamline projects. Additionally, Garcia noted that Long Beach’s first year-round homeless shelter is expected to open this summer and the city’s SAFE Parking Program will begin in 2020 to provide a space for residents living in their cars.
“Our work to end street homelessness will be the defining issue in this next decade,” Garcia said. “We must not turn away from our failure as a society to care for those who are suffering, who are mentally ill and who need our support and a home.”