Mayor Robert Garcia has been a real asset to Long Beach—young, ambitious, articulate, openly gay and progressive. He won re-election to a second term with 80% of the vote, became a national figure while working with the Biden campaign, and earned recognition as a statewide leader in the fight against COVID-19 after establishing testing capacity for more than 1,900 people a day—twice the state’s requirement.
But he’s chosen to leave the Metro Board after just one term, leading to speculation about a possible national career. Others say it’s because Long Beach is a big city that requires all his attention: The city is home to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (one of the world’s largest ports), its own public health department and airport, the California State University system headquarters and Cal State Long Beach—the second largest campus in the CSU system.
And his mother—who was a hospital worker—and his step-father both died of COVID late last year. Move LA is sorry for that tragedy.
2020 proved to be a busy year for the mayor, who was also working hard to monitor the “New Blue Improvements Projects” along the Blue Line (now the A line) from DTLA to Long Beach. He was pushing Metro hard to ensure there was no skimping on improvements: He wanted new lighting and signage, digital screens at stations, bus stops with shade, and to make sure that Blue Line riders—who had to take the bus for 9 months while improvements were underway—could get to their destinations.
Join us for a special networking event as we honor the accomplishments of Mayor Robert Garcia and other leaders who have taught us we can take on big challenges and win! Thursday, March 25, 5:30-7 p.m. on Zoom: Register HERE.
Much like former Metro Boardmemember/former Duarte Mayor John Fasana, Mayor Garcia has stressed the importance of a regional perspective at Metro. While on the board he dedicated significant time to the NextGen project to modernize Metro’s bus system, stressing that Metro’s system must interact and interconnect not only with Long Beach Transit, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus and Foothill Transit—which are all large systems—but also with the two dozen smaller municipal systems.
In a recent interview with the Planning Report he pointed out that because of the NextGen study “We’re finding that some areas of the region are well-served by bus and others are not—job centers have shifted and the places people want to go to are changing—this presents an opportunity to better align our bus services [with municipal bus services].”
Garcia was one of the boardmembers who urged Metro CEO Phil Washington to restore bus service to pre-COVID levels as soon as possible because of the need for the many essential workers who use the bus system to be able to travel safely—not on buses that are crowded.
And like Fasana he has pushed for the construction of the West Santa Ana Branch Line, and also the Eastside Transit Corridor—the planned light rail line that would extend the Gold Line (now the L Line) from its current terminus at Atlantic station further east into Whittier. He believes these two projects and the southeast to northwest connections they make possible will be game-changers to all of LA County.
Last but not least, the City of Long Beach has updated its Land Use Element to encourage more dense development along transportation corridors served by transit. “It’s difficult when you have a lot of historic neighborhoods and single-family homes and you want to protect them,” he told the Planning Report, “but you also want to create affordable housing and opportunities for young people to live and work. We shouldn’t be so afraid of density, which produces safer, more modern cities with better amenities."
(Move LA agrees as long as affordable housing is actually produced and there is no displacement—that's the hard part!)
Join us on Thurs., March 25, to also celebrate the accomplishments of Metro CEO Phil Washington, Laborers Local 300 Business Manager Sergio Rascon, LA County Business Federation CEO Tracy Hernandez, former Metro Boardmember/Duarte Mayor John Fasana, Skanska Executive Vice President Mike Aparicio, and LA Business Council President Mary Leslie. Register HERE.