Below are the responses of independent accountant Ginny Gonzales, candidate for Long Beach District 9 City Council seat, to a Press-Telegram survey ahead of the Tuesday, June 7 election.
To read the District 9 preview, click here. Survey responses for the other District 9 candidates are also available: Raul Nario and Joni Ricks-Oddie.
Find more information about voting at lavote.gov.
Survey responses have been edited for style and clarity.
Q: What is the biggest problem facing Long Beach today?
A: The cost of living in Long Beach is the biggest problem in the whole city.
Affordable housing must be a priority, and maintaining mandates to prevent evictions is high on the list. I strongly support the addition of affordable units in all future Long Beach housing through public housing projects, upgrades, renovations, and landlords adding additional units to their property.
Q: Most residents list the homelessness crisis at the top of their priority lists. What would you do to help solve this problem in Long Beach?
A: First and foremost, we need to increase the number of homeless shelters across the city. There are many buildings, apartment complexes, buildings, and multi-room homes across Long Beach that can be purchased or rented to be converted, renovated, or improved for use as homeless shelters.
A major issue between homeless and homeless shelters and other facilities is the regulations and rules put in place that create a reluctance for homeless people to accept permanent and temporary living in these facilities and homes. These regulations and rules need to be relaxed so that homeless people feel comfortable staying.
The Star Development in the Los Angeles skids section is a project that can work in Long Beach. It is a building that supports former homeless people. The building uses prefabricated modular units which are apartments that provide permanent, supportive housing for 100 formerly homeless people.
The building includes a health center, community kitchen, art rooms and other spaces that are there to help residents. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services also has offices in this location. I support a prime leasing program funded by the city and the state. Under this program, nonprofits become tenants of housing and can sublet it to homeless individuals or families. These units can also provide full services to tenants that will keep them in their apartments.
Q: Affordable housing continues to be a major issue and business development is key to economic growth. How, in a built city, can these needs be met?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed new housing development by increasing the cost of materials, disrupting the supply chain and making labor unavailable. The pandemic has dramatically worsened housing affordability issues, and regulatory hurdles have prevented businesses from better serving their customers, especially in a built-up city like Long Beach.
A city like Long Beach can implement these ideas to increase quality of life and alleviate affordability issues:
Allow residential development in commercial areas. Many hotels, shops and office spaces become permanently vacant, but it could be living spaces. Large, easy-to-clean lots in predominantly commercial and industrial areas are ideal for redevelopment into affordable apartments.
Removal of parking minimums. In built-up cities, high-cost parking requirements are often used to intentionally discourage multifamily development.
Encourage prefabricated houses. Although manufactured homes have traditionally been perceived as unsafe due to inferior quality, cheaper materials, and unconventional construction methods, today’s manufactured homes are different from the mobile home parks seen in the past.
Manufactured homes now feature luxury amenities found in traditionally built homes. The construction cost, however, is about half the price per square foot of site-built homes. There is a vicious social stigma towards caravans and mobile homes, but they are the most cost effective option in low and medium density areas. Long Beach should allow manufactured homes on any residential lot as a primary or accessory dwelling unit.
Q: Public safety is always a priority issue. Police and fire personnel have been constrained by budgetary problems for years. At the same time, there are some in the city who would like to divert more money from the police department to invest in social programs. What is your position ?
A: I have 37 years of accounting and auditing experience as a professional and can find a financial solution that will keep police and fire services at necessary levels and increase funding for social programs and affordable housing. This sometimes requires diverting funds from public security services.
Q: Long Beach continued to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic with financial support for businesses and families. Should more be done?
A: Too many local small businesses have been devastated by the pandemic and too many have closed in Long Beach. Too many families have faced, for the first time, housing insecurity, with some people returning to their childhood homes due to the economic stress caused by the pandemic.
A certified public accountant and auditor like me can dig into city finances to ensure that our tax dollars are spent effectively and efficiently to add needed financial support to businesses and families.
Q: Since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, fairness has been at the center of many questions. What does equity mean to you and what can the city do to promote it?
A: I’m from Mississippi and I really understand what equity is and really means in our society. The concept of equity means fairness and equal opportunity. Equity recognizes that some groups need additional resources to have an equal chance to prosper. Equality is: All children aged five and over have access to public school. The equity is this: people with disabilities have access to additional services to help them thrive.
To promote equity, we must first establish a shared reality. This may require the parties to articulate their respective understanding of what equity means before debating where and how to apply it. If common ground cannot be found in fairness, it might be helpful to reduce the topic to more familiar principles, such as fairness or equal opportunity.
Finding common ground by separating ideas from identity and genuinely being open to persuasion is necessary to promote fairness.
Q: Federal and state support helped the city weather the pandemic years financially. This aid is over and budgetary problems are looming. What are your priorities ? Do you see any cuts coming?
A: Stop spending our public money on the Queen Mary. Create more walkable and safer neighborhoods in District 9. Housing affordability and increased affordable housing units and homeless shelters. Lobby for more city, county, state, and federal grants, loans, and programs for District 9 businesses that closed during the pandemic to help them reopen and support new businesses that are looking to come to Long Beach. Promote greater inclusion for all residents and neighborhoods and increase community policing with the Long Beach Police Department.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your district? How do you plan to fix it?
A: Affordable housing. Increase community policing programs and improve public trust between residents and the Long Beach Police Department. Environmental health. Work with environmental agencies to find creative and workable solutions to improve our region’s environment, air quality and land use. Reduce the number of homeless people in District 9 and create additional homeless shelters.