Long Beach could soon repurpose some of its streets to provide more public space — if Mayor Robert Garcia has his way.
Garcia announced Friday, May 8, that he proposed legislation to direct City Manager Tom Modica to create an open streets initiative. The city, under the legislation, would “explore ways to open more public space throughout Long Beach for increased outdoor activities, safer access to public transit, and stronger economic recovery, all while maintaining appropriate social and physical distancing,” a memo to members of the City Council said.
Council members Jeannine Pearce (Second), Suzie Price (Third), Roberto Uranga (Seventh) and Al Austin (Eighth) signed onto the item, which will come before the panel during its May 19 meeting.
Friday’s news came as Long Beach began the first phase of lifting its closure orders, which were intended to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.
“We have an opportunity during this crisis to reimagine our public spaces,” Garcia said Friday on Twitter. “Physical distancing has reminded us of how narrow some sidewalks are and how important bike networks can be. And restaurants are imagining a future where folks can safely dine on sidewalks and open spaces.”
An open streets initiative, he said, would help the city “meet this challenge.”
In the City Council memo, Garcia wrote that Long Beach should look to other cities across California and around the world that “are opening up space by limiting cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets and repurposing on-street parking for active transportation and restaurant use.”
Particularly now, as much of the city remains shuttered and restaurants plan to face the challenge of maintaining physical distancing requirements whenever they are allowed to reopen, Garcia wrote, offering them the ability to safely expand to the city’s streets could help them weather the crisis.
Adding more public space “will make it easier for people to move throughout the city,” Garcia wrote, “and for businesses to survive, while ensuring the social distancing that will be necessary for the foreseeable future.”