Vice Mayor Garcia's Office Says He
UPDATE: After reading our story, Vice Mayor Garcia says: "I am trying to move things around so I can attend. My staff will be there, the Port, Fire Chief Duree, and hopefully myself."
|UPDATE: After reading our story below, Vice Mayor Garcia emails at midmorning today (Aug. 29): "I am trying to move things around so I can attend. My staff will be there, the Port, Fire Chief Duree, and hopefully myself."
(Aug. 29, 2012, 9:30 a.m.) -- LBReport.com has learned that the office of Vice Mayor/1st district Councilman Robert Garcia has indicated that he won't [note update above] attend an August 30 community meeting, organized by some of his own 1st district constituents, at which community members are expected to urge the Port of Long Beach to reconsider its plans to demolish the Berth 55 Seafood & Fish Market, Queens Wharf Restaurant and Long Beach Sport Fishing businesses to accommodate a Port-desired new Fire Station.
LBReport.com has further learned that this follows an August 14 meeting in Vice Mayor Garcia's City Hall office that included Port of Long Beach Executive Director Chris Lytle and other PoLB staff, LB Fire Chief Mike DuRee and commercial businesspeople who stand to lose their businesses if the Port's plans advance in their present form.
A participant in that meeting, Michael Redlew, who manages a business at the site, tells LBReport.com that during the meeting he provided a long list of reasons why the Port could and should try to accommodate the businesses and offered alternatives to the Port-desired site.
"I gave them an expansive package describing the situation, the jobs that would be lost, the appraisals of boats that would be put out of business, some representing much of the life savings of some of the operators," said Mr. Redlew, noting that the businesses had been loyal, rent paying tenants since the 1970s and employ roughly 50 people.
Mr. Redlew says in the Aug. 14 meeting, Port Exec. Dir. Chris Lytle and Fire Chief Mike DuRee indicated that they had considered proposed alternatives, dismissed them for various reasons and said the site selected by the Port was the only feasible location.
Port officials have contended that the area at 555 Pico Ave. off the 1-710 Freeway is needed for a new fire station to be built due to the tear-down of the current Gerald Desmond bridge, a barely sixty year old structure that will be demolished (at a cost of roughly $1 billion) and replaced with a nearby new higher bridge that will enable large mega-size container ships to enter LB's inner harbor.
Mr. Redlew says that earlier meetings he attended with Port staff involved in real estate matters, as well as a meeting in early August with Port Exec. Dir Lytle, while not accepting alternatives had encouraged him to pursue them. "I now consider this to have been a waste of valuable time," Mr. Redlew told LBReport.com.
Mr. Redlew said that during his August 14 City Hall meeting, Vice Mayor Garcia was "very gracious but basically repeated the company line."
Mr Redlew says Vice Mayor Garcia told the local business owners that they weren't going to halt global economic expansion in the Port of Long Beach with words to the effect "You're not going to stop it. It's going to happen." Mr. Redlew told LBReport.com that he views what he says Garcia said as tantamount to "waving the white flag in [Port of LB Executive Director] Lytle's face."
Asked this morning (Aug. 29) by LBReport.com about what Mr. Redlew says he (Garcia) said, Vice Mayor Garcia swiftly replied via email:
First of all I have no idea what you are talking about. That does not even sound like anything I would say.
Mr. Redlew said that during the meeting he tried to convey the magnitude of the financial losses that the businesses would take, and the jobs that would be lost. He added that he believes that ousting a long-time loyal, rent paying Long Beach business -- which he noted happens to be Latino-owned with multiple Latino employees -- is a matter of which the community should be made aware.
The story first broke in a May 22, 2012 article in the Long Beach Business Journal bylined by its then-writer Sean Belk (now writes for GreaterLongBeach.com)...who reported that that Mr. Redlew had sent letters to the Port and Councilmembers Garcia and Lowenthal on the matter. (The area involved is in Garcia's 1st Council district; most of the Port of LB is in Lowenthal's 2nd Council district).
Two subsequent stories (one in the Garcia-owned "LBPost.com" and another on PressTelegram.com) report the upcoming Aug. 30 community meeting and the Port's stance but don't mention that the area is the 1st Council district represented by Garcia.
An August 28 story on BelmontShorePatch.com by Phillip Friedman includes an update quoting Garcia as saying [article text with internal quote] "that while he is in favor of a new firehouse, he has asked the Port of Long Beach to work with Long Beach Sportfishing to see if there was a workable compromise. 'We just met not too long ago," said Garcia.'"
LBReport.com has also obtained emails indicating that at late afternoon August 23, Daniel Brezenoff (Vice Mayor Garcia's Legislative Director) emailed veteran WLB community advocate Tony Rivera, "Hi, Tony. Robert wont be able to attend. Thank you..."
On learning of Vice Mayor Garcia's stance, Jane Kelleher emailed Garcia directly that night: "Understand that you cannot attend the cummunity forum. Wish you could join us and we thank you for your consideration of our offer!
To this, Vice Mayor Garcia replied, "Thanks Jane - I have had an opportunity to meet with port staff and the business / boat owners. They are great people and the situation is quite unfortunate"...and said nothing else.
UPDATE: After reading this story, Vice Mayor Garcia emailed at midmorning today (Aug. 29): "I am trying to move things around so I can attend. My staff will be there, the Port, Fire Chief Duree, and hopefully myself."
Councilmembers don't directly decide Port policies; LB's non-elected (Mayor-chosen, Council-approved) Harbor Commissioners do. However the elected City Council annually votes on whether to approve the Port of Long Beach's annual budget (a Council vote on the Port's FY13 budget is due in the next few weeks).
The City Council has also periodically expressed its views on Port-related matters. This recently included urging the Port to add a bicycle lane to the replacement Desmond Bridge, an item that Port officialdom initially resisted.
And separately in connection with the bridge project, then-Councilman now Vice Mayor Garcia asked that the new bridge include attractive lighting.
The Aug. 30 Community Meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Berth 55, 555 Pico Ave., sponsored by the LB Central PAC (including Wrigley Ass'n, MID and Neighborhood Advisory Group, West PAC, West Long Beach 90810 and West Long Beach Association)
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