Look around Long Beach and what do you see? Cranes in the sky. Construction zones on major roadways. New buildings going up.
Long Beach is in the midst of its biggest boom in a generation and this is great news for everyone in our community and for the future of our city.
The shopping center at 2nd and PCH, for example, has been in the works for years and now promises to provide great new retail and restaurant options for our residents. Adjacent to our airport, the Douglas Park development is succeeding with a great food hall, restaurants and popular shops for the community.
In downtown, the new Civic Center and Library opens this summer and these beautiful new buildings are surrounded by several residential and office developments that are also almost ready to open. The list of projects recently completed, newly begun, and slated for construction in the near future could take up the rest of this article. But you don’t need me to tell you; the evidence is all around us.
New construction and new residents are moving in because, now more than ever, people see Long Beach as a great place to invest, open a business, go to school, raise a family, or retire. Every construction crane you see, every work zone that slows traffic for a few days is a sign of increased economic activity, more money for local businesses, and an expanded tax base that allows us to invest in our city — in roadways, in schools, in parks and libraries, and in enhanced public safety — more than we have invested in decades.
As in any large city, the majority of the development activity — but by no means all of it — is happening downtown, where new shops, restaurants, offices, galleries, and other commercial enterprises are springing up everywhere. But the benefits touch every neighborhood. Many of the improvements to our streets and throughout the city, including the historic reopening of the South Police Division, have been funded by Measure A's small sales tax increase. Measure A helps ensure the entire city is benefiting greatly from the influx of new residents and businesses and increased development.
Meanwhile, development and economic growth elsewhere — around the traffic circle, Bixby Knolls, North Long Beach, and other neighborhoods — are transforming corridors that once struggled into thriving communities of businesses and residents, enhancing quality of life and providing more revenue for improved city services.
The Long Beach development boom not only provides added support for crucial city services, it also helps address the statewide housing shortage. Just this year alone, hundreds of residential units have opened or broken ground and hundreds more are on the way, including a high percentage of affordable units for seniors, families with children, veterans, disabled adults, and other folks who are part of our community and simply can’t keep up with escalating rents. I’m proud our development boom is producing more housing of every kind, because that ensures Long Beach maintains its character of diversity and affordability for all.
Development brings inevitable growing pains, especially while construction is happening next door or along your morning commute. But the benefits, in the short and especially long term, will greatly outweigh these inconveniences.
We forget we are a big city, with big city challenges and big city assets. Long Beach has a larger population than New Orleans, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Oakland, or St. Louis. We can’t enjoy the benefits of being an urban center without growing pains.
But by continuing to invest in our city, with policies like Measure A, inclusionary zoning, and a continued balanced budget — something we have achieved every year — we will make Long Beach stronger economically, more attractive as a city to live and invest in, and in a better position to meet all the needs in our community, from infrastructure to education to public safety.
I have only one request of all of you: Invest in this city with me. Spend money at local shops and restaurants. Take a trip to a new neighborhood you haven’t visited in a while. Come downtown and see how much it’s changed over the last five or 10 years. And keep the big picture in mind: we are becoming the best Long Beach we can be.
Robert Garcia was elected mayor in 2014 and reelected in 2018.