Complete Text As Prepared For Delivery Of Mayor Garcia's 2020 State of the City Message

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(Jan. 15, 2020, 10:15 a.m.) -- On Jan. 14, 2020, LB Mayor Robert Garcia delivered his "State of the City" message at the Terrace Theater. provides below the full text as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, thank you.

Hey everyone.

I hope you all enjoyed those songs from one of the best musicals ever Hamilton.

The arts in Long Beach are such an important part of our culture and history. They say so much about who we are as a community.

Hamilton takes place during the birth of our nation. A time of tremendous change and optimism. Alexander Hamilton for all his genius and love of a strong national government, was not a perfect man. And we were not then, or now, a perfect country. Alexander Hamilton was elected to Congress in 1782.

And at that same time, on the other side of the American continent, all of what we know today as Long Beach was part of the Spanish Empire. It was also home to thousands of Tongva people, natives to this land who had lived here for millennia.

While Hamilton -- probably our country's first great urbanist -- was advocating for a new Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation, the King of Spain granted Manuel Nieto most of what is now Long Beach. And Juan Dominguez the rest of it, along with what is now San Pedro and much of the south bay. Rancho Nieto and Rancho San Pedro, were soon divided up into smaller land grants, including more names you’ll recognize: Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Los Alamitos.

Now even though there were no real streets and certainly no street signs, the seeds of a major modern Long Beach controversy had already started...Because the chief missionary in California was named Junipero Serra. Some know him today by his street name, "Juan-i-pero." But it's important to recognize the history of this land includes terrible injustices to native peoples and many others.

[Scroll down for further.]

And much of that history has been erased. While inequality was the reality during those first centuries of American history, thankfully the ideals of political equality, due process, and justice for all had been born and were beginning to take hold.

By the time California, including the lower Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valleys, had become part of the United States, this nation was just a decade away from the start of the Civil War. We can all be proud California fought for the union and that its values were written into our State's Constitution in 1879.

Just three years after California adopted that Constitution, a man named William Wilmore began developing a town right here at the mouth of the Los Angeles River. And by 1895, the school we know today as Long Beach Poly opened its doors -- one of the oldest schools in California.

But William Willmore and his Willmore City were not able to succeed on their own. To provide more stability, the Long Beach Land and Water Company stepped up to reincorporate the city -- along with parts of the Bixby family ranch.

And so in 1888 Long Beach was born. And finally incorporated in 1897. Long Beach, like the US Constitution, only succeeded on a second try.



Since the beginning, Long Beach has gone through tremendous change and growth. We changed from a government run by a board of trustees-- to a council/manager system. And in 1908 our first Mayor, Charles Windham, was elected by the City Council, not directly by voters.

Somehow Long Beach managed to survive and thrive without a Mayor for 20 years! Scary right? How did they ever manage?

We changed rapidly and profoundly from 1901 to 1910, when Long Beach was the fastest growing city in the United States!

By 1920 cars had replaced horses as the primary mode of transportation, craftsman homes had sprung up, and downtown was no longer a sleepy stop on the Red Car, but a center of commerce and entertainment. In the midst of the roaring 20s, a major Long Beach institution was founded in 1924: Joe Jost’s.

In 1927, an even more important institution than Joe Jost's was founded: Long Beach City College. And yes, education is more important than beer.

In 1930, a young girl by the name of Beverly Joy Lewis, was born right here in Long Beach. Beverly had no idea growing up that one day she would help transform our community into the modern city we know today.

In 1933, we suffered the darkest day in our city's history. A major earthquake took more than 100 lives, destroyed hundreds of buildings, and did millions of dollars in property damage.



But we survived and we adapted. And often, we led.

We not only welcomed the coming of flight, we became leaders in aeronautics and aviation. And at the dedication of Daugherty Field in 1920, Amelia Earhart decided to become a pilot. When Douglas Aircraft and Boeing came onto the scene in the 1940s, Long Beach became home to a booming aerospace industry that built much of east Long Beach—and provided aircraft that were crucial to our efforts in the Second World War.

And our amazing seaport began transforming into the economic engine we know today. We also adapted to the growth of the Navy which became a critical piece of our city's identity for decades.

And across the sea, a luxury liner known as the Queen Mary was taken out of commercial service by the British -- and used to transport tens of thousands of troops to battle in Europe, becoming a crucial part of the fight against fascism by the US and our allies. But more on the Queen at the end of the speech...

And so, our city continued to change. We adapted to the booming oil industry. We embraced the establishment of what would become a California State University in our city. We saw the rise of racism in our public schools and the fight against desegregation.

And in 1953, the President of the Long Beach NAACP, Mrs. Jay Garland, advocated before the Long Beach City Council to defend the need for public housing -- as African Americans were being redlined in our city and denied the ability to generate wealth.

And during the civil rights era, it was Cal State Long Beach students who led marches and fought for social change. It was civil rights activists, including Black students, Chicano leaders, young women, and queer students who began standing up and demanding change in our city. And they succeeded.

And in the mid-1970s Cambodian refugees began arriving in Long Beach, looking to escape a horrific genocide and to start a new life. When it comes to governance, Long Beach took a big step forward in the 1980s when voters amended the charter to elect a full-time mayor, chosen not by the council but directly by the people.

Ernie Kell was both the last mayor selected by the city council and the first mayor elected by the voters. And Beverly O'Neill helped us transition from a Navy town that was losing hope to a modern American metropolis.



In 2006, my predecessor and friend, Mayor Bob Foster took office. But soon a national economic recession not seen since the 1930s, had struck our city. Unemploymen soared, and thousands across our city lost their homes and jobs.

But Mayor Foster, the CEO Mayor, had a plan - and restructured our government to be leaner, and more efficient. And 10 years ago, in 2009, at 31 years old, I walked into City Hall after winning a special election to join the city council.

I didn't know then, that 5 years later, you would give me the great honor of leading our incredible city.

Now it's 2020, and we've changed. It's the start of a new decade, and I'm proud to report tonight, that the State of this City is STRONG.

Our progress in these last few years is visible from every neighborhood across our city. Streets and sidewalks are being fixed at a record pace. Our Downtown skyline is being transformed with billions in new investment. We are building more than 4,000 new homes and units across Long Beach. Tourism brings in $1.8 billion dollars each year in large part thanks to our Convention and Visitors Bureau. And the unemployment average has dropped to its lowest levels ever.

We are booming.

And just take a look at the hard work happening in our city in 2019 alone.

  • We trimmed more than 22 thousand trees.

  • We repaired more than 22 miles of sidewalk and 85 miles of streets.

  • Filled more than 35,000 potholes.

  • Removed 1.2 million square feet of graffiti.

  • Constructed 630 ADA access ramps.

  • 1.1 million items were checked out from our libraries.


  • And 45,000 bicycle trips made through the City’s Bikeshare Program.

And we did all of this while balancing our budget and maintaining a stellar AA credit rating.

And over at Long Beach Animal Care, we ended the year with the highest number of adoptions and the lowest level of euthanasia rates in a decade. Take a look at the euthanasia rate over the last ten years.

This is just one of the many data points I look at every single day, to ensure we are making progress across our city and in every single department. All of this progress would not be possible without the dedicated team of more than 6,500 city employees who work every day to make our city a better place. Let's give them a round of applause.


Let's talk about the most important responsibility of government, keeping people safe. In the last several decades, crime has been reduced dramatically and continues to decline -- especially violent crime.

I want to share some numbers that illustrate that.

This is the data for total violent crime since the 1990s. As you can see in 1990 we had more than 8,000 thousand violent crimes. By the turn of the century that number was reduced to 3,200 hundred violent crimes. Ten years ago we reached 2,700 violent crimes. And in 2019 we ended the year with 2,374 violent crimes.

We shouldn’t accept any crime in our community. But let's be crystal clear: Our city is safer today than it was 20 years ago, ten years ago, five years ago, and is only getting safer.

So why do some folks think crime is getting worse? 10 or 20 years ago, when someone stole a bike or a package from your neighbor a few blocks away, you probably never heard about it. Today, because of social media you are hyper aware of crimes not only happening in your neighborhood but in adjacent neighborhoods and across the city.

And that’s not a bad thing. Over the past 30 years violent crime has declined, property crime has declined, and the most serious of crimes -- homicide -- has also declined.

Look at these numbers from the 1990s to today. These trends, when looked at in decades and the five-year average provide a clear picture of community safety and progress.

At one time we averaged more than 100 homicides, today it's in the 30s. Every single homicide is serious and dramatically affects families across our community.

Just last year we suffered a horrific mass shooting and the tragic loss of the Awaida family. But we should be heartened that fewer of these horrific tragedies are occurring.

This last year, in 2019 we again saw a reduction of overall crime -- by five percent since 2018. Long Beach is one of the safest big cities in America and getting safer.

Crime is declining due to many factors beyond just policing, including a healthy economy, strong after school programs, and the efforts of countless people and organizations.

In 2019, we established a new task force that removed 1,032 guns from the streets. We graduated 50 new recruits from our academy, making our force more diverse than at any time in its history. And by this summer all police on patrol will have body cameras.

And our officer involved shootings are also down dramatically, to their lowest levels in 10 years. Let's give the men and women of the Long Beach Police Department a big round of applause.

And public safety is also the responsibility of one of the best Fire Department's in the country, the Long Beach Fire Department. Our Long Beach Fire Department continues to grow and save lives.

Over the last few years we've put new engines back in service and added paramedic rescue units. In 2019, 24 new recruits graduated and joined our department ranks. And our lifeguards, in 2019 assisted 5,000 swimmers in need.

And after much hard work, we expect Community Hospital to reopen this year. Join me in giving a big round of applause to our Long Beach Fire Department.

And thanks to Measure A, the sales tax measure voters adopted in 2016, we continue to make historic investments in public safety and infrastructure. We reopened our Police Department’s South Division and made upgrades to our Police Academy. We’ve made critical improvements to Fire Station 1, Station 7, Station 9, Station 10, Station 14, and Station 17. We also restored a paramedic unit to Fire Station 12 in North Long Beach and restored the engines to Fire Station 8 in Belmont Shore and Fire Station 17 near the traffic circle. Measure A is the largest infrastructure investment plan in a generation.

We’ve repaired streets and sidewalks in every part of the city. We added more than 50 miles of bike lanes. We built or made repairs to 22 parks throughout the city. We installed eight new playgrounds. We upgraded 12 water and storm drain systems. We enhanced 10 libraries. And built six bike mobility projects. >[?Since 2016, we’ve invested $110 million dollars in our city's infrastructure. And we're just getting started.

These Measure A investments would not be possible without the support, leadership, and commitment of our Long Beach City Council. Please join me in giving them a huge round of applause.

Across the city, the signs of a booming economy in both the public and private sectors are everywhere. New businesses both large and small are opening and entrepreneurs are choosing to make Long Beach their home.

And let's start with space.

Since the opening of Douglas Park, adjacent to the airport, we have been able to attract the top space, rocket and satellite companies to Long Beach. Today, Virgin Orbit, SpinLaunch, and Rocket Lab all call Long Beach home. Hundreds of America's top engineers and scientists are building the future of the space industry, right here in our city. In three years, since the opening of Virgin Orbit, we have created one of the largest satellite space ecosystems in the United States. 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. Let's give these three amazing companies a Long Beach thank you.

Douglas Park is also home to numerous other tech companies that are moving to Long Beach and bringing with them thousands of good paying jobs. And there are development success stories all across the city.

  • 2nd & PCH finally opened

  • Bixby Knolls continues to attract stellar new businesses

  • The Traffic Circle is now bustling with activity

  • In North Long Beach the Uptown Commons development is under construction

  • And Downtown Long Beach is going through a major transformation with new residential towers, hotels, and an expansion of our city's top visitor attraction, the Aquarium of the Pacific.

  • Our Long Beach Airport continues to be the best place to fly with a modern concourse and historic terminal. And we've begun phase two of our modernization plans that include new baggage areas, a new ticketing and check in area, and the removal of those car rental trailers. Travel through the airport grew from three million passengers in 2010 to nearly four million in 2019, bringing with it $8.6 billion in economic activity annually.

The Port of Long Beach continues to drive the Long Beach economy. We’ve seen container traffic increase by 21 percent since 2005 -- while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent, and diesel particulates by 88 percent. These are critical reductions as we push forward with our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

This year, at our port, we will open a new international icon to replace the old Gerald Desmond Bridge. Our new bridge will be the tallest structure in the city at 515 feet and an icon for Southern California. And wait until you see it lit up at night. More than 15% of all of America's cargo will travel across this new bridge that connects Long Beach to Los Angeles.

Another key partner, Long Beach Transit, is also a leader in sustainable, accessible public transportation—recently adding 17 new battery-electric buses to an already existing fleet of 10 electric buses. We will have one of the largest electric fleets in America and that trend will continue.

Our Water Department continues to be a leader in water conservation. We now have 80 Certified Blue Restaurants. Each of these businesses, have installed water saving devices. For the first time, our Long Beach Water Department is now offering lawn to garden incentives for backyards as well as front yards.

I also want to talk tonight about the single biggest factor that drives our city's success: our education system and the Long Beach College Promise. As an educator, I can tell you there is nothing more important than a strong public education system. Cal State Long Beach, or Long Beach State, is now the 7th most applied to University in the United States with more than 100,000 applications each year.

And President Conoley has announced ambitious goals to increase enrollment over the next decade. Many of these new students will be enrolled through an online program but many others will be taking classes right here in the Downtown, at the new CSULB University Village. 14 classrooms have already been approved to be built at Long Beach Blvd. and 5th Street, with new student residences also in our future plans. Long Beach State has also begun construction on the first new student housing development in more than 30 years— with more than 475 new beds for students on campus.

At Long Beach City College, the modernization of both the east side campus and the Pacific Coast Campus continue. And as part of the Long Beach College Promise, students can now attend the first two years at Long Beach City College:tuition free. The college is also doubling down on new apprenticeship programs with our building trade partners and expanding internships.

We also have a world-class K-12 public-school system. Long Beach Unified is in the middle of a major bond construction program that is rebuilding many of our schools and facilities. Our students are also making gains in English and math and outpace averages in LA County and the state. And once again, the LBUSD Board gave our teachers a much-deserved raise. Let's give our Long Beach teachers a big round of applause.

Our Long Beach College Promise continues to be a national model. And we continue to expand our reach with new initiatives on early childhood education, pre-school, and internships.

Our school system and colleges will also be critical partners in 2020's most important initiative, the Census. We have to make sure every single Long Beach resident is counted. And we are leading a large effort with the State of California and our local community partners to ensure a complete count. >And so, I want to be clear: If we don’t count everyone, we will lose out on public funding for schools, housing, law enforcement, and other critical needs. We need to ensure as the census count begins over the weeks and months ahead, we encourage everyone to be counted.

One of our most important challenges this new decade is to continue creating the government of the future. We’ve been doing that with innovations like the GO Long Beach app, which allows anyone to report issues directly to the city from their smartphone. Since its roll out in 2010, there have been more than 300,000 requests submitted. In just 2019 we had more than 73,000 requests.

And I'm proud to announce tonight, later this year, we will be launching the Go Long Beach app 2.0. The new app will be receiving a big upgrade with new services and features. And for those who still like to make calls on the phone, in 2020 we will also be rolling out our new One Number service. 570-5000 will connect you with any department or service you may need. The days of remembering different phone numbers or keeping a phone list will be over. These innovations will improve the quality of life for residents and make government more efficient.

I continue to believe the single largest challenge the we face is the statewide homelessness crisis and its connection to housing affordability. We are making substantial progress in our efforts to house people who need shelter. Our city’s first year-round city shelter opens this summer. We are building a navigation center to assist people with a place to store belongings and get services. Next month we are opening our first SAFE Parking Program to provide a safe place for people who are living in their cars. We've launched a new workers program that pairs people experiencing homelessness with our clean teams. And we placed a clinician in our jail and social workers in our libraries, to make sure people experiencing homelessness get the resources they need.

Our work to end street homelessness will be the defining challenge of the next decade. We must not turn away from our failure as a society, to care for those who are suffering, are mentally ill, and need our support and a home. We are aggressively building both affordable housing and homes for working and middle-class families.

But it's still not enough, and we are not building fast enough. In the coming months, the City will also consider new inclusionary zoning policies to create more affordable housing.

Tonight I am asking the City Council to pass and adopt a policy that ensures the creation of new affordable homes in every new development across our city. And as we develop and build more affordable and workforce housing, it’s time to revisit the single biggest zoning document that started this housing boom: the Downtown Plan. >[?Eight years ago, the City Council adopted, with my support, an ambitious planning initiative that increased building heights, improved design elements, and set a new vision for our coastal downtown. It’s been so successful it’s now almost obsolete and it’s time for a reinvention.

Later this year, let’s begin developing a new Downtown Plan, one that includes even more density and taller buildings, climate resilient structures, more incentives to build, new protections for lower income residents, and centered around our new downtown CSULB campus.

This plan will link up with efforts already under way to reimagine the large parking lot adjacent to the Convention Center known as the elephant lot. Our history has shown we can meet these challenges.

And speaking of history and challenges, I want to end tonight by going back to a topic that's been in the news lately, the Queen Mary. I want to take us back to the start of my address and the history of our proud city.

In the 1930s as our city and country were devastated by the Great Depression, the Queen Mary took its maiden voyage from England to New York in 1936. The Queen Mary was named after Queen Mary of Teck, the grandmother of the current Queen of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth. The Queen Mary was an instant draw for Hollywood celebrities of the era, political figures, artists, and global leaders. Passengers have included Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Winston Churchill, and of course Queen Elizabeth herself. It was a masterpiece of its time.

But the Queen Mary's most important role wasn't serving as a luxury liner but as a critical vessel in the fight against Hitler during World War II. The Allied Forces determined the Queen Mary, would become a troopship, to carry up to 15,000 solders at a time, to and from various battlefields and across the sea. As you can see in this photo the Queen Mary carried brave American soldiers across dangerous waters to win World War II.

During this time, the ship’s hull and funnels were painted battleship gray, earning the ship the nickname the Grey Ghost. The Queen Mary retired from service in 1967 and it opened its doors to visitors in its new home, Long Beach in 1971. The Queen is more than a Long Beach icon and tourist attraction, it has shaped the course of American and global history.

But there have been troubled waters. In the 1980s the ship began losing millions for the city. In the 1990s the ship struggled financially and lost a partnership with Disney. And in 2005 the ship's operator went bankrupt.

In 2016, a new operator and lease holder, Urban Commons, came on board and they have been welcomed with decades of deferred maintenance, renovation projects that were never completed, and critical repairs that must be made to preserve and keep the ship structurally sound. In the past, operators have been focused on turning a profit on the Queen Mary. But I have been convinced this strategy alone will not work. Why? We have 50 years of history telling us so.

Moving forward, the Queen Mary first and foremost must be treated as a significant historic location and worthy of public investment. It's already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And while our city in the past has struggled with a path forward—today the public continues to visit the Queen Mary in huge numbers. In 2019, more than 1.5 million visited the Queen Mary. That's just a bit less than the 1.6 million that visited the Aquarium of the Pacific.

The hotel in 2019 had an average occupancy of 72% for the year. More than 150 couples were married on the ship last year, and more than 750 enjoy Sunday Brunch every weekend. The Queen Mary is bringing people from across the world to Long Beach and we must preserve it, honor it, and live up to the promise we made 50 years ago.

Urban Commons has committed to three important new initiatives:

And on the city's end, we are partnering with our City Auditor, Laura Doud, to ensure the team is meeting all its obligations and public transparency.

The Queen Mary is part of this city and she isn’t going anywhere.

As I close, I want to thank all of you who are here tonight: my husband Matthew and my family. Our amazing City Council. Our city team and staff. The union trade workers who build this city. And all the residents who call Long Beach home.

2020 is going to be an interesting year at the federal level. And I imagine much of that debate will impact us locally. But let's stay true to our values of inclusion, supporting all people, and honoring the diversity of our community.

It's been quite a decade -- so let’s make this next one, even better. Thank you, good night, and GO Long Beach!

Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.

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