If folks have concerns about the Broadway redesign, Long Beach officials are happy to look into making changes.
Such was the message that Second District City Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce and City Engineer Alvin Papa tried to send at a dramatic edition of Beer and Politics Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the Liberation Brewing Co., in the California Heights neighborhood.
Well, that, and that Pearce is not here to be yelled at.
The brewery’s monthly event usually sticks to a question-and-answer format to discuss some of the city’s thorniest political topics, but a few attendees Tuesday seemed too frustrated to adhere to the normal rules.
Multiple times throughout the evening, Pearce stopped speaking in the middle of answering a question when a heckler — or two, or three — shouted their dissatisfaction at her from across the room.
“We’re not going to have a meeting where we yell at each other,” she said after some of the first instances, “because business does not get done that way.”
And yet, some of her most irked constituents persisted.
During one instance, in which Pearce said she wanted to protect small businesses — and Ciaran Gallagher, the owner of Gallagher’s Pub and Grill on Broadway bellowed over her that she did not, in fact, care about small businesses — Pearce walked off the stage and told a cameraman to stop filming.
She went to gather her daughter, she said, and didn’t want her to appear on camera.
But Pearce later acquiesced and returned to the stage to continue answering questions.
“I’ve never walked off a stage before, guys,” she apologized. “It’s not my MO.”
Although most members of the crowd were civil and had genuine questions about the safety at different intersections, the protesters in attendance garnered the most attention.
Other complaints about the road diet, which installed a protected bike lane along the road and was intended to slow driving speeds, included blind intersections, a reported uptick in collisions and the diversion of traffic from Broadway to other residential streets.
To nearly every specific grievance, Papa offered up his card and said he would be willing to meet with anyone.
“At the end of September, the traffic engineering staff, we’re all going to walk the street again,” he said, “to gather input from residents, to see how the changes have been received and to receive more input for potentially more change.”
Papa and Pearce both said they understood the concerns, but, as Pearce put it, “Our job is not to bend to the loudest person. Our job is to make sure that residents are safe.”
The goal of Broadway’s redesign, she said, was to make the roadway more safe for everyone: drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
While it may take some time for everyone to adjust their behavior in a way that accomplishes that goal, Pearce said, research has shown that increased safety will likely be the ultimate outcome.
Until then, the city is committed to making whatever adjustments are necessary — so long as constituents approach them in a civil manner.
Papa compared the current status of the redesign to that of a butterfly in its cocoon stage.
“Right now, we’re in a period of transition, before we transfer into something else,” he said. “As we keep making changes, we’re not yet fully — we’re not at the full inception of this project.”